One in twelve creches and after-school facilities are under close scrutiny from regional health boards as incidents due to a lack of experienced staff mount, the AD reported on Monday.
Some 1,292 of 15,315 childcare facilities inspected since 2012 have been given a red or orange risk profile, inspection reports requested by the paper from 25 regional health boards show.
There are 16,000 facilities in total but not all have been included in the inspection rounds because of the pandemic or because the results of the inspection are pending, the paper said.
Incidents in creches have been mounting “significantly” for four quarters in a row, the Klachtenloket Kinderopvang, which registers complaints about childcare facilities, told the paper.
“Complaints range from children who run away, children who have fallen, or complaints about too few workers for the number of children,” spokeswoman Sybright van Atten said.
One creche in Amsterdam, closed its doors when health board inspectors found crying babies being ignored, unhygienic practices around food, no steady staff and a creche director who was largely unavailable.
In other incidents, one child escaped from the attention of staff and ended up in the water. In another a child drowned in a nearby ditch, Police are still investigating both cases.
“I am not saying these very serious incidents can be directly linked [to a lack of quality] but running away is not something that happens in a normal situation at a creche where everything is in order,” said Emmeline Bijlsma, director of childcare umbrella organisation BK.
BK, which represents a thousand childcare facilities, said lack of staff is the main problem in the sector. A third of creches and after-school facilities do not have enough experienced workers and there are currently at least 7,000 unfilled vacancies.
Umbrella health board organisation GGD GHOR Nederland said the orange and red risk profiles do not automatically mean a creche is substandard.
“It is true that lack of staff increases the chance of accidents but the risk profile is an indication of the frequency of inspection and is not directly linked to safety,” a spokesman said. “Sometimes an inspector simply wants more time to carry out the location check,” he said.
That does not wash with parent organisation BOink, whose spokesman Gjalt Jellesma said the risk profiles are “based on hard fact. The known incidents are only the tip of the iceberg. We have been getting reports from parents and creche workers about dangerous situations for a long time now,” he said.
Jellesma is particularly critical of the widespread use of trainees. “Children are real Houdinis, they are always trying to run away. An experienced worker knows the children and what they would be up to. But if there are too many trainees that is not the case.”
Jellesma said that locations that have too few workers should close, or that parents should be given the right to just two days of daycare a week.
The BK does not want to limit the number of days for parents but wants to increase recruitment efforts and bring down the number of workers per group. Bijlsma denied trainees are a problem “as long as they are supervised by an experienced colleague.”
Meanwhile plans to make childcare free have been postponed. This is a good thing, Bijlsma said, because it would only put more pressure on the sector.
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