Computer system to pinpoint 'risky' pre-school services
Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is planning to develop a new computer system which will help it more easily identify pre-school services with poor standards.
The move is a high-tech upgrade of the current paper-based risk evaluation system used by the agency.
Complaints and other information it receives about childcare providers will be entered into the computer programme, which will use a risk matrix to evaluate whether a premises requires an immediate inspection.
Tusla's director of quality assurance Brian Lee said the move was part of an "intelligence driven and risk based" approach the agency will be taking into the future.
It is planned to have the system in place by the middle of next year.
"This is incredibly exciting and will be a crucial part of the monitoring of childcare services," he said.
Mr Lee said information and complaints received, along with previous inspection reports "inform the risk rating we give a service".
"Where a service is deemed risky, we will inspect them more," he said.
The agency received 129 complaints from members of the public in the first six months of the year and 274 in 2014.
The most common complaint was in relation to the ratio of staff to children in crèches.
Tusla has been regulating the area since it was set up in January 2014, taking on work previously done by the HSE.
Its inspection teams, comprised of a public health nurse and an environment officer, can visit premises to ensure they meet with statutory regulations.
Under the current system no pre-school services have had their registration cancelled, although they can be prosecuted if there are significant safety concerns.
Under new regulations set to come into force in the coming months, the agency will also act as a registration body.
"At the moment we work under a notification system.
"If a new service wants to open they open, and they notify us and we have to inspect them within a certain period of time," said Mr Lee.
"The new system, which will be under new regulations, is a registration system where a service has to be pre-approved. So we do a pre-inspection before they open."
The agency will be seeking more funding from the Government for additional backroom staff to help the registration system work smoothly.