Kitas: Berlin mother awarded €7,500 for lack of childcare spot

A working mother of an infant who couldn’t return to her job due to a lack of Kita (childcare) spots has been awarded for 'larger damages' by the Berlin Regional Court.

Kitas: Berlin mother awarded €7,500 for lack of childcare spot
Children at a Berlin kita in 2018. Photo: DPA

The working mother was unable to return to her job as desired, and had to wait an additional five months before a Kita spot in the Pankow district in the north of Berlin became available. 

“The defendant shall pay the plaintiff 7,500 to compensate the claim and all damages in connection with it,” according to the minutes of the settlement of December 2019. The defendant is the city-state of Berlin.

READ ALSO: Explained: How each German state plans to improve childcare and lower Kita costs for families

Wednesday’s verdict means that there could now be greater financial consequences if a Berlin district is unable to offer either a childcare spot or at-home care with a Tagesmutter as an alternative to parents.

“The court has taken an unequivocal position,” lawyer Madlen Peiser, who represented the plaintiff in court, told the Berliner Morgenpost.

In 2019, Pankow district alone had 10 claims for damages for loss of earnings due to missing kita spots, some of which ended in settlement, according to Rona Tietje (SPD), the district councillor responsible for youth. However, the sums paid out to parents were significantly lower.

Why the lack of spots?

In Berlin there were nearly 30,000 more children under the age of seven in 2017 compared with 2013. 

This has led to an estimated shortage of Kita spots ranging between 3,000 and 10,000 in Berlin alone – Germany-wide there's an estimated shortage of 270,000 spots.

READ ALSO: How to receive money for private childcare at home if you can't find a kita spot

The Pankow mother had already started searching for a Kita spot for her child during her pregnancy in her district of Pankow, but she failed to find anything. 

This meant that she could not immediately return to her job as an employee after her child's first birthday, the age at which children in Berlin and Brandenburg are entitled to childcare.

In October 2016, Germany’s Supreme Court awarded three working mothers from Leipzig damages in similar cases.

The landmark case set the condition that payment to parents would only be made if a court recognized that a city was partly responsible for the lack of Kita spots.

READ ALSO: Leipzig must pay families denied childcare

Childcare from the age of one

It remains to be seen whether the Pankow decision will affect other claims: The southern Tempelhof-Schöneberg district has two similar claims for damages pending before Berlin's Regional Court, and in both instances the loss of earnings is even longer.

There have also been cases throughout Germany: in 2018, the administrative court in Stuttgart received 34 lawsuits about childcare, in 2019, there have been 16 so far. In Munich, 165 cases have been filed since the introduction of the legal entitlement to a place in August 2013.

READ ALSO: Kitas: Why are parents suing for a childcare spot in Germany?

In 2018, the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg ordered the state to provide kita spots to all children starting from the age of one. 

Since then, the districts have had five weeks to act when parents sue. If necessary, the districts then finance private transitional care. 

The districts are currently financing replacement at-home care in 48 cases, according to Berlin’s Senate Administration for Education.

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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.