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Free Business Advice Hub in North Dublin

The Get Ireland Working Team (www.gwit.ie) who have run 9 successful advice hub meetings since the start of the pilot program (1st July 2010) in the Kilbarrack Social Welfare Local Office catchment area are running another Free Business Advice Hub on the 28th of September. The event which will be held at Suttonians Rugby Football Club at 8pm, is open to any new or small business.

The Get Ireland Working Team have got together with a number of successful business people who have volunteered to share their experience with you for free. They are available to help you build your business start-up idea or existing business.

For more information contact info@gwit.ie

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Health Insurance – Be careful what you wish for!

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I’ve been recently in the market for a new health insurance policy as my old one with Quinn direct was due for renewal. I absolutely detest health insurance just because I think it’s a total rip off. I’m a man at the end of the day, I rarely go to see my doctor at all. In fact the last time I saw a doctor was about a year ago, when I was dragged kicking and screaming like a baby to the hospital to have a broken finger mended. So the idea of paying someone for something that I hope never to use… simply kills me. But none-the-less, it’s a neccessary evil and is quite important to have. God forbid I ever really need it, but if I do, I don’t want to be caught out.

Quinn Insurance, like everyone else I suppose, decided to hike their fees for the health insurance plan I was on this year. It went up around €250 on the previous year, which I felt was a bit excessive. So off I went on my travels to try and find a better health insurance deal.

The health insurance package that seemed to be most attractive was from Aviva Health. On the homepage of Aviva’s health insurance website, there is a nice well placed call-to-action “Switching” (they could have used a stronger call to action, but let’s not go there). With all the jargon associated with health insurance policies, I thought to myself, “this is great, let them tell me which policy suits me best”.

As you go through the steps of Aviva’s health insurance “switching” tool, it asks you to select your current health insurer, that was easy… Quinn. The next step asked you to choose your current plan. Our policy was the Essential Plus policy on Quinn Healthcare and there it was easily selectable from a drop down list of Quinn policies. Now, just click the compare button and hopefully it will suggest the nearest policy Aviva have to offer.

Unsurprisingly, the results showed that we would save over €200 by switching our policy to Aviva Health. I thought “fantastic, I love the Internet! I just saved myself €200!!”. This was of course until we rang Quinn Health Insurance to let them know we were cancelling who quickly asked “why are you switching?”. I explained that we had found a similar policy that was €200 cheaper than the one Quinn Health had on offer. She said, “Is it the Aviva Level 2 Hospital policy you are referring to?”, “yes” I said. “Well,” she said, “It’s not actually the same, because on our policy we give you €20 towards GP & Physiotherapists visits amoungst others”. She went on to suggest a similar policy from Quinn Health that offers pretty much the same level as Aviva (without access to the Beacon and Blackrock clinic etc) for saving of around €400 per annum. At this stage I was bamboozled and felt I needed to do more research as this could have been a sales ploy to stop me from leaving.

I went straight back online to compare the policies again and yes, true to her word she was right. The Aviva offering wasn’t even close in terms of what we previously had with Quinn Healthcare. In fact there was so much more covered on Quinn that I was shocked that Aviva were in a position to get away with what I feel is false advertising.

After this episode, I don’t think I’ll ever trust any of Aviva’s comparison tools, because they blatantly set out (in my opinion) to trick me into believing the policy was near enough a carbon copy of the policy I was leaving and for a better price.

Of course, the onus is on me to make sure I read the small print and see what is covered by my policy. But surely if someone is offering a comparison tool, it should be legally obliged to CLEARLY state the differences. When I say clearly, I don’t mean that it is accessible by clicking a button, I mean clearly stated here is where the differences are.

Needless to say, I’ve stuck with Quinn Health for our health insurance policy this year – I’d just like to see them reqarding it’s long serving customers for their loyalty! 😛

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Childcare costs in Ireland

This seems to be the main topic of discussion on the airwaves this morning after a report on childcare costs was released by the OECD. The report shows that families in Ireland are paying an average of 29% of their total income on childcare costs. This is higher than the majority of member states with Germany and France spending just 8% and 11% respectively on their child care costs.

The airwaves were filled this morning with parents giving out about the crazy costs associated with childcare, but as much as I think it is a disgrace that families have to fork out so much money each year on childcare, my anger is not with the childminders or people running the creches.

