Creche chain exposed in RTÉ Investigates: crying children mistreated and left at risk
Serious shortcomings in the oversight of crèches are still rife as a shocking new undercover exposé turned the spotlight on Garda vetting and the inspection regime.
‘RTÉ Investigates’ revealed how children in a number of facilities in Dublin were ill-treated , and also left at serious risk in the event of fire.
The broadcaster sent in two undercover childcare workers to crèches run by the Hyde and Seek chain and showed flagrant breaches of good practice and safety procedures.
This is despite 11 inspections by Tusla, the child and family agency, taking place since September 2017.
The catalogue of failings come just three years after a tightening of the laws governing 4,500 childcare facilities following uproar in the wake of another RTÉ investigation, ‘A Breach of Trust’.
But a week after applying for a job at the Shaw Street crèche, one of the undercover workers was employed without being Garda vetted.
Although Tusla inspected the branch four years ago, and warned against babies being left to sleep on bouncers, the practice was still in place until recently.
A Tusla inspection of the Glasnevin centre in February found insufficient space between cots to allow staff to check sleeping babies but this was not rectified five months later.
The highly profitable chain is family run and consists of four crèches.
A company spokesman said one of the owners, Anne Davy, who also managed the Tolka Road branch, “has decided to take no future role in frontline childcare provision”.
Brian Lee, Tusla’s director of quality assurance, told the Irish Independent it is now notifying gardaí of its concerns.
Mr Lee said the television footage “reinforces our existing concerns which will result in an expedited enforcement processes”.
The damning revelations showed staff were hired before being Garda vetted, fire exits were blocked, milk was diluted with water and one childcare worker was left to look after 20 children on their own.
Disturbing footage aired last night also showed babies being placed on their stomachs and held down to make them sleep.
A crying child was put in a room on their own for misbehaving.
Children were served a meal of cheap noodles despite the menu given to parents saying they would get a vegetable dish.
On another occasion children witnessed a loud and angry rant because the room was untidy.
Outside shutters at the back of one of the centres were on occasions shut while a baby was still on the premises, which was a risk in the event of fire.
The Glasnevin branch, charging fees of €1,000 a month, was opened in January 2018 and operated until March last year without registration.
This is despite legislation which prohibits a crèche from opening before receiving a full registration certificate from Tusla which ensures it meets standards.
The spokesman for the Hyde and Seek chain said it acknowledged it has raised real issues which need to be addressed and some changes have already been made.
“We have been operating crèches for over 15 years and strive to provide a top-quality child-centred service," the spokesman said.
“Our crèches are fully registered and are regulated by Tusla with whom we work to ensure that we comply with all regulations.
“In recent days we have had unannounced Tusla inspections and fire safety inspections at several of our premises and we do not believe any major issues will arise from them.
“However we acknowledge that the ‘Prime Time’ programme has raised real issues which we need to address.
“We have already addressed some – for example, we have recently changed the layout of our cot rooms at our Tolka Road and Shaw Street crèches, and last week we had unannounced visits by Dublin City Council fire officers to each of those premises and those inspectors said there were no fire safety issues requiring immediate action.”
He said during a recent difficult period at the Tolka Road crèche, Ms Davy took a more front line childcare role than she normally does.
“She accepts she did not handle this period well, but would point out that several comments she made on film were in fact directed at your programme’s researcher, in frustration at what she saw as a failure to carry out basic duties.
“However she is now stepping back from all front line work at the crèche.”
He said: “We going to restructure our management, a process which will include the appointment of a new manager at Tolka Road.
“We operate an open door policy and parents are free to visit our crèches at any time.
“We are in ongoing contact with parents of children who use the services featured in your programme this week and expect to meet many of them in the coming days.
“We would encourage parents to contact us with any concerns that they have.”