INSURANCE CRISIS: Firms 'can charge what they want' – play centre owner

INSURANCE CRISIS: Firms 'can charge what they want' – play centre owner

The Little Big Town play centre in Kilbeggan saw its insurance premium rise by more than 200 percent last year.

Speaking to the Westmeath Examiner, proprietor Margaret Naughten said that she is expecting to be hit with a similar rise this year despite have no claims made against her business.

“It went up by 204% last year and it absolutely strangled us. It cost us a job here and that is the reality. It was only though budgeting and tightening everything that we managed to afford to keep open at all this year.

“We also run an after-school service and we are the only after-school service in the Kilbeggan catchment area – we are providing a much needed service in the area.”

Margaret is part of a recently established group of almost 90 play centre owners from across the county calling for urgent reform of the insurance sector.

There are only a small number of firms who will insure play centres and Ms Naughten says that because of that “they can charge what they want”.

“We are being made scapegoats and are seen as an easy target,” she says. “People are having their insurance premiums doubled even though they have had zero insurance claims against them. How can they justify that?

“What we are calling for is reform at governmental level. They have to look at the Book of Quantum [the guide used to calculate insurance claims] . A whiplash claim can get someone €30,000, while in England and Europe it is a quarter of that, and it’s across the board.

“Insurance is becoming an issue in every sector in Ireland. I think that even councils may have to close their playgrounds. They [playgrounds and play centres] are seen as an easy target by fraudsters. For a bump on a child’s head, a very minimal injury, they can get €20 or €30,000 because they claim psychological damage,” said Ms Naughten.

The only way to deter people from making fraudulent claims is to introduce stiffer penalties for those caught and place closer scrutiny on people who make multiple insurance claims.

Unless something is done, Ms Naughten says that play centres will be forced to close as they will no longer be viable, at a time when medical professionals are saying that children need to increase their physical activity to counteract rising obesity rates among the young.

“Play centres such as ours are a vital part of the community. People don’t allow their children to play outside any more, where are they going to exercise?” Ms Naughten concluded.

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