Saturday 21 September 2019

Childcare providers to be forced to highlight any 'black marks'

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Frank McGrath
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone. Photo: Frank McGrath
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Childcare providers who breach regulations will be forced to highlight their failing to parents.

New rules are to be introduced by Children's Minister Katherine Zappone amid controversy over Tusla's ability to sanction crèches, the Irish Independent can reveal.

So far this year, Tusla has made negative findings against 95 early years services - but in many cases their clients are unaware of this.

Infringements may vary from not having staff properly vetted to failing to have enough play materials for the number of children present.

When Tusla attaches conditions to a childcare facility it returns within a set time frame to ensure action has been taken.

But writing in today's Irish Independent, Ms Zappone is now promising to go further.

"I will make it compulsory for early years providers to display the details of conditions imposed by Tusla, prominently on their premises so that parents are fully aware," she says.

The minister is expected to come under political pressure for reforms in light of the 'RTÉ Investigates' programme on the Hyde and Seek chain.

"The treatment of children as witnessed on RTÉ last night is reprehensible beyond words," Ms Zappone said.

The investigation detailed how the service provider operated without being registered.

Ms Zappone says Tusla ordered it to close several months ago but the provider launched a legal challenge and won.

"As a result of the legal case, the service was registered with conditions attached. Tusla continued to actively monitor the service," the minister says.

"All the related services have been inspected by Tusla and it is taking the necessary action."

Asked whether legislative changes are needed to avoid similar situations in future, a spokesperson for Ms Zappone said: "This is something that we can look at over a period of time as more cases go through the courts."

In the interim, she plans to make it mandatory for service providers to display a certification of registration in a prominent place.

The programme also highlighted how one provider was operating despite having a conviction. "Parents and the public are legitimately questioning how this could be possible," Ms Zappone says. "This person has been a provider since before 2016. At that time a service could only be closed down by the courts. Where a provider was convicted, it was for the courts to determine what would happen."

Ms Zappone says the law was changed in 2016 so that Tusla could deregister services and force them to close without requiring a court decision.

But she adds: "However, because of constitutional limitations, Tusla cannot deregister a service for a conviction that took place before 2016. This was the case with the provider who featured on the programme last night."

Irish Independent

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