Daycare centres in Vantaa have been struggling to cope with a shortage of staff for the past few weeks, with some even requesting that parents keep children at home rather than bringing them to daycare.
"This is very rare, and it cannot be allowed to become a permanent solution," Mikko Mäkelä, Head of Early Childhood Education at the City of Vantaa, said. "We cannot, of course, oblige anyone to keep their child at home."
According to Mäkelä, at least one institute—the Pakkala daycare centre—requested parents care for their children at home instead of bringing them to the daycare in mid-November.
However, arrangements were made at the same location for those children whose parents were unable to provide supervision.
A shortage of personnel has also led to the sudden discontinuation of a few individual daycare groups, according to Mäkelä, who said that the move is unprecedented.
He believes that certain measures can be taken, such as transferring staff from one unit to another, to prevent this from happening again in the future.
The City of Vantaa reportedly considered temporarily shutting two daycare centres in spring.
"Internal arrangements enabled the daycares to continue running eventually, but they came very close to closing, and I had already granted permission for them to shut," Mäkelä stated.
Some daycare providers have adapted to the staff shortage and an inability to find substitutes by asking parents to pick up their kids early. Mäkelä said that while this is relatively rare, it has become an increasingly common practice in the past few weeks.
Covid, flu keeping staff at home
According to Mäkelä, the main reason for the current staff shortage is a high absence rate due to employees falling ill with the seasonal flu or Covid-19.
"Due to the pandemic, employees are taking a sick day even if they have minor symptoms. While this is, of course, the right thing to do, it has resulted in several absences and has made our staff situation complicated," he said.
Officials in Vantaa hope that the situation will improve once the flu season ends and substitutes become more widely available.
"There is no simple solution to this problem. We are working hard to find substitutes via the Seure workforce leasing company, but the biggest problem is the general shortage of staff in the sector," Mäkelä stated.