There’s plenty about the French that gives me indigestion: Their bread, delicious but bloating, their endless red tape and paper culture and their prissiness when it comes to rules. Let’s not even mention the way they treat their animals. Still, at risk of sounding unpatriotic, they beat us Irish when it comes to giving kids, all the kids, rich and poor, loads of opportunities to take risks and explore.
You see, compo culture isn’t a thing here and the kids reap the benefits.
The activities timetable for children is jam-packed from skiing in winter to mountain biking in the summer. French kids are encouraged to be fit, strong and resourceful, attributes that can be seen in their national sporting prowess.
So far this year my kids have abseiled a sizeable pretend mountain at a village fete for free, no waivers, just a queue of expectant faces. They’ve made friends on trampolines in restaurant gardens, ziplined over rivers, gone wild on bouncy castles for free and tried to copy their step brother’s flip tricks on a tour of skate parks also free.
They go outdoor swimming twice a week with their school, hiking once a month and are preparing for a summer of water-parks and wildlife adventures in the south of France.
Are there injuries? Mais oui. As a mother of three boys under seven, let’s just say, there’s always one of them crying about something or another. Whether it’s a thump, a bump or a stump, it’s endless. The French are terribly impressed by our moveable racket, as you can imagine.
Still life is better for children here I’m not proud to say.
There’s a strong sense of civic duty in France, instilled from a young age, reflected in affordable and competitive insurance costs across the board.
Considering our bleak past when it comes to children, I’m frankly incredulous the Irish government has let the nation’s kids down once again as Ireland’s play centres close one by one due to outrageous, inconsistent insurance costs.
My rebels were there for the opening day of Kidspace in Rathcoole in Co Dublin last summer, before we set off on our French adventure.
It was wild. I ate chips (and some salad) in the restaurant and they went berserk at a safe enough distance for me to relax-ish. Joey had an epic meltdown when it was time to go, as two-year-olds tend to do when you disturb their fun.
Entrepreneurs, visionaries and general wonder women, Claire Doyle and Tracy Smullen, have since had to close their original Kidspace in Rathfarnham, Dublin with the loss of 25 jobs after their insurance premium shot up by €25,000 in a year. What the? By €25,000! You’ve got to be kidding?
They only had one claim in five years, from an adult.
They’re worried Rathcoole will be next. Insurers don’t trust Ireland’s compo culture, apparently. Or is that too simplistic I wonder? Is our ambulance chasing, grab-it-while-you-can, system the real culprit?
Our UK neighbours, the Whiplash Kings of the World, have a similar problem. Britain’s Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption points the finger at the law not the claimants.
“If the law says that we are entitled to blame other people for our misfortunes, it is absurd to complain about a culture of blame, as if this was somehow a symptom of a collective moral degeneration.”
I tend to agree. We all know the fakers, the “Ooh I’ve got whiplash” while head-banging to Metallica at Slane. Conversely, we know the genuine cases, those who are clearly entitled to compensation. Then there’s everyone in between including Maria Bailey TD and Swing-gate, which in fairness finally allowed the nation to spit the dummy over spurious insurance claims. Thank you for that Ms Bailey. You are all of us and we are you.
Taoiseach, please, sort it out. The law, is an ass(hole). We cannot, morally, stand idly by and watch another space for children close.
These play centres need government support and subsidies. Enough of this insurance nonsense. It can be easily fixed. Set up a state insurance system if necessary.
During the Celtic Tiger we built golf course after golf course for the fat cats. Where were the children’s spaces? We left it to the entrepreneurs to take all the risk and now when they face an impossible situation of skyrocketing insurance, where is the help? The time to act is now. Our kids deserve better than this. If you’re stuck for ideas, follow the French example.
For more info on Kidspace, Rathcoole CLICK HERE