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Parents bombarded Zappone over creche insurance crisis

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Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone received more than 120 representations from parents, creche owners and politicians over two days last month about the insurance crisis that has threatened to put many childcare facilities out of business.

The tranche of letters and emails shows the scale of the concern caused by a sudden hike in the cost of insurance premiums after one of the main insurers pulled out of childcare cover.

The crisis emerged amid growing frustration in the sector, with providers concerned about the increasing costs of offering the service, poorly paid staff and parents struggling with rising fees.

Thousands of childcare workers and parents are expected on the streets of Dublin this Wednesday to protest at low wages in the sector. More than 60pc of early years' educators are paid less than the living wage of €12.30 an hour.

The threat to childcare by rising insurance costs prompted parents and creche owners to send scores of angry letters to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs over two days last month.

The correspondence, released under the Freedom of Information Act, shows the scale of increase that operators faced. One mother emailed the department to say the insurance premium for her child's Montessori school was increasing from €415 to €1,300. "And they will not be able to afford it. It disgusts me how ordinary, decent middle-class workers are just hit all the time."

One provider pleaded with the minister to intervene after its premium jumped from €948 to €4,460.

Jack Chambers, a Dublin Fianna Fail TD, wrote to the minister, claiming a creche in his constituency faced a 500pc increase in the cost of its premium as a result of its existing insurer pulling out.

A small rural provider also wrote: "My insurance for 2019 was €815. The difference of my quote this year has nearly trebled. My back is pinned to the wall here. It's a case of, can I afford the huge hike? Will I pass on the difference to parents, or close my doors?"

The insurance crisis was averted when another company stepped in and Minister Zappone offered a once-off payment of €1,500 to providers.

She now faces mounting pressure to publish a major study of the costs of childcare in Ireland, three years after she first commissioned it. The study, by consultants Crowe Horwath, was originally supposed to take 10 months.

It was intended to be a "critical" part of the Government's efforts to reform high childcare costs in Ireland.

Sunday Independent