Inspection system 'failing children and parents' says crèche workers group
The country's crèche inspection system is "inconsistent" and "failing both children and parents", according to a body representing childcare professionals.
Teresa Heeney, chief executive of Early Childhood Ireland, called for an overhaul of the pre-school service inspection system operated by Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.
Her comments came in the wake of an investigation by the Irish Independent which found some parts of the country had better inspection rates than others.
Tusla has admitted higher historical inspection rates in the west of Ireland have helped contribute to higher standards there than elsewhere.
Ms Heeney called for sweeping changes, saying Tusla had "too few inspectors [and] too few inspections".
She said there needed to be "a consistent, equitable, national system of inspection of early childhood education… not a lottery system depending on location".
She also said the agency, which took over responsibility for the inspection of preschool facilities last year, had made "too little progress in delivering a robust, consistent and regular inspection process".
Tusla has pledged to inspect premises every three years under new regulations coming into force in the coming months.
However, crèches where problems exist will be visited more frequently.
It said the inspection regime has become standardised around the country, and that there was now a more even spread of inspection staff.
A computer system is also being developed to help more easily identify pre-school services with poor standards.
Meanwhile, Early Childhood Ireland, which operates a group insurance scheme, has written to its members about services operating in breach of planning conditions or without planning permission following coverage of the issue in the Irish Independent.
In the letter, it said that while it was a requirement of the current insurance contract to adhere to the childcare regulations, there was no specific reference in the policy in relation to planning permission.
However, the letter added: "As you will appreciate the circumstances of any given claim will dictate how your policy responds.
"It is incumbent on all service providers to operate in accordance with legislation to enhance the prospect of a successful defence of any claim arising."
The letter said issues around planning posed an ongoing challenge to the sector and that this had been raised with the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.