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400 families left without childcare after creche group goes bankrupt

15:51 12/11/2022

An estimated 400 families in Brussels are finding themselves without childcare after the NeoKids chain of nurseries filed for bankruptcy.

This has thrown families into chaos, as they are forced to find new childcare when a shortage is already plaguing the capital.

“I am forced to rely on grandparents,” one father told Bruzz.

NeoKids had eight branches in Brussels. Its 2022 annual accounts showed a cumulative loss of €6.5 million.

“Due to the precarious financial situation, NeoKids has decided to declare bankruptcy,” said Gabriel Persoons, the company's lawyer.

The creche chain had been evaluating its options in recent weeks, hoping to avoid closure, but officially filed for bankruptcy on Wednesday. Its case will be brought before a French-speaking court in Brussels next Tuesday.

A Facebook group for parents was formed in the aftermath of the closure, with the idea of supporting one another’s efforts to find replacement care.

Families have also launched an email campaign asking the municipality of Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, the Walloon welfare minister and the Brussels employment minister for help.

But Brussels has been struggling with a childcare shortage for some time now - a problem that persists across language barriers and is largely attributed to lack of staffing.

A Woluwe-Saint-Lambert spokesperson indicated that there was no more room in their municipal creches, and other affected municipalities have said the same.

In Etterbeek, mayor Vincent De Wolf (MR) thinks there may be about five open places left, but these will not be enough to fill the demand. He indicated that many parents have success finding care through private crèches.

Just as parents struggle to balance the loss of childcare with their own employment, staff who worked for NeoKids are also feeling left hung out to dry.

Anonymous testimony to the news outlet RTL indicated that they had not received any pay for the month of October.

Brussels employment minister Bernard Clerfayt (DéFI) said that these staff members can turn to the employment agency Actiris for help finding a new job.

“There is a huge shortage of staff in the sector, so I am confident about their chances of getting back to work quickly,” said Clerfayt.

Some municipal creches are already eager to hire them, and Uccle's alderman for childcare Daniel Hublet (Les Engagés) affirmed that his municipality is among those.

But NeoKids may not be out of the running yet. The chain could reopen with a financial injection of €‎2 million from a new buyer looking to take over the operation.

“Then business activities can continue,” lawyer Persoons said. “The management, in the interests of parents and staff, sincerely hopes for that outcome.”

The chain of creches has reportedly been running at a loss since its inception.

Written by Helen Lyons