Teddy bears to lead protests in Denmark over childcare standards

Teddy bears to lead protests in Denmark over childcare standards
Illustration photo: Johan Gadegaard / Ritzau Scanpix
A demonstration involving thousands of teddy bears will take place across Denmark on Saturday, over standards at the country’s childcare facilities.

The demonstration, organised by the movement, ‘Hvor er der en voksen?’ (‘Where is an adult?’) is about the ratios of staff-to-children in the country’s day care institutions – a concept termed minimumsnormering in Danish.

There are currently no regulations over staff-to-children ratios in state-funded childcare institutions, which means workers can sometimes find themselves alone with up to 17 young children, according to the union for childcare workers, BUPL (Børne og Ungdomspædagogernes Landsforbund).

The movement, ‘Hvor er der en voksen?’ started in 2019 and their Facebook group has over 39 thousand members. After their nationwide demonstrations involving thousands of parents and day care workers, the government agreed to introduce minimum ratio standards by 2025.

People gathering outside Christiansborg on April 6th 2019 during the first 'hvor er der en voksen' nationwide demonstration. Photo: Emma Firth

This means there will be a minimum ratio of 1 adult to 3 children in nurseries (vuggestue for roughly 0-3 year olds), and 1 adult to 6 children in kindergartens (børnehave for roughly 3-5 year olds).

However there are concerns over how this will be implemented with the money set aside, as the government begins negotiations on the model used for calculating what a minimum standard is.

“We want it to be clear that this is about adults looking after children, not other staff that work in the day care institutions. And we can already see from the money they’ve set aside for minimum standards that it won’t have an effect on the ground,” Marie Blond, one of the leaders of the movement 'Hvor er der en voksen' tells The Local.

The municipalities received a total of 500 million kroner in 2020 to hire more staff as the first step towards standardised ratios. But it is up to each municipality to decide how to distribute the money. Some have been focussing on institutions that are thought to need most help or putting the funds towards younger children rather, than distributing it evenly.

Marie Bond wants the standards to be introduced urgently and not wait until 2025. And she says the calculation model for minimum ratios should not be according to current calculations from Statistics Denmark but must reflect the real situation of adults in the room.

“This is a real situation not one on paper. I hear from parents all the time about their concerns over the lack of staff in their children's day care institution.

“For the first time ever this week, I took my two year-old home from vuggestue (nursery) because there were so many crying children who had just started the vuggestue and one staff member was off sick. There is simply not enough staff and the system collapses when something like sickness happens. It's heartbreaking.”

After lockdown from the coronavirus, Marie says how many parents noticed the benefits of the small groups that were created in day care institutions and that their children thrived. Group sizes have since returned to normal.

“The fact the Prime Minister opened up day care first after lockdown shows how it is critical to Danish society and the labour market. Denmark is a country where both parents tend to work. But the quality of our day care is not good enough – not because of staff but how precarious the situation is, especially now during the coronavirus,” Marie says.

The Ministry of Children and Education were unable to provide a comment to The Local in response to the planned demonstration.

Teddy bears being collecting by organisers ahead of Saturday's demonstration. Photo: Hvor er der en voksen group.

Organisers have asked people to donate teddy bears to their local campaign representative, who will either place them outside their local town hall or send them to Christiansborg, where a live Facebook broadcast will happen on Saturday, 10.30am. The teddy bears will then be donated to children’s charities.

READ MORE: Why are so many parents in Denmark demonstrating over childcare?


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