Update: The director of policy and advocacy with Early Childhood Ireland (ECI), Frances Byrne, has revealed that insurance provider Allianz has sent out quotes for insurance to 869 of the 1,300 crèches for whom their broker could not find insurance cover for 2020.
Early Childhood Ireland represents 3,800 childcare members and has a long standing agreement with Allianz which offers a 30% discount to its members.
Ms Byrne told RTÉ radio’s Today with Séan O’Rourke show that she had been told by Allianz that they have a dedicated team attempting to get quotes out to all 1,300 crèches so they could open after Christmas.
Regina Bushell, owner of the Grovelands chain of crèches in the Midlands, told the show that she had joined Early Childhood Ireland (ECI) to avail of the members discount, but she had still faced a 60 per cent increase in her insurance.
Another childcare provider, Gillian Murphy from Wexford, told of how her insurance had risen from €4,176 to €7,200 and on joining ECI it came down to €5,655. “I had no choice but to join Early Childhood Ireland.”
Ms Byrne pointed out that one third of their members did not avail of the group insurance scheme. “We are urging people to get in touch with us, we will help them to get over the line with regulations and documents.
Ms Bushell, who is also chair of Seas Suas, the organisation representing independent childcare providers, said that Allianz was prepared to take instalment payments.
She has encouraged childcare providers to get the 30% discount and look at paying by instalments.
It was hugely stressful for crèche owners and she urged everyone involved in the industry to come together “and get our voice heard”.
Ms Murphy said that people in the industry were very demotivated because of the regulatory requirements, staff shortages and insurance problems.
“There is huge frustration, we are being asked to do more all the time. We all work so hard, but it is always the bad news that make the headlines,” added Ms Bushell.
A spokesperson for the Federation of Early Childcare Providers has repeated a warning that more and more crèches will have to close because they cannot get insurance.
Elaine Dunne told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that while one insurer will provide cover for the sector it comes at a very high price that most childcare providers will not be able to afford.
Ms Dunne was responding to the news that the broker searching for a new insurer for 1,300 childcare facilities clients has told them he has not been able to secure any cover.
Padraic Smith and Co. said it regretted to inform them that despite intensive follow up meetings, the broker was unable to secure an alternative insurer for their businesses at this time.
The company is advising clients to contact Arachas Corporate Insurance Brokers immediately to establish if they would be in a position to take them on to access insurance with Allianz Ireland.
“Yes Allianz will take us on, but at what price?
Ms Dunne said that there are ongoing difficulties for the sector ranging from insurance to new regulations and staffing shortages.
There is a knock-on effect for others as well, she said such as the broker Padraic Smith who “broke his back” trying to find cover for the 1,300 childcare facilities.
Ms Dunne said the Minister for Children needs to meet with the federation and the Taoiseach “needs to support us. We cannot do this on our won.”
Early Childhood Care and Education schemes (ECCE) could also close down, she warned.
Ms Dunne spent two days in the UK last week meeting with insurance providers, but she found that “people are not willing to touch us.”
This was because of non-compliance regulations which are not varied and can range from an out-of-place toothbrush to children not being fed.
“If the Government thinks we’re going to find someone (to provide insurance), they’re very wrong. No one is going to touch us.”
The Federation had been in touch with Allianz, but the prices they were quoting were 100% higher than those arranged by Padraic Smith last year. “They have a monopoly now.”