Thursday 22 August 2019

Exposé of crèches lifts lid on weak supervision

Anne Davy. Picture: Maxpix
Anne Davy. Picture: Maxpix
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

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 process".

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 her 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 chain said it acknowledged it has raised real issues which need to be addressed and some changes have already been made.

Irish Independent

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