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FAMILY

Vuggestue or dagpleje? The difference between early Danish childcare options 

Denmark is world-renowned for its guaranteed (and heavily subsidised!) daycare, or 'daginstitution', before formal schooling begins. But some of the options don’t really have an equivalent outside of Denmark—what’s the difference between 'vuggestue', 'børnehave', and 'dagpleje', and which is right for your family?

Small children at a Danish 'vuggestue'
Small children at a Danish 'vuggestue' in June 2021. File photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix

Ages of eligibility and cost

Early Danish childcare is bookended by parental leave and børnehave, or kindergarten, where children are enrolled from about three to six years old. Babies become eligible for vuggestue and dagpleje at 26 weeks old, though many families don’t enroll their children until about 9-12 months of age. 

Whether you choose dagpleje or vuggestue, the municipality will cover at least 75 percent of the cost of attendance, including your child’s lunch and snacks.

Vuggestue

Vuggestue, literally ‘cradle room’ in Danish, is likely what you imagine when you think of daycare—a nursery where multiple adults care for many children who range in age from infants to toddlers. By law, vuggestue are staffed by adults with training and certification in pedagogy, or methods of teaching. There must be an adult for every three children in vuggestue.

Many vuggestue are attached to a børnehave, or kindergarten, which can make for an easier transition once the child turns three. And for families with multiple children, dropping off baby and toddler at the same place can streamline their morning routine.

One important selling point for vuggestue are their consistent, longer open hours. Some vuggestue are themed, with a special emphasis on nature, arts or dance. Children in vuggestue—or really any Danish childcare—can expect to spend a significant percentage of every day outside.

Dagpleje

In dagpleje, which translates literally to “day care” in Danish, a handful of children are hosted in a private childminder’s personal home. A single adult can care for a maximum of five children, but up to 10 can share a dagpleje if there are more adults.

Dagpleje promise more individualised attention for each child and may be better able to care for children with special needs. Dagpleje are by nature a ‘homier’ environment and are often calmer than the hubbub of a vuggestue with dozens of children, which can be a boon for kids who are easily overstimulated. And with the same caregivers every day, children who go to dagpleje can form a close relationship with their childminder.  

However, dagpleje are less standardised than vuggestue so it’s incumbent on parents to make sure their dagpleje of choice would be a good fit. The adults at a dagpleje aren’t necessarily pedagogically trained, though they do have access to municipal experts they can consult about activities, their ‘curriculum,’ and any potential concerns about a child’s development. On the social front, a limited pool of possible playmates can be frustrating for some children (although many dagpleje meet other dagpleje for playdates (legestue!).

Dagpleje became more attractive to some families during the Covid-19 pandemic since the chances of exposure increase with a higher density of children. However, the flip side of the small pool at dagpleje is that if childminder is sick (or even on vacation), the children will need to be relocated to other dagpleje with adults they may not know.  

How to register your child for care  

Your child will need a Danish CPR or personal registration number to be registered for daycare.

Contact your local Pladsanvisingen, or daycare office, to find out how early your child can be registered (generally, you can have them added to a waiting list once they’re between 4 and 6 months old). On Borger.dk’s childcare landing page, you can find information on childcare centres near your home—or even outside your municipality, if you choose—and digitally add your child to waiting lists.

Parents can visit vuggestue and dagpleje before enrolling, but always call ahead to schedule an appointment.

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FAMILY

What benefits are you entitled to if you have children in Denmark?

Having children is a costly business but luckily in Denmark, there is help. As well as affordable childcare there are other benefits you can claim if you have children in Denmark. Here are the details.

What benefits are you entitled to if you have children in Denmark?

When you have children in Denmark, there are various family benefits you could qualify for, depending on your circumstances. These are administered by Udbetaling Danmark.

The main one is:

Child and youth benefits (børne- og ungeydelsen), also known as børnepenge.

This is a tax-free payment that you receive for each of your children until they reach the age of 18.

The amount you receive depends on the age of your child, how long you have been earning the right to Danish family benefits, your income and the income of any spouse.

Child benefits are paid quarterly in advance from the first quarter after you have become a parent. So for example you receive money in January, for January, February and March.

When your child reaches the age of 15, you will receive a youth benefit instead of a child benefit, which is paid every month in arrears.

Payments used to be paid into the mother’s Nemkonto (designated current account) but from January 2022, that changed. Now half the payment is automatically made into each parent’s Nemkonto, unless parents share a Nemkonto.

How much can I receive in child and youth benefit?

