'I have until end of week to decide if my business can reopen in January'
A crèche owner has hit out at how childcare providers are being "held over a barrel" as they faced a monopoly in the Irish insurance market.
Helen Mallon, owner-manager at Step By Step Crèche and Montessori in Paulstown, Co Kilkenny, fears she will have to shut up shop in January due to a huge hike in her premium.
Insurance for the crèche was €2,261 for this year. Last Friday, she got a quote for €7,530.25 for next year.
"What's really killing me is we survived the recession and now we're being crippled with insurance," she told the Irish Independent.
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"I had to cut staff hours during the crash and last year was the first year since that I was able to give staff a small bit of a Christmas bonus.
"And now we're being quoted huge sums as we're told there's only going to be one insurance provider left.
"I'm supposed to reopen on January 2, but at this point in time I will probably have to make the decision by this Friday if I open next year."
Ms Mallon has been campaigning for reduced premiums and said she had received more than 100 emails from worried childcare providers since they were informed about another major underwriter pulling out of Ireland.
"It will be a very sad day if there is only one insurance provider left as they can charge what they want.
"There are some crèches which have yet to settle small claims and they cannot even get a quote from an insurance provider and will be faced with closure next week," she added.
Some 122 children use Ms Mallon's crèche and Montessori throughout the week.
She was told by her broker she would receive a 30pc discount on her premium if she joined Early Childhood Ireland (ECI), a representative group for crèche owners, but she said this would involve paying two membership fees.
"My service is divided between two buildings but even though I'm under the one company name, the one Tusla number and the one department number, the ECI says I need to pay two memberships as I've two buildings," she said.