Quarter of creches not inspected for two years – survey
ONE in four pre-schools and creches around the country has not been inspected in two years, according to a survey of more than 1,000 facilities.
The survey, carried out by the industry's representative group Early Childhood Ireland, confirmed the lack of proper policing of the sector amid ongoing concerns over standards.
Chief operations officer Teresa Heeney said that "while 82pc of respondents say they welcome inspections going online, only 34pc actually submitted a right of reply in their most recent inspection report".
She added: "Many members complained that they had not been offered their right to reply and 75pc said that if given the opportunity they would submit their right to reply before their inspection report goes online."
It comes in the wake of the recent publication of inspection reports on pre-schools in the Limerick city and county areas following an outcry in the wake of an RTE 'Prime Time' expose.
"Given the fact that 25pc of respondents have not had an inspection visit since 2011, it is reasonable to assume that the service has changed in that time. Putting these out-of-date reports online without a right of reply serves no one's interests," Ms Heeney said.
"A more consistent, robust and regular inspection process is good for everyone, especially children. This survey has been sent to the Minister for Children with a view to highlighting the flaws within the existing inspection process and the urgent need to make the reports which are going online more consistent, transparent and fair."
She insisted that while more early childcare and education professionals would welcome the reports going online, it was essential that the reporting system included a 'right to reply', including follow-up visits and amended reports.
This is necessary if distinctions are to be made in reports between major and minor non-compliance, Ms Heeney said.
"A very large amount of non-compliance is due to garda vetting. This is out of the control of our members, who, like the rest of the country are experiencing delays of up to four months to have garda vetting requests returned," she added.
The method of publication of the reports, which can only be accessed on the Pobal website, has already been criticised, leaving parents to cope with the complication of downloading software in order to access them.
The HSE has said that it has around 37 inspectors but more staff cannot be hired because of the government moratorium on recruitment. There are 4,700 creches and pre-schools that need to be inspected.
Instead of hiring new staff, it has to rely on redeploying staff to fill jobs that are vacant in Louth and south Dublin – the areas worst-hit by staff shortages.