Before I go on, I must first mention where my biased opinion possibly comes from. My wife was a childminder and nanny for many years and I could never understand (even before I had kids of my own) how little respect a lot of families had for their children minders. The childminders they were entrusting their kids life’s with, but expected them to work as many hours as they could squeeze out of them for pittance.

The norm in todays economic climate is for childminders to work up to 50 hours a week, for just over minimum wage with not a cent offered for the overtime, nevermind the regular occurence of parents arriving home late for work. Other parents even expect the nanny to work as a part-time cleaner while they are on the job too. What annoys me most is the ignorance these parents have to the personal development of their kids. They think that their kids can develop and be educated by an already overworked and overstressed childminder, who is too busy getting other things done than to focus on the kids development.

But the ignorance doesn’t stop there. Parents love to bash the high costs associated with creches, but most never even spend a minute thinking about the basic math of the equation and how much it costs to not only run a creche, but to run a safe one.

In Europe, we have laws to ensure the safety of our children’s safety when in care. One of the major rules is the child to adult ratio. The table below outlines the minimum requirements by law to safely run a child minding facility.

Age Range Adult/Child Ratio
0-1 Year 1:3
1-2 Years 1:5
2-3 Years 1:6
3-6 Years 1:8

In simple terms, if I were to run a creche as a business and have 3 babies, I need at least one member of staff to care for them.

Let’s say, best case scenario that I have 3 babies in my creche and I charge an average of €800 per month per child. My monthly income would be €2,400. It would cost me approximately €1,550 per month to hire a childminder on the minimum wage, which the best childminders won’t and shouldn’t work for.

That leaves me with €850 per month to cover other costs associated with running the business such as nappies, food, insurance, rent etc etc (i know some creches charge extra for food etc, but not all). Now, let’s say I take in another baby – I will instantly need another member of staff – which will cost me at least another €1,550 for an extra childminder. This instant requirement to hire an extra childminer will leave me with €100 to pay for all the extra bills required to run a creche.

On the plus side, as you go up the age groups, the ratios improve and therefore so does my potential margin on each child I take in to care for. But it’s hardly an attractive business to be involved in and it’s understandable why we see creches that appear to have the “stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap” mentality popping up all over the place.

When I hear horror stories of events that have happened at creches, I’m never surprised. How can a business such as this run well when the only incentive for someone to care for your child is their love for children. It’s never a surprise for me when I hear of ill-treated the kids, understaffing and the over working of staff that the majority of creches face. Of course I expect people to come on here and say “oh my creche is run so well, we never have any problems”, the sad reality is that you just haven’t heard about it yet.

A lot of parents assume that because they are paying what they feel is a “huge” amount of money, that their kid is getting huge amounts of attention from their minders all day long. In fairness to their minders, I’m sure they try to give each child as much love as they can every day, but in the conditions they work under, it’s clear to me that there is little chance of that. What worries me and I guess only time will tell, is the effect this will have on kids growing up in childcare facilities.

When a business such as a creche turns into a situation where quantity is more important than quality, there is something wrong. But you can’t blame those who run the creches, they are just trying to run a business under massive constraints.

The worst thing about this report is that it doesn’t compare like for like. A lot of our member states have policies in place for child minding. In Ireland we have nothing. The amount families are paying in other member countries on childcare is significantly lower because of the policies put in place in those countries.

The table below shows the amount of total income spent on Child care failicities in the respective countries.

The first country of our member states who is at the average OECD average of 13% is the Netherlands. The Netherlands, value the importance of childcare and therefore the government believes that the cost of childcare should be covered jointly by the government and the employer. Parents can receive up to maximum of €6.10 towards their childcare costs.

France are next on the list and we all know the pains the French worker goes through in terms of taxes, but what they get in return in something that Irish parents would clearly envy. In France, child care is pretty much free, of course you can get private child care at a premium.

Denmark comes in with an average of 8% of a family’s total income spent by on childcare. And yes, Denmark has a system in place where parents do not pay more than 25-28% of their child care costs.

It’s clear to me where the differences lie. This report really only draws attention to the fact that our government simply isn’t doing enough for families who require childcare to get out and work. When a government has a tax relief on our waste charges, but none on the cost of our childcare there is clearly something seriously wrong.

The bottom line is that in Ireland we’re only paying more for childcare because we don’t have the reliefs that other countries do.

