Shortage of qualified personnel spells trouble for parents Bonn nursery has to send children back home

Staff collapse: The situation has now come to a head in some of Bonn's kindergartens, partly because of high levels of sick leave.

 Staff collapse: The situation has now come to a head in some of Bonn's kindergartens, partly because of high levels of sick leave.

Staff collapse: The situation has now come to a head in some of Bonn's kindergartens, partly because of high levels of sick leave.

Foto: Benjamin Westhoff

The news is only a few months old: shortly before the summer holidays, the city of Bonn had to turn down 70 children who had initially been told they had been accepted at municipal day-care centre (Kita) starting in August. The reason was not the Coronavirus, as might have been expected at the moment. Instead, It was the staff shortage that the city of Bonn as well as independent day-care providers have long been struggling with. And once again, the situation is coming to a head in various institutions in Bonn.

Jakob Hackenberg contacted our editorial office recently and told us that the municipal day-care centre Ellerstraße was actually in a state of collapse. Ironically, it is located near the Robert-Wetzlar-Berufskolleg, where future educators are trained. "Children are now regularly being sent home, or from one day to the next, we learn that the contract has been cancelled. The situation in the day-care centre is coming to a head, with reduced attendance times and complete closures a part of everyday life. And this has nothing to do with the Coronavirus," writes the father of two in his email to our editors. In the past three months alone, there have been reduced attendance times for the Froschgruppe, which is a group for children from the age of two, and on ten days, there was only emergency supervision, with parents being called on to keep their children home. “The information often didn’t reach the parents until shortly before 8 in the morning - by email," Hackenberg complains. Anyone not checking their inbox would be in for a surprise when they arrived at the day-care centre. The children and their parents would have to go back home, even though the parents had to work.

Rotation system for day-care

For a few weeks now, a rotation system has been in place stating which children are allowed to attend and which are not. The children would therefore only be looked after for two or at the most three of the five workdays. There is no longer any question of reconciling work and family life, as politicians like to propagate.

A mother from the Schweidnitzer Weg day care centre recently described a similar situation, where a staff shortage had led to talk of temporarily outsourcing the groups to other day-care facilities. When our editorial office asked for a comment, Bonn press office spokesperson Andrea Schulte confirmed the plan did exist. "It was on the table for a very short period of time. But another solution was found," she said. This included temporarily reducing opening hours. "In addition, fewer children are being cared for at the moment so that the minimum staffing and staffing can be maintained."

City supports Kita

At the Ellerstraße centre, as in many other day-care centres, there is also a shortage of staff because of high levels of sick leave, Schulte continued. However, the day-care centre is supported as much as possible. For example, the vacant head position was filled seamlessly. Schulte: "The parents have been informed. There was a digital meeting with the parents' council."

Hackenberg is aware of the "extremely high" percentage of people on sick leave at the day-care centre his youngest child attends. "At the moment, 70 percent of educators are missing due to sickness or holidays. There are currently only eight of 17 teachers there," he said. In addition to the unusually high level of sick leave, there is a noticeably high staff turnover indicating that the employees are particularly unhappy in their job.

Father: "Talks with the city have been unsuccessful so far"

"So far, talks between the city administration and the parents' council have been unsuccessful," the father complains. The lack of qualified staff is given as a major reason for the miserable situation, even though all parties involved in the talks agree that this cannot be the main factor behind employees reporting in sick or quitting their job. "There are not enough solutions to bring back regular childcare," Hackenberg criticises. Parents don’t understand why it’s not possible to introduce flexible solutions such as involving parents as supervisors, as is clearly possible in day-care centres run by independent providers, or borrowing educators from neighbouring day-care centres. "Many parents feel left alone by the city."

According to Schulte, however, it was not feasible for the city of Bonn to temporarily assign staff from neighbouring municipal facilities to Ellerstraße, because there were staff shortages in other day-care centres, too. The reason given was not COVID-19 but a shortage of qualified staff and the current increase in infectious diseases. According to Schulte, in Bonn, in the first two weeks of December alone, the Landesjugendamt (State Youth Welfare Office) received an additional 20 reports by different cay-care providers stating that operations could not be fully maintained because there were not enough personnel.

( ​ Original text: ​ Lisa Inhoffen, Translation: Jean Lennox​)
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