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DAYCARE

Daycare ‘punch clocks’ catch on in Sweden

Preschoolers at a daycare in northern Sweden now have their attendance tracked through an electronic punch clock system in order to help parents and administrators more accurately assess daycare fees.

Daycare 'punch clocks' catch on in Sweden

Toddlers punching the clock is no longer a strange sight in Malå municipality in northern Sweden, where the “Nuddis” system was recently introduced to make it easier to individualize daycare fees.

“It’s become a natural part of their day, to ‘touch in’ and ‘touch out’,” Hanna Åkesson, an investigator with the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR), told The Local.

“It’s like pushing the elevator button, they think it’s fun.”

Anders Bergström, head of childcare and education in Malå municipality where the daycare ‘time clocks’ were recently introduced, downplayed the significance of the new system.

“It’s the same principal as before, but a new system,” he said.

Bergström explained that, back in the 1990s, Malå adopted a policy that parents should only pay for the time their children are actually present at daycare.

In 2001, the concept was developed further with the introduction of maximum fees how much a family would end up paying to have their kids attend municipality-run daycare centres.

For a first child, the fee was 1260 kronor ($190), then 840 kronor for the second, and 420 kronor for the third. Any child after that would be free of charge.

However, the system was still flawed, according to Bergström, becoming too expensive for some families, and leaving personnel swamped with administrative work.

“Parents could have their children out of daycare for a month and still get the childcare bill,” Bergström said.

“Now you only pay for the time you use. We lose some revenue, but the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.”

Åkesson is also positive to the use of the new system, especially since it provides a unique chance for attendance statistics and thus planning, whereas the old system only showed estimates.

“For parents in Malå this is a big advantage,” she said.

“If they’re sick or on vacation… you don’t pay for the time the children aren’t there.”

Before the system was introduced, parents paid in advance for how long they estimated their children to be at daycare.

This often lead to discussions about whether the kids were there longer than what had been paid for.

Now, according to Åkesson, that’s not an issue.

Despite the fact that data about children’s daycare attendance is collected and stored by municipal officials as well as by the company that produces the “Nuddis” technology, Åkessson also downplayed concerns that the system could be seen as an overly intrusive surveillance tool.

“As long as you know what it’s all about, I think it’s very harmless,” Åkesson said.

“It’s not about any form of follow up on the kids, like in the old days of manufacturing. It’s about lower costs for parents and less administrative work for personnel.”

According to the TT news agency, the concept of daycare ‘punch clocks’ is catching on, with the system already up and running in Bjurholm in northern Sweden.

In addition, a number of other municipalities in northern Sweden, incluing Vilhelmina, Storuman, Norsjö and Sorsele, are in the process of implementing the system.

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CHILD ABUSE

Swedish daycare worker jailed for child sex abuse

A Swedish court on Friday sentenced a male daycare (dagis) worker to six and a half years in prison for four cases of rape and 20 cases of sexual assault against toddlers aged one to three in his charge.

Swedish daycare worker jailed for child sex abuse
The assaults took place at eight of the daycares where the man worked from March 2014 until June 2015. Photo: Victor Lundberg / TT

The 40-year-old man, who worked at 40 different daycares in the southern municipality of Kristianstad as a temp agency employee, pleaded guilty to the charges, a statement from the Kristianstad district court said.

The assaults took place at eight of the daycares where he worked from March 2014 until June 2015.

“The man sexually abused several girls during diaper changes. The girls were between one and three years old. The 40-year-old, documented the abuses himself with his mobile phone camera,” the court said.

“The crimes are considered aggravated because of the way he carried them out, the fact that he abused his position as a child minder, and that he abused the trust he enjoyed,” it added.

“Crimes like these are very rare,” court spokesman Markus Nilsson told the AFP news agency.

The defendant also found guilty of one charge of abusive photography and one case of aggravated child pornography for documenting the abuses and saving the photographs on his computer.

The man, whose name was not disclosed, was caught in July when he sexually abused a young girl at a theme park where he was employed.

During police interrogation he came clean about the daycare assaults and rapes.

He risked a maximum sentence of seven-and-a-half years behind bars but was given a year less than the maximum because he had collaborated with the police investigation.

The court also ordered the man to pay damages totalling 1.6 million kronor ($188,000) to his victims.