Porters in need: Day care centers groan under expensive food prices

porters in need

Day care centers are groaning under expensive food prices

Mon 22/08/22 | 06:16 | Of By Anna Bordel

Picture: IMAGO/image broker

On Monday, not only schoolchildren, but also daycare children start the new year. Many providers are suffering from the increased costs, and help from the Senate is only in sight at the beginning of next year. For smaller institutions, it may already be too late. By Anna Bordel

Kathrin Freide would never have thought a few years ago that she would have to deal with it, but the trend has become more and more evident for a long time: More and more parents are giving up their daycare place because they are moving away. And: The daycare manager at the large daycare center “Hanna vom Kolle” in Prenzlauer Berg is finding it difficult to fill the places. Sometimes it even takes three months for that to happen.

The number of layoffs has tripled over the past three years, she says. “Many parents had financial losses due to the corona, there are not as many cheap housing areas in the district,” explains Freide, explaining that many families are moving away from the city center to the outskirts or back to where they grew up. The fact that the places cannot be filled immediately burdens the breadwinner, as the money he gets from the Senate per child is missing. And there is no money anyway.

Kita food has become significantly more expensive

It’s not just parents’ terminations that make daycare workers create. The increased costs in many areas of everyday needs make everyday life difficult for the already financially crisis-hit industry. The increased cost of food has an immediate impact on operations. Some carriers could no longer pay their caterers, says Lars Bekesi, CEO of the Association of Small and Medium-Sized Kita Carriers Berlin (VKMK). The meal per child would previously have cost three euros, now it is sometimes nine euros. Without additional help, day care centers would have to cut back on food and staff. If kitchen staff are dismissed, then the educational staff would have to step in, and they would then be even more overburdened, says Bekesi.

The standard of the food in the “Hanna vom Kolle” daycare center has been maintained despite price increases, says daycare manager Freide. The kitchen staff are price conscious. “The staff keep a close eye on how much food needs to be prepared, which saves both food and energy costs,” she explains. When shopping for groceries, staff look for promotions or wait a week if a particular ingredient is currently expensive.

I look here in our garden and know that as a team we can support each other and make it possible for the children to have a carefree everyday life, even if their parents and we have concerns.

Kathrin Freide, day care manager Hanna vom Kolle

So far, increased energy costs have only had an impact in isolated cases

The effects of the increased energy costs will be particularly evident in the coming year. Many smaller shipping companies will not survive it, Bekesi is sure. It is much more difficult for them to raise money in the short term. So far, he knows of one case where the 300 percent increase in the gas bill drives an institution to the brink of bankruptcy. Otherwise, too many still do not understand what the price increase means. The constant announcements that energy costs would rise, but that this is not yet concrete, unsettles many, says Wolfgang Freie from the Berlin State Daycare Association.

In the “Hanna vom Kolle” daycare center, precautions are therefore taken to save water and electricity. “It’s not always possible, after all, children have to wash their hands. Children, especially the little ones, like to let the water run longer, which often has a calming effect. We now make sure it doesn’t come out by hand, and we open a tap every now and then to”. The light is also consistently turned off when there is no one in the room. “However, the toilets downstairs are dark and therefore constantly lit, so the children can always go to the toilet there,” says Freide.

The Senate offers bridging assistance in individual cases

In Berlin, there are a few municipal daycare centers, but 80 percent of places are provided by independent providers co-financed by the Senate. There is a fixed rate for personnel and material costs, which is increased annually according to the consumer index of the last months, always in January of a new year. The price development is therefore not yet included in the final regulation, and this is precisely what makes it so difficult for many institutions. Larger institutions that operate sensibly could manage for a few months without restructuring, but it is not so easy for smaller institutions. A few months ago, the Senate wanted to investigate whether bridging loans could be a solution.

According to the Senate, however, it has not yet been necessary to use such help. “The adjustment of the fixed rate for material costs via the consumer price index is a proven procedure that has been accepted by day care providers, even in the current situation,” said Martin Klesmann, spokesman for the education administration, when asked. . “The offer to look for low-threshold bridging for individual case-related discussions in the case of situations that endanger the existence of the economy, especially for smaller plants, continues. It would be individual case solutions. There has not been a case so far,” he continued .

Make parents more responsible?

The problem is not only the low level of personnel and material costs, but also the fact that independent organizations use part of the personnel costs to finance other things, such as construction work or the like, according to Markus Hanisch from the trade union for education. and Science Berlin (GEW). The concern now is that staff salaries are increasingly being used to offset the increased costs in other areas.

There is currently no joint round where associations, sponsors and politicians can talk about possible solutions. Bekesi and Freier see an opportunity to involve parents more in the costs. The fixed contribution of 23 euros as catering has remained fixed for 11 years, so that a regulation could take place, says Freier. Many childcare centers also charge an additional fee, which may not exceed 90 euros and is also linked to fixed services such as music or organic food. This contribution could at least be made freely available to the sponsors, believes Bekesi. He does not believe that parents will soon have to pay more.

The Senate should adjust the finances to inflation more quickly

Bekesi is hoping for a special lump sum for each child that will benefit the carriers until they wait for the next adjustment of funds next January. According to the current consumer price index, the increase could be eight percent. Some carriers could not wait that long, says Freier.

Others find that the insurance of the increase gives daycare centers an opportunity for improvements that are lacking in other areas – for example within youth and family welfare. Family centers and youth counseling are also run by independent sponsors, but their funding is not guaranteed long-term, nor is an adaptation anchored anywhere, according to Hanisch of GEW. Therefore, there is great concern about how these projects, which do very valuable work for families, can remain operational given the rising costs.

Teacher – a profession with a bad reputation

Staff shortages have already become part of everyday life in Berlin’s daycare centers. Almost all providers are looking for specialists. The profession simply has a bad reputation, says Freie from the Kitaverbandet, and there is constant talk of “some disasters, overexertion and illness”, which means that few people want to be educated. The profession of pedagogy indeed has its moments of happiness: “accompanying the children’s development, experiencing surprising and emotional things – it can be very satisfying,” says Freie.

Daycare manager Freide is not only worried either: “I look here in our garden and know that as a team we support each other well and can enable the children to have a carefree everyday life, even if their parents and we have concerns”. As every year, she looks forward to the start of the daycare year with a good mood.

Submitted by Von Anna Bordel

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