Early childhood care faces labour shortage, federation warns
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Early childhood care faces labour shortage, federation warns

Credit: Belga

The sector of early childhood care’s requests for appointments and letters to the French-speaking community’s Minister for Early Childhood, Bénédicte Linard remain unanswered, said Unessa (the federation for the reception, support, assistance and care of persons) on Monday.

Like in the first wave, the sector faces labour shortages and loss of income due to the absence of children, Unessa warned.

“The first daycares have already had to close their doors due to a lack of staff or because of Covid infections,” Unessa said, noting that certain teams were missing close to 30% of their staff.

The sector needs “clear guidelines” to face the new crisis period, said the federation.

In addition, the new quarantining rules for asymptomatic people “will undoubtedly aggravate the shortage of staff in daycares,” it pointed out.

Currently, those who have had a high-risk contact but present no symptoms have to quarantine for ten days instead of getting tested, in an effort to lighten the load on Covid-19 testing centres and laboratories.

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Much like in hospitals, staff in daycares are “at the end of their rope,” said Unessa’s managing director, Christophe Happe. “The least we can do is to show them a minimum of consideration and provide them with useful information.”

Moreover, the problem is also a financial one, as not only are staff members temporarily sidelined, so are the children. During the first wave, a limited compensation scheme was put in place to make up for the shortfall of the childcare facilities. It ended on 31 August.

“Like before, children’s absences are on the increase and there is no compensation for their parents’ financial participation. As a whole, this participation represents around 30% of the budget of a daycare,” explained Unessa.

The closure of daycares could be permanent this time, according to Happe, who wondered whether Linard would be “ready to take responsibility for this.”

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times