Bouncy-castle providers are engaging with an Irish-based broker in the hopes of finding a new insurance provider for the sector.
They were rocked last week by the confirmation that Leisure Insure, a UK-based insurance provider, will no longer provide insurance in Ireland. The announcement left hundreds of bouncy-castle and inflatable hire companies in limbo, as Leisure Insure is the main provider in the market.
The UK-company will honour existing premiums, but will not accept any new Irish business.
Gerry Frawley of the Irish Inflatable Hirers Federation (IIHF) said they are in discussions with an insurance broker in the hopes of sourcing a new provider.
Mr Frawley said it is a “major, major issue” that could lead to “severe job losses”
nationally. There are more than 170 members of IIHF, many of whom would employ a number of people, he said.
He said Irish-based operators of bouncy castles are complying with strict health and safety regulations, as required, and that “great progress” has been made in the sector in the last decade.
“This is threatening to reverse all that progress — it’s a disaster,” said Mr Frawley.
He said that politicians have failed the sector.
“They could have taken steps for years. we flagged this years ago,” he said.
“They had ample opportunity to speak up, and they didn’t.”
The news has emerged at the height of the busiest time of year for most bouncy-castle hire companies.
Kieran Quilter of the Ballinhassig-based KC Castles Cork said that many firms have been left in the dark.
“We have been told Brexit, we have been told that the cost of claims in Ireland is too high,” said Mr Quilter.
“They weren’t forthcoming with any additional information. In fact, we didn’t even get a call to say that they would not be renewing or considering any new premiums. You would think that if you were paying thousands of euro for a service per year, they might at least give you a courtesy call.”
Mr Quilter said that many of the bouncy-castle operators found out about Leisure Insure’s change in policy when another provider posted a message about it in a Facebook group.
He said KC Castles’ premium actually reduced after their first year passed without a claim. However, he that said it “literally doubled” when he went to renew ahead of their third year in business.
“We have never had a claim against us,” he said.
“People across the sector are reporting similar, and worse. And it isn’t just bouncy castles, it’s paintballing, it’s go-karting — it is everywhere.”
KC Castles renewed their premium in recent weeks, so the company is insured until “mid-2020”, Mr Quilter said. Others in the area are not so lucky, though, and are now facing a scrambling to secure insurance from another provider.
Mr Quilter said that the message from him and other providers is clear.
“We are open for business: we are insured, we are safe, and this is our busiest time of year,” he said.
“We want to see this resolved — and we are confident it can be — but it has to be done soon. The longer it goes on, the more people will think that people don’t have insurance or aren’t safe, and that isn’t the case.”