Staff shortages in childcare putting safety at risk
Staff shortages in childcare are getting so big that many can’t guarantee the “four-eyes principle” at all times, Gjalt Jellesma of the interest association of parents in childcare, Boink, told AD. The principle, introduced after a major child sex abuse case in 2013, says that two adults must watch a class of kids at all times.
“We receive reports that things are going wrong, as a result of which safety is at stake,” Jellesma said. “We are getting more signals of transgressive behavior. Do not immediately think of child sex abuse, but, for example, of impatient employees or children getting grabbed by the arm. This trend development is logical: you cannot remove all kinds of quality rules with impunity.”
Emmeline Bijlsma, director of the Childcare Branch Organization, called it “very worrying” that children’s safety is under pressure due to staff shortages. “I hope that most providers will choose to stick to the basic rules and, therefore, close groups if the four-eyes principle is under pressure, terrible as that is. We must not fall below the lower limit.”
The four-eyes principle, along with other measures like more camera surveillance and adapted spaces, aim to make it more challenging to be alone with a child. But everything stands and falls with enough staff, Bijlsma told the newspaper. “If that is not there and providers have to cancel contracts with parents, children will be left with a babysitter at home. Then there will be no supervision at all to guarantee their safety.”
The Childcare Branc Organization urged the Cabinet to refrain from its plan to make childcare almost free from 2025 because the short-staffed sector can’t handle the influx of children. “Unfortunately, I don’t have a solution for the current situation,” said Bijlsma. “I mainly say to politicians: listen to our employees’ cries for help. They no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
In December, GGD Ghor Nederland, the umbrella organization for the GGD municipal health services, warned that there is a “rising trend in shortcomings in quality requirements” in childcare. According to GGD Ghor, “The knowledge and experience necessary for the safety and health of children may be lacking” due to the lack of permanent staff.
Since the end of 2021, there have been “more shortcomings in statutory quality requirements related to the deployment of (sufficient and qualified) personnel,” GGD Ghor said.