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Ireland Warning families facing cost rise as crèches are rocked by 300pc insurance cover hike

13:05  16 december  2019
13:05  16 december  2019 Source:   independent.ie

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Stock image © Catalyst Images Stock image Small and medium-sized crèches and community childcare operations face a whopping 300pc insurance hike in 2020 after a major UK underwriter quit the Irish market in the wake of the Hyde and Seek controversy.

A number of operators warned the Irish Independent crèche owners now face a stark choice - either pass the cost of massive insurance premium hikes on to parents or face the threat of closure.

There is now just a single major insurance underwriter covering the childcare sector.

A rival underwriter, who had helped drive down premium costs over recent years, opted to quit the market in the wake of the Hyde and Seek crèche chain controversy.

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The large Dublin-based chain now faces a number of Dublin District Court charges over alleged breaches of childcare regulations following an undercover operation by 'RTÉ Investigates'.

It was also rocked by a number of members of its new management team resigning and having to take High Court action to restrain its insurer from cancelling policies covering four of its Dublin facilities.

Now, crèches totally unconnected to Hyde and Seek and which have maintained the highest childcare standards face suffering the fall-out from the controversy.

Paula Donohoe, who operates the Clever Clogs crèche in Co Cavan, said she was appalled when she received a quote for cover for 2020.

"My insurance premium for 2019 was €3,400 - but my insurance quote for 2020 was €9,557," she said.

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"I have never had a claim and my facility operates to the very highest standards. So where on earth are they getting an increase of €6,157 from?" she asked.

Ms Donohoe also queried the fairness of the insurance provider offering her a near 30pc discount if she was a member of Early Childhood Ireland (ECI), the largest representative body in the early years sector. She said she was told that, if she was an ECI member, her premium would be reduced to €6,692.

Ann Clarke operates another childcare facility in Co Cavan - and while she hasn't yet received her formal quote for next year's cover, she has been warned to expect a 200pc plus hike.

"I will be amazed if it is not doubled or even trebled, given everything that I have heard from what other childcare professionals are enduring," she said.

Adding insult to injury, Ms Clarke warned the sector is being starved of proper government financial supports and swamped by bureaucracy.

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She warned that State agencies have effectively required crèche operators to do their job for them - with crèche owners spending hours each day filling out forms and complying with government 'red tape'.

Even community childcare groups are being hit.

Mick Kenny helps run a non-profit childcare facility in Johnstown, Co Kilkenny. Its quote soared from €1,400 in 2019 to a whopping €4,410 for 2020.

"We are in the same position as most of the other community childcare operators and small-medium size crèche owners - we have never had a claim and never had an incident of any kind in our facility," he said. "We just don't understand where that type of massive premium hike is coming from."

Like Ms Donohoe, Mr Kenny was told that if his operation was a member of ECI, the premium quote would be reduced to €3,335.

An Irish insurance firm has been trying to secure a replacement overseas insurance underwriter for the childcare sector but it is unclear if they will be in place for December 31 when most premium renewals fall due.

"The Government needs to wake up and realise what is happening to the childcare sector.

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"We are struggling with staff needs, costs and bureaucracy. Childcare costs for families are already high enough," warned Ms Donohoe.

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Domino effect: fears more insurers will now pull out .
Fears are mounting that a 'domino effect' will mean even more sectors will follow the childcare and hospitality industries into an insurance crisis. There are growing concerns that restaurants and cafés may now be faced with soaring premiums after business owners were notified that three leading insurers may not be offering renewals for 2020.

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