Audrey Dunne has just collected her daughter Harriet from Ringsend Creche. Harriet takes her scooter from her mum and kicks along, back and forth in front of the building.
She’s recently graduated to a scooter. When her daughter travelled in a buggy, Dunne would leave it outside the front door of Ringsend Creche before heading to work on Baggot Street, she says. “I couldn’t bring it, there’s nowhere in the office for it.”
But since a fire inspection found the stacked buggies at the front door were a fire hazard, no parents can leave their buggies outside Ringsend Creche, says Darren Ward, the creche manager.
Parents understood, but a few say they have to get to work so have to leave them there, he says. “We’re saying there’s nothing we can do. If that’s a fire exit we can’t leave them there anymore.”
Ringsend Creche, which is in the Ringsend and Irishtown Community Centre, joins other creches around the city that parents say can’t or haven’t made space for buggies to be stored, adding inconvenience to many parents’ already busy mornings, and forcing some to opt for a car when they would prefer not.
Dunne says she doesn’t understand why more creches don’t have buggy parking. “It’s crazy. It’s a facility for children so there should definitely be the facilities to leave a buggy.”
When pandemic restrictions were tight, Dunne worked from home so she had to take the buggy back there after dropping Harriet over, she says.
Walking across the windy East Link Bridge with no weight in it was a pain, she says. “The pram is getting pushed out onto the oncoming traffic which is kind of scary.”
Harriet scoots now, and Dunne transports the scooter on her buggy, which now holds her four-month-old boy, she says. That can be a hassle too.
She might want to take her son on a walk or to an appointment, she says, but has to drop the scooter back home first. “So if I had somewhere that I could just leave it, that would be handy.”
Two weeks ago, Linda Henriksson says she found herself carting her three-year old, one-year old, and their three backpacks on her bike from their home in Inchicore to Safari Childcare in Heuston South Quarter.
“And arrive sweaty into the office then,” she says.
Since she can’t leave her buggy at the creche, if she brings the buggy she has to take it back home, then pick up her bike to cycle to work – and the reverse in the afternoon. “Leave work early, pick up the buggy from home, go to creche to collect the children.”
Since creche ends earlier than work, Henriksson says she sometimes has to catch up on unfinished work in the evening. “So it also messes up my work-life balance.”
Orla Fitzgerald says she too finds it a pain to take her buggy home after bringing her daughter to Teanga Beo Naíonra creche in Ballyfermot. “It is an issue. You just have to double back on yourself.”
Without a buggy, her daughter would stretch the 10-minute walk to a 45-minute walk, stopping to look at everything, she says. If it’s raining, the walk back home with the buggy after dropping her at the naíonra can be miserable.
Often, her partner will drive their daughter to creche, says Fitzgerald. “But I’d prefer to walk. It’d be great if I could just leave the buggy there and have that option.”
Henriksson says some parents choose to drive, instead of walking, to get their child to creche and make it on time for work. “So causing pollution, which is the opposite of what a self-respecting childcare provider should encourage.”
Looking for Solutions
“In the creche, as you can see, we are very small,” says Petra Halandova, in her modest office in Christchurch Creche, in the Civic Offices building that houses Dublin City Council.
“We have three rooms, plus the hall and a cot area,” she says. “There is no place for storing buggies here, inside.”
Earlier, many parents worked in the council and kept buggies with them. But Christchurch Creche started to get more parents who worked further away, says Halandova.
Three years ago, they installed two storage sheds on the pathway into the creche, next to an outdoor play area. Parents are grateful to have the space, she says.
Halandova says that in Slovakia, where she is from, creches typically have more space. “You have a separate room for the sleep, another room for the breakfast, lunch, dinner, and you have another room for the playroom.”
Creches in Ireland are much smaller, she says. “They don’t have that space, rooms for different purposes.”
Ward, from Ringsend Creche, says he hopes to fundraise roughly €2,500 for a buggy shed there. Maybe nearby businesses would chip in, or Dublin City Council would offer grants, he says.
The Ringsend and Irishtown Community Centre was built with a custom-built creche space, he says, but storage for buggies was overlooked, even though the old community centre building had it.
He walks around to the back of the centre, where there is a car park, bike parking, an astrotruf pitch, and sheds. There’s room for a buggy shed too, he says. “It’s a big oversight, I think.”
Parents at other creches, though, say they are getting nowhere. Henriksson says she and other parents have brought up the issue with Safari Childcare, who run the creche at Heuston South Quarter.
“But they are kind of saying that it’s out of their hands,” she says. “For one reason or another, it isn’t possible within the building.”
Safari Childcare didn’t respond to queries asking if there are plans for buggy storage at Heuston South Quarter, and if not, why not.
Henriksson says the creche manager has said to parents that stored buggies would be trip hazards.
“Unfortunately for now we won’t be able to accommodate buggies and scooters for now, which is the same across our centres,” said the email to Henriksson.
Henriksson says a lot of parents are very frustrated, particularly given how much parents pay.
Henriksson pays €1,558 a month to Safari, she says. “It’s reasonable to expect that a creche would, charging these amounts of money, would facilitate something as simple as buggy storage.”
Some parents want to lock their buggies to the creche’s railing to protest, says Henriksson. “We’re waiting and hoping that the head office will then collaborate on this kind of call for action there and provide a solution.”
Fitzgerald, whose children go to a creche in Ballyfermot, says that creches just need a small shed for the buggies. But “I think it’s a question of space”.
Her creche might not be able to afford it, she says. “I understand that money can be tight and that there may not be space.”
Building Out Problems
The 2006 regulations for childcare facilities said a creche had to ensure that “adequate and suitable storage is provided for prams, pushchairs, carrycots, play and work equipment and personal belongings”.
But the current standards laid out in the 2016 regulations, which were drawn up by the Department of Children, no longer mention buggy, pushchair or pram storage.
Fergal McGirl, an architect who designed three creches in County Meath between 2000 and 2009, said that funding at that time was tight which impacts design.
The projects he worked on were funded under a couple of different schemes, he said, including the National Childcare Investment Programme. “It was always a challenge to get in under budget.”
To meet requirements for floor space per child, his team looked to shrink reception areas or kitchens, he says. So “I can imagine something like buggy storage as a ‘nice to have’”, he says. Meaning “they could get chopped very early in the considerations”.
Tim Gill, a researcher and author of the book Urban Playground: How Child-Friendly Planning and Design Can Save Cities, says it’s not hard to find examples of architecture and urban design that ignore or downplay the needs of women and carers – who are those most likely to be looking after young children.
“These are male-dominated professions and professional training and guidance also fail to take the topic seriously,” he says.
There are examples of what happens when women are asked, he says. Urban planners in Vienna in the 1990s asked women what they needed from street infrastructure, and widened footpaths and added street lights as a result, he says.
Dunne, outside Ringsend Creche, is moving to Rush soon. She’s already checked with the creche she’ll send her son to and they don’t have buggy parking there either, she says.
“When I asked her, she said, we did have space under the stairs, but she said it was a fire hazard,” she says.
Instead, she’ll have to walk the buggy over and back still, or her partner will drive the kids. “I would never, if I had a choice to drive or to walk, I’ll always walk. I just think it’s good for the kids.”
Dunne says she thinks whoever designed creches without buggy parking didn’t have children. “Anyone who has a child will say you need that facility.”