This depends on the age of your child and the amount is slightly adjusted each year. The amount below is for 2022:

0-2 years: 4,653 kroner per quarter (2,327 kroner to each parent)

3-6 years: 3,681 kroner per quarter (1,841 kroner to each parent)

7-14 years: 2,898 kroner per quarter (1,449 kroner to each parent)

15-17 years:  966 kroner per month (483 kroner to each parent)

You receive the full benefit if you and your spouse each separately earn less than 828,100 kroner (2022), otherwise the amount is reduced.

You apply for child and youth benefit by completing a form, which can be found on borger.dk, under Family and Children. You need a copy of your contract of employment from your Danish employer and your children’s birth certificate.

What are the conditions to apply?

If you are a foreigner and work in Denmark, you may apply for child benefits if you:

  • share custody of the child
  • can document that you are related to the child
  • are a citizen in an EU/EEA country or Switzerland, if your child does not live in Denmark.

You must also have worked or lived in Denmark for a certain period within the past 10 years.

This is where it gets tricky.

You can only receive the full amount of benefit, after living in Denmark for 6 out of the past 10 years. Before this, it is a percentage of the benefit. It starts at 8.3% of the benefit amount and it increases every six months:

6 months: 8.3 percent, 1 year: 16.7 percent, 1.5 year: 25 percent, 2 years: 33.3 percent, 2.5 years: 41.7 percent, 3 years: 50 percent, 3.5 years: 58.3 percent, 4 years: 66.7 percent, 4.5 years: 75 percent, 5 years: 83.3 percent, 5.5 years: 91.7 percent, 6 years: 100 percent.

If you have received Danish family benefits before 1st January 2018 and are still entitled to it, you are covered by a two-year qualification requirement.

This means that you must have lived or worked in Denmark for at least 2 years within the past 10 years to get the full benefit amount. It starts at 25 percent at six months, 50 percent after 1 year, 75 percent after 1.5 years and 100 percent after two years.

If you are a citizen of an EU/EEA country or Switzerland, you can include the time you have received family benefits by living or working in another EU/EEA country or Switzerland.

So for example, if you move to Denmark with a 5 year old and you have 5 years of receiving benefits in the EU country you have come from, you will start receiving 83.3 percent of the total benefit amount for that child. This will increase to 91.7 percent six months later and 100 percent six months after that.

Udbetaling Danmark will verify this with the authorities in the country in which you have lived or worked, before the periods can be included.

Working in Denmark but your family lives somewhere else

If you live in another EU/EEA country or Switzerland and work exclusively in Denmark, you will in general be covered by the Danish social security system. This means that you will have the right to family benefits from Denmark if you meet the other conditions listed above.  

If Danish family benefits are higher than the benefits in the country where you live, Denmark will pay the difference. If the Danish benefit is lower than in the country where you are living, you will not receive family benefits from Denmark.

If you have any questions, you can contact Udbetaling Danmark or send a digital mail under ‘Familieydelser.’ The processing time for child and youth benefits is 30 weeks, so apply as soon as you can.

Remember to tell Udbetaling Danmark when your situation changes, otherwise you risk having to pay money back.

Child allowance (Børnetilskud)

Child allowance is a payment paid in special circumstances, on top of child/youth benefit if:

  • you are single
  • you have twins, triples, quadruplets 
  • you are a pensioner
  • you are in education
  • the father of your child is unknown
  • one or both parents are not alive
  • you have adopted a child 

The size of the child allowance depends on your situation. In 2022, the child allowance for a single parent  is 1,517 kroner per child each quarter.

Child support (Børnebidrag)

Child support is a contribution that one parent pays to the other if you do not live together.

Child support will not normally be used if you have a sharing arrangement and also share expenses for the child between the two of you.

Normal support amounts to DKK 1,460 per month (2022) and is adjusted annually on 1st January.

If you are unable to agree on the support, you can ask the Agency of Family Law (familieretshuset.dk) to reach a decision for you. 

Daycare discounts

The government subsidises 70 percent of all public daycare, so the cost of nursery (vuggestue) and kindergarten (børnehave) is low compared to many countries. Vuggestue (0-3 years) costs around  4,264 kroner per month, which includes lunch. Børnehave (3-6 years) costs around 2,738 kroner per month with lunch.

However, if your household income is below a certain threshold, you could be entitled to a discounted rate, which is called an income-based allowance.

Siblings daycare discount 

When you have more than one child, your pay half the amount of the cheapest place you have for any siblings in daycare.

Income for not using daycare

Some municipalities (kommuner) pay you money if you choose to look after your own child at home after maternity leave, so it’s worth ringing your municipality to find out.

Frederiksberg Kommune for example pay 8,141 kroner per child per month for looking after children under 3 and 4,198 kroner per month for children over 3. If you’re not from the EU, you qualify for this after living in Denmark for 7 years.

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