‘Save our livelihoods’ – play centre faces closure over €16,000 insurance premium

Linda Murray who owns a business in Navan tells committee premiums up 300% in a year

Children’s play centre – It has been claimed that the high level of payouts isdriving insurers away. File photograph: iStock

Children’s play centre – It has been claimed that the high level of payouts isdriving insurers away. File photograph: iStock

 

The Oireachtas finance committee has been told that huge increases in insurance payments are endangering jobs and businesses who cannot afford their premium increases.

Play centre owner Linda Murray said that her business was facing imminent closure due to a new premium of more than €16,000. She said that she had taken out a personal loan to pay her last insurance premium, but could not afford the latest increase.

Ms Murray became emotional while giving evidence to the Oireachtas finance committee, which is hearing evidence on the impact of insurance costs for small and medium sized businesses. She asked the committee to “save our livelihoods, save the livelihoods of our staff, and give our children somewhere to play”. She said that in addition to her own business, she knew of another play centre in Cork which was facing closure this month due to the cost of insurance.

Only two companies, both from overseas, will insure her business, which is in Navan, Co Meath. She said she had been told that the high level of claims payments in Ireland was driving insurers away. “They’re afraid of what could potentially happen given the types of awards that are being given out,” she said, adding that the majority of awards are for “soft tissue [injuries], bruises or a split lip”, but that they could still receive up to €15,000 or €20,000 from insurance payouts.

She said that claims in her sector were steady, yet premiums were increasing by 300 per cent in a single year.

Ms Murray told the committee that a member of her group, which operates miniature trains for children in shopping centres, was charged £1,500 for insurance in the UK, but was quoted €33,000 for its Irish operations.

She said that once an injury happens, however minor, “some people are thinking ‘what could I get for that’... that needs to be nipped in the bud”.

“We need to be able to have competitiveness and not a monopoly so that companies aren’t faced with having to go without insurance, or what we’re looking at at the moment, self insurance, and that is so risky,” she said.

Peter Boland of the Alliance for Insurance Reform told the committee that businesses and consumers were being hit with “savage increases in renewals”. He said that reform of the sector was badly needed, but “the dead hand of vested interests and a lack of sufficient political will are grinding this process to a halt”.

He called for the a specialist unit to investigate insurance fraud to be set up within An Garda Síochána. “We are bewildered at how long it has taken to establish this unit,” he said. “It must be established without further delay if we are going to meaningfully address the scourge of fraud and exaggerated claims”.

Neil McDonnell, chief executive of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme), told the committee that the cost of insurance issue is “hollowing out Irish society”, and that it was curtailing sports organisations, charities and play groups, while simultaneously encouraging criminal activity. This, he said, was “reducing the physical and moral health of citizens”.