No inspections last year at half of all pre-schools
Published 26/05/2015 | 02:30
Over half of all pre-school services in Ireland were not inspected last year, while some facilities have not been reviewed in five years.
Figures from Tusla also reveal that over 120 early years services have closed down since 2013, which the Department of Children attributes to the "economic downturn".
Tusla, the newly formed Child and Family Agency, took over as the regulator of pre-school services at the beginning of last year.
It has statutory responsibility for the inspection of crèches, pre-schools, play groups and nurseries.
Under the new State authority, annual check-ups dropped significantly compared to 2013, when responsibility rested with the HSE's Children and Family Services, the Family Support Agency and the National Educational Welfare Board.
More than 60pc of the 4,670 registered pre-schools operating in the country in 2014 were not inspected by Tusla.
The regulations state that services should be inspected on a regular basis but some have not been seen since 2010.
Where examinations did take place, the reports from the facilities found that some pre-school services were not adhering to the garda vetting and references process of employees.
The number of inspections carried out by Tusla last year stood at 1,702 in addition to 468 advisory visits; this is compared with the 2,422 facilities inspected by the HSE in 2013 when almost half were not inspected either.
An agency spokeswoman said: "Since taking over the role of regulator, Tusla has introduced a standardised inspection process in order to make inspection more robust and comprehensive."
She said this resulted in a more comprehensive review process, which is more time-consuming.
When asked whether or not the number of pre-school services inspected each year was satisfactory, she said: "This is in line with other inspection models both in Ireland and internationally.
"It is expected that the rate will increase in 2015 as the inspection process has been further refined."
CEO of Early Childhood Ireland Teresa Heeney said she was "very disappointed, but not surprised" by the inspection rates.
"Tusla has a much broader brief in child protection and it is clearly struggling to put the necessary resources into the inspection of the pre-school sector," she said.
"The lack of regular inspection visits is not in anyone's interests. Our members - 3,500 operators of early childhood education services around the country - want regular inspections," she said.