Beds that are not closed properly, children lying in outdoor beds in the sun for too long, not getting their own food or sometimes no milk bottle. These are examples of mistakes made in childcare. Supervisor GGD GHOR Nederland says staff shortages are putting pressure on the quality and safety of childcare and sounding the alarm in The Hague.
During their inspections, the GGD inspectors more often identify deficiencies related to staff shortages. And that, they say, entails risks.
“We see that in most cases it is going well, but due to staff shortages several reception points fall through the lower limit,” says director Ton Coenen from GGD GHOR Holland. In mid-November, the GGDs’ umbrella organization sent a letter expressing its concern to the social and education ministries.
Whether the deficiencies lead to harm in children, Coenen cannot say. “But we haven’t drawn up the requirements that GGDs check for nothing. They have to guarantee the children’s safety and health. The risk of things going wrong increases.” The sector is too dependent on employees who are still in training, sees the umbrella, both in day care, outdoor education (BSO) and pre-school education (VE).
In the daily work, GGD supervisor Jean-Peter Brizzi in North-Limburg sees the effect of the lack of staff: “We work very hard and it usually goes well. But I often see problems that arise because the employees are inexperienced or do not know the children in the summer, for example, children sometimes lie too long in outdoor beds in the sun, or they stay longer in a bedroom because a substitute does not immediately miss them. Even if these are incidents, they are signals to be taken seriously.”
These signals also reach the parents. “We hear more and more about incidents,” says chairman Gjalt Jellesma of the interest organization for parents in the childcare sector (Boink). “From children not being missed at the BSO while they have gone home to cots not being closed properly.” The Foundation for Working Parents also sees that quality is under pressure.
“This will go wrong sometime”
Due to the many temporary workers and changing professions, the work mainly falls on the shoulders of the permanent employees who know the children, believes the trade union for educational professionals Ppink.
“They actually don’t manage to offer a particularly high quality every day,” says director Myrte van Gurp. Examples are children who have been given the wrong food or no milk bottle. Or a child who was not put to bed when he was supposed to be, or who was taken out of bed much later when he was already awake.
“This is going to go wrong sometime. People from our supporters are afraid that something could happen that could have been prevented. There is a high absenteeism, people can’t handle it or say, ‘I don’t know if I still will this, responsible for that will be’.”
Van Gurp also says he is “extremely proud” of the generally high quality of childcare. “That is precisely why it hurts so much that we cannot now achieve what we strive so hard for: to deliver the best quality.”
“Unfortunately temporarily closed”
The Childcare Branch Organization (BK) is also concerned. The poor bond between child and employee, which exists in some places, can cause problems, says director Emmeline Bijlsma.
“You have to know kids, especially when they’re so young and can’t tell you what’s going on.” According to Bijlsma, childcare providers face a “huge dilemma”. “Working with temporary workers and therefore compromising on quality, or closing the group.”
The Danish Association for Social Childcare (BMK) calls for extra vigilance. Chairman Loes Ypma would like to talk to GGD, just like in the corona era, when the industry worked with a “force majeure plan”. “Even in the event of staff shortages, we will always continue to offer responsible care, because all children deserve good and safe care, otherwise we unfortunately have to close temporarily.”
A spokesman for Social Affairs says in a response that safety must always come first in childcare. “If it is not possible to create a safe and responsible environment for children, the only solution, however annoying, is to (temporarily) close a group”. According to him, the minister is closely monitoring the situation in childcare and is in ongoing consultation with the sector.