The programme allowing free enrolment of children up to one year old in day care centres starts on 1 September, covering children who are enrolled in subsidised nurseries.
The goal is to extend the measure gradually until 2024, when all children up to three years old will be covered by the measure, regardless of family income.
The minister also said that in January 2023, the measure will be extended to babies of the same age without a vacancy in subsidised nurseries who are therefore enrolled in private nurseries.
Ana Mendes Godinho also explained that the Ministry is "establishing the requirements to make it simple for families to make this measure work in situations where subsidised nurseries have no capacity to respond”.
The idea is that the rules allow for an easier verification process "without the need for families to go through several social sector bodies to prove that there is no capacity to respond," she added.
For the minister, free nurseries and the increase of vacancies are fundamental measures to fight poverty. Furthermore, the government plans to open five thousand more vacancies, especially in Lisbon, which will cost 20 million Euros.
"Our goal is, in the next two years, to have the capacity to increase by ten thousand vacancies the total network of nurseries," said the minister.
For Ana Mendes Godinho, free nurseries can have a significant impact on children's lives and "be lifesavers for many children, allowing them from the beginning to be part of a collective system that integrates them, namely fighting child poverty and cutting intergenerational cycles".
Until now, low-income families already benefited from free nurseries, but all the others were excluded.