Most child minders do their job, for the love of kids – nothing else – and for this reason they should be respected and applauded. If we want the best people in the country to mind our children, we should be paying them more – not less. They are minding YOUR children after all, do you want the standards to lower in order to have cheaper childcare? That’s all you will achieve by lowering childcare costs at source.

It’s up to the government to bring down the costs, not the creche owners and childminders.

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Greenbow Deaf Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Society of Ireland Website Launch

John Fennel, Chairperson GreenbowI was delighted to be invited to the launch of the new Greenbow website on Friday evening last in the Outhouse. Although the site is not fully live just yet (problem with the host), it will be live very soon at www.greenbowdeaf.com

Greenbow was set up to support and develop the Deaf Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in Ireland. Greenbow aim to raise the awareness of injustice and discrimination this community face in society.

The launch which was held at the Outhouse on Dublin’s Capel Street was a credit to John Fennell (Chairperson) and all others involved. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank John & Gary for all the hard work they put in to getting the site completed and I wish them great success with it in the future.

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GetCover Insurance (GetCover.ie) give me the run around after flight cancellation

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I’m still stranded in Bangkok with my wife and 2 year old daughter. Luckily for us, we have a bit of savings put away that will help us survive while we’re stuck in Thailand. Over the last few days, I’ve been trying hard to organise our flights home, extended visas and of course sort out who is going to cover us for this extended holiday (if you can call it that).

As with every holiday I go on, I made sure I got myself Travel Insurance. You just never know when you are going to need it. In all the holidays I’ve ever taken, I’ve never once had to rely on my travel insurance for any reason. Until now that is.

Who would ever have thought that a volcanic eruption in Iceland could cause the whole European flight zone to be closed? So foreseeing this event was something I certainly didn’t envisage. Isn’t that why we get travel insurance in the first place?

When booking my travel insurance through GetCover (www.getcover.ie), an Irish based insurance company, I was mindful of the terrible events that happened in Thailand not so many years ago and wanted to be sure I was at least covered for such a catastrophic event.

I carefully studied the travel policy document to ensure I was covered for anything that could possibly happen. The document from GetCover can be seen here : http://www.getcover.ie/pdfs/travel-policy-document_200911_1.pdf

The important part of this document is on page 13, under the heading “Catastrophe”. It states:

What You Are Covered For:
The Insurer will indemnify you up to the amount shown in the Schedule of Benefits in the event that the Tour Operator is unable to assist and you are forced to move while in resort, from the pre-booked accommodation as a result of fire, lightning, explosion, earthquake, storm, tempest, hurricane, flood, tsunami, medical epidemic or local Government Directive which is confirmed in writing by local or national authority, for irrecoverable travel or accommodation costs necessarily incurred to continue with the trip or, if the trip cannot be continued for return home.

Now I know it doesn’t specifically state “volcanic eruption” or “volcanic ash“, but it does say “government directive”. Clearly the governing body that caused this cancellation in my case, was the Irish Aviation Authority.

When I rang my Insurance company’s emergency helpline from the airport on Sunday night, I assumed that because I had taken out the best policy they offered and paid a premium for it, that it would be an open and shut case. How wrong was I?

The first phone call, left me quite irate when I hung up the phone. The person at the end of the line, after me already spending 5 minutes giving him my policy details and explaining the situation on a premium rate phone number – decided to tell me that he was being told to inform anyone who called with cancellations due to the volcanic ash that they were not covered. To make things worse, when I question him about where in the policy document does it state that I’m not covered, he told me he couldn’t explain to me over the phone and that I would have to ring the “broker” whom I purchased the insurance from, GetCover. After this call, I’d only a few coins left to make an important phone call and that was to my wife’s brother. I thought I’d just email GetCover when I got to an Internet connection.

I’ve so far received two responses from GetCover – the first basically reiterated what I was told on the phone. The email I just received now has left me furious!!! After asking nicely in my email for them to clearly state where it states in their policy document that I was not covered, it was suggested that I contact their claims department which is a completely different company.

I’m not at all happy about this, it is wrong on so many levels. Firstly on the false advertisement of the product I purchased from them and secondly that they seem to be able to decide at their leisure when someone is covered and when they are not.

Would welcome others opinions on this situation and what they feel my rights are. I’m not letting this one go!

LATEST UPDATE:
http://www.tomdoyletalk.com/2010/04/24/getcover-insurance-latest-update/

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