Wednesday, 18 December 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
I thank the Deputy for raising what is a very important issue at the moment. Many parents are worried their crèche or childcare provider might not be open in the new year and that they may see a steep increase in fees in the new year. The Government is working very hard to make sure neither of those scenarios arise. I met the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy Zappone, and her Secretary General yesterday to discuss a number of matters relating to children and youth affairs and this was one of them. We are working together with the Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, the industry and others to make sure we have a solution.
The vast majority of childcare providers, close to 100%, are now registered for next year so people can be given the reassurance they will not find out when they go to their crèche or childcare provider in the early new year after the holidays that they are not open. They will be open. That is not to say there will not difficulties finding insurance in the next few weeks. As things stand, only one underwriter, Allianz, is currently providing insurance to childcare providers following the exit of Ironshore from the market. Up to 1,300 childcare providers have been affected by Ironshore's exit, with most of their policies due to expire on 31 December. Allianz, through its broker, Arachas, has stated it is willing to consider quotes for all affected services. Quotes are being processed within 24 hours of applications in the vast majority of cases. As of today, the majority of the providers impacted by Ironshore - 869 of 1,300 - have been given quotes. The balance can be processed within a short timeframe and, therefore, reports of thousands or even hundreds of the services closing appear to be inaccurate. There may be a very small number of high-risk services which may not receive quotations.
Providers are reporting increases in premiums that range from 10% to significantly higher than that, but it is understood the majority of services will experience an increase at the lower end. It is worth pointing out that the provider that is exiting the market had been offering insurance at much lower rates. The average cost of insurance from Allianz, the insurer that is staying in the market, for full-time childcare is €60 per annum per child and the average cost for sessional services, such as the early childhood care and education, ECCE, scheme, is €25 per annum per child. While parents pay an awful lot in childcare fees in Ireland, only a very small proportion of it is required to cover insurance, roughly €60 a year on average and less is some cases.
The insurer has said that premiums of over €450 per annum can be paid monthly by direct debt, reducing the immediate impact on providers' cashflow in the new year. This is an issue we are seized of and on which we are working, and I am confident that parents, when they bring their children back to their crèche or childcare provider in the new year, will find the crèche or childcare facility will be open.