2,644 creche inspections led to three prosecutions
Just three prosecutions were taken against creches and other pre-school facilities last year – despite 2,644 inspections being carried out.
The low number of sanctions was revealed as it was announced all facilities will have to be registered from September – a move which is set to push up costs for parents.
The first inspection reports on facilities will also be published on the Health Service Executive (HSE) website from July 1.
Gordon Jeyes, head of the Child and Family Support Agency admitted that the number of enforcement actions taken against providers annually averages about four every year.
"However, in excess of 240 providers cease trading each each, in part as a consequence of their failure to meet the regulatory demands of the sector," he told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children .
Three prosecutions were carried on foot of inspections last year and two related to 2011. He was appearing before the Committee with Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald in the wake of RTE's 'Prime Time' programme which revealed poor standards of care in some creches.
In some areas of the country the courts make it difficult for the HSE to carry out a prosecution, he added.
"I can quote cases where we have taken prosecutions and the judges throwing it out even though a child was left in a very dangerous part of the city."
The judge accused the HSE of behaving in a "fascist" way even though the child who was part of a group on an outing to St Stephen's Green in Dublin was left behind in Baggot Street "which is not exactly a safe area for a four-year-old".
The minister told the committee that she intends to introduce a new system of registration for the more than 4,000 facilities that are currently known to the HSE.
Currently, these facilities are only obliged to notify the HSE that they are going to open but all new providers will have to register from September and the same regulation will apply to existing operators once they come up for renewal.
She also intends to introduce new training requirements for staff and is to insist on a more robust inspection process with graded sanctions.
She has also asked for a review of inspection reports of the childcare facilities operated by the larger chains and expects to receive this in September.