Having worked in the not-for-profit sector for over 10 years I know that the phrase can conjour up visions of Lemonade Stands, Car boot sales and bag packs. But I know that not-for-profits are some of the most efficiently run organisations and are rigorous about sticking to their missions.
In the light of the RTE Breach of Trust programme last night, one thing struck me (apart from the shock and disappointment as a parent of a child in Giraffe Childcare) and that was – these centres are all run for profit. The single goal of the people involved with setting them up is to make money.
I am not suggesting they don’t care about kids at all, but when you are the senior management of a chain of crèches your singular focus is revenue and profit. They will argue against this I’m sure, but it was clear last night that each centre needs to turn a profit.
That makes it harder for the staff and management of each centre to focus on childcare, because they will be forever under pressure to meet targets (recruitment of kids, expenditure on toys, food, staff etc…). If you are in any doubt about this – here are the facts (from the Irish Times)
Its last set of publicly available accounts are for the year to the end of April, 2009, and show it lost €206,764 in that period, having made a profit of €241,342 the previous year.
In 2009 the business received a government grant of €280,000, according to the accounts.The directors were paid €329,479. The business employed an average of 392 staff, including three directors, and staff costs were €8.16 million.
I think there is merit in calling on the government to legislate to have childcare facilities set up as not-for-profits. This won’t stop them needing to recruit kids, keep an eye on overheads, but it will ensure that any funds that would go to line the pockets of directors could go into the crèche facility. This may sound simplistic and idealistic, but the current set up isnt working and my sense is that if these centres were run by people who focussed on a mission and not profit, then they would always go back to that mission and would have an ethos of care at their core. This would be better for our kids surely?
Something has to change and this is just one idea, adding a few more inspectors (with planned visits) will be the HSE response and that isnt good enough, the creches are talking about improving procedures and policies – what does that actually mean. Its time to make some real change.