Zappone considering emergency fund for childcare providers after premium hikes

Increase in insurance costs next year from €3,000 to €9,000 ‘very serious’, says Minister

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone said it is ‘worrying’ that there is only one insurer in the market currently to provide cover to childcare operators. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone has said she will consider establishing an emergency fund to help childcare providers with significant insurance premium hikes.

Ms Zappone said it is “worrying” that there is only one insurer in the market currently to provide cover to childcare operators.

The Independent TD said she had not spoken to Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe about establishing an emergency fund for providers but that "we'll consider everything".

"We're all very aware of the fact that on Friday many of the providers who were receiving insurance received a letter from their broker Padraic Smith and Company to say that Ironshore, the insurance company that was providing the insurance is no longer going to be providing that," Ms Zappone told reporters on Monday.


“My understanding is that he is currently in discussions looking for another provider to replace the one who’s left and we should have information on that today or tomorrow.”

"It's also important to say that Early Years Ireland also offer and run the possibility of enabling providers to access another insurance scheme but it's very worrying that there's only one insurer at the moment in the market and we hope that that will change."

Reacting to reports of a childcare provider facing a rise in their insurance cost for next year from €3,000 to €9,000, Ms Zappone said it was “very serious”.

“Obviously, we can’t control the cost of insurance. What I can say is that up until the last couple of weeks we weren’t receiving very many contacts from providers about concern around insurance costs, we weren’t.”

Childcare costs

Ms Zappone was speaking at the launch of the annual Early Years Sector Profile report for 2018/19. Parents are paying on average €184 per week for “full day” childcare provision, an increase of 3.6 per cent on last year. Average weekly part-time care rose by 8 per cent to €109.98 and sessional provision rose by 6.3 per cent to €73.30.

“This is the third consecutive year of fee increases after several years of fee stagnation,” the report said.

The highest fees for childcare in 2018/19 were in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown where the average costs for full day provision were € 246.03, €133.26 for part-time care and €87.22 for sessional childcare.

The average weekly full day fees in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown are 60 per cent higher than the lowest recorded for Leitrim (€148.33).

Fees are higher in urban areas (€191.33 for full day provision per week) than in rural areas (€165.76) and in private settings (€190.74) compared to community settings (€168.12).

The average hourly wage of staff working in the sector is €12.55, a 3 per cent increase on last year. The annual staff turnover rate is 23 per cent with rates differing across counties, from 15 per cent in Kilkenny to 36 per cent in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown.

The proportion of staff who hold a degree increased by 5 per cent since 2016/17, with one in four staff now holding a Level 7 or higher qualification.

It is estimated that about 30,775 staff work in the early learning and care and school-age childcare sector. The workforce remains predominantly female, with women constituting 98.2 per cent of all staff working directly with children.

Nine in every 10 children enrolled in early learning and care and school-age childcare settings (185,971 children in total) were in receipt of State subsidies during 2018/19.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times