Belfast Telegraph

Taoiseach claims childcare providers will be open after Christmas

The Dail heard that many childcare providers are seeing dramatic increases in their existing premiums, with some jumping by almost 4,500 euro.

Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)
Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Cate McCurry, PA

The Taoiseach has moved to reassure parents that creches and childcare providers will be open in January despite claims that many will be forced to shut over rising insurance costs.

The Dail heard that many childcare providers are seeing dramatic increases in their existing premiums, with some jumping by almost 4,500 euro.

Almost 1,300 childcare providers have been impacted by Ironshore Europe’s exit from the Irish market.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said that providers have been given weeks to find an alternative insurance provider.

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Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

“This is without question causing stress and anxiety, not just for providers, but for many, many parents who simply will not be in the position to find alternative places,” he told the Dail.

“I would have to say the government’s response to date so far has been very confusing. It’s been very slow off the mark and it’s incredible the degree to which the government seems to be caught by surprise.”

Leo Varakdar said he met with the Minister for Children Katherine Zappone and her General Secretary on Tuesday to discuss the matter.

He said that close to all childcare providers are registered for next year.

He added: “So people can be given the reassurance that they’re not going to find out when they go back to their creche or childcare provider in the early new year after the holidays that they’re not open, they will be open.

“That’s not to say that there won’t be difficulties finding insurance in the next few weeks.

“As things stand, only one underwriter is currently providing insurance to child care providers, following the exit of Ironshore from the market.”

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Mary Lou McDonald (Brian Lawless/PA)

He said that a “very small number of high risk services” may not receive quotations from the alternative insurance provider.

“Providers are reporting increases in premiums that range from 10% to significantly higher, but it’s understood that the majority of services will experience a lower end of increase,” Mr Varadkar added.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said the core of the problem is that the country relies on private provision for childcare and early childhood education.

“The root of this problem is that childcare providers have no option but to rely on the vagaries of market forces and market providers, which can decide whether or not they will in fact open their doors,” she added.

“All of that needs to change and it is my strong belief that we need to move towards making early childhood education and childcare a public service. That’s the answer to this.”

Ms McDonald threw doubt over Mr Varadkar’s claims that the creches will be open in January, stating that if they don’t have insurance cover they will remain closed.

Finding affordable childcare is already a huge stress for parents and now they face the potential of services closing due to insurance issues. Yvonne McGrath, Siptu

“I’m alarmed to hear you, on the one hand, speculate about the concern and such panic that families are feeling with all of this, and then on the other hand, move to give reassurance that registration of these creches is in order and of course they will open in January,” she added.

“The fact is, if they don’t have insurance cover they won’t be opening in January.”

The Siptu union has also warned that the dramatic increase in insurance costs is threatening jobs in the childcare sector.

Siptu Big Start Co-ordinator, Yvonne McGrath, said: “Continued inaction concerning the dramatic increase in insurance premiums for 2020 will ensure that any investment that has been made in terms of providing quality and affordable services will be undermined.

“Finding affordable childcare is already a huge stress for parents and now they face the potential of services closing due to insurance issues.

“Early Years educators are extremely concerned about the possibility of losing their jobs. Many are wondering if they will have jobs to return to in January and if their workplace will remain open.”

PA

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