Porters in distress: Daycare centers groan over rising food prices

Porters in distress

Daycare centers groan under exorbitant food prices

Monday 08/22/22 | 06:16 am | to Written by Anna Bordel

picture: IMAGO / imagebroker

On Monday, the new year begins not only schoolchildren, but also kindergarten children. Many providers are struggling with rising costs, and help from the Senate doesn’t loom until early next year. For smaller organizations, it may already be too late. Written by Anna Bordel

Kathryn Fried never thought a few years ago that she would have to deal with it, but the trend has been increasingly clear for some time: More and more parents are abandoning their daycare place because they are moving away. And: The director of the nursery at the large day care center “Hanna vom Kolle” in Prenzlauer Berg is having difficulties filling places. Sometimes it takes three months for that to happen.

She says the number of layoffs has tripled in the past three years. “Many parents have experienced financial losses due to the corona virus, and affordable living spaces in the area are becoming more and more scarce,” Fried explains, explaining that many families are moving away from the city center to the suburbs or back to where they grew up. The fact that places cannot be filled immediately puts a strain on the provider, since the money he receives from the Senate for each child is missing. There is no money anyway.

Keta food has become much more expensive

It’s not just parental resignations that are the reason for setting up daycare providers. Increasing costs in many areas of daily needs are making daily life difficult for an already financially troubled industry. The increasing cost of food directly affects operations. Some carriers can no longer pay their operators, says Lars Bixe, general manager of the Berlin Association of Small and Medium-Sized Companies Keita (VKMK). A meal for each child previously cost three euros, now it is sometimes nine euros. Without additional help, daycare centers will have to cut back on food and staff. If the kitchen staff were laid off, the education staff would have to step in, and then they would be even more fatigued, Bixe says.

The standard of dining at the “Hanna vom Kolle” daycare center has been maintained despite the high prices, according to nursery manager Freide. Kitchen staff consider the price. “Staff keep a close eye on how much food needs to be cooked, saving both food and energy costs,” she explains. When shopping for groceries, employees look for promotions or wait a week if an ingredient is currently too expensive.

I look here in our garden and know that as a team we can support each other and enable the children to lead a carefree daily life, even if it is their parents and we have concerns.

Katherine Fried, Director of Hanna Foam Cole Day Care

So far, rising energy costs have had an effect only in isolated cases

The effects of rising energy costs will be especially evident in the coming year. Many small carriers won’t survive this, Pixie sure is. It is difficult for them to raise money in the short term. So far, he knows of a situation where a 300 percent increase in gas bills has pushed an organization to the brink of bankruptcy. Otherwise, for many, it is not yet expected what the price increase means. The constant announcements of rising energy costs, but this is not yet concrete, bothers many people, says Wolfgang Frey of the Berlin State Day Care Association.

In the “Hana Foam Coolie” nursery, precautionary measures are taken to save water and electricity. “This isn’t always possible, after all, kids have to wash their hands. Kids, especially younger ones, like to let the water run for longer, which often has a soothing effect. Now we’re making sure that this doesn’t come off a hand, and we run a faucet in between. Now and then on.” The light is also constantly turned off when there is no one in the room. “However, the downstairs toilets are dark and therefore constantly lit so the kids can always go to the toilet there,” Freide says.

The Senate provides assistance in bridging the gap in individual cases

Berlin has a few municipal day care centres, but 80 percent of places are provided by independent service providers who are jointly funded by the Senate. There is a constant rate of personnel and material costs, which increase annually according to the consumer index for the past months, always in January of the new year. So price developments have not yet been included in the latest amendment, which is exactly what makes it so challenging for many organizations. Large organizations that function reasonably well can run a few months without readjustment, but this is not easy for small organizations. A few months ago, the Senate wanted to examine whether temporary loans could be a solution.

But according to the Senate, the use of such aid was not yet necessary. “Adjusting the flat rate of material costs across the CPI is a tried and tested procedure that has been accepted by daycare providers, even in the current situation,” said Martin Klesman, a spokesperson for the Department of Education, On Demand. . “The search for low-threshold transitional measures continues to be offered for individual case discussions in the case of cases that endanger the very existence of the economy, particularly for smaller utilities. These will be individual case solutions. So far there has been no case.”

Make parents more responsible?

The problem lies not only in the low level of staff and material costs, but also in the fact that independent organizations use a portion of staff costs to fund other things, such as construction work or the like, according to Marcus Hansch of the Trade Union for Education. and Science Berlin (GEW). The concern now is that employee salaries are increasingly being used to offset increased costs in other areas.

There is currently no joint round in which associations, sponsors and politicians can talk about possible solutions. Pixie and Ferrer see an opportunity to involve parents more in costs. The fixed contribution of €23 is set as a meal allowance for 11 years, so an adjustment can be made, Fryer says. Many day care centers also charge an additional fee, which may not exceed €90 and is also linked to fixed services such as music or organic food. Bixby believes that this contribution could at least be made freely available to sponsors. He doesn’t think parents will have to pay more soon.

The Senate should adjust the finances for inflation more quickly

Bixby hopes to receive a special lump sum for each child, which will benefit carriers until they wait for the next adjustment of funds next January. According to the current CPI, the increase could be as high as eight percent. Some carriers couldn’t wait that long, Fryer says.

Others argue that ensuring the increase gives daycare centers an opportunity for improvement that they lack in other areas – for example in youth and family care. Family centers and counseling services for young people are also run by independent sponsors, but their funding is not guaranteed in the long term, and the adjustment isn’t fixed anywhere, according to GEW’s Hanisch. Therefore, there is great concern about how these projects, which do very valuable work for families, will continue to operate, given the high costs.

Teacher – a notorious profession

Staff shortages have already become a part of everyday life in Berlin day care centers. Almost every provider is looking for specialists. The profession simply has a bad reputation, says Kitaverband’s Frey, and there is constant talk of “some disaster, exhaustion and disease,” which means few people are willing to train. A teacher’s profession actually has moments of joy in store: “Keeping up with growing children, and trying surprising and emotional things—it can be very satisfying,” says Fry.

Daycare Director Freide isn’t just worried: “I look here in our garden and know that as a team we support each other very well and can enable the kids to have a carefree everyday life, even if it’s their parents and we have concerns.” Like every year, she looks so glamourous at the start of the daycare year.

By von Anna Bordel

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