Friday 20 September 2019

Hyde and Seek crèche controversy: 'Our trust has been betrayed' - devastated parents react

  • Crèche chain at centre of RTÉ expose to hire external consultants
  • Gardaí also launch investigation after damning tv probe
RTÉ Investigates goes undercover in a Dublin creche company to expose serious failings in the standard of care provided to children in a number of branches across the city.
Broadcast 24/07/19 on RTE One
RTÉ Investigates goes undercover in a Dublin creche company to expose serious failings in the standard of care provided to children in a number of branches across the city. Broadcast 24/07/19 on RTE One

Eilish O'Regan, Evie Kearney and Conor Feehan

PARENTS of children attending Hyde and Seek, the crèche chain at the centre of last night’s damning television expose, have said the are devastated by what they saw.

An undercover investigation into the standard of care at the Hyde & Seek childcare chain revealed how children were roughly handled.

Hyde & Seek Creche ,Tolka Road,Drumcondra.
Hyde & Seek Creche ,Tolka Road,Drumcondra.
RTÉ Investigates goes undercover in a Dublin creche company to expose serious failings in the standard of care provided to children in a number of branches across the city. Broadcast 24/07/19 on RTE One

It also showed a series of fire-safety breaches at the multimillion-euro family-run business.

The company has four creches across Dublin city catering for children from three months up to 12 years old.

The investigation was carried out by RTE programme, Behind Closed Doors.

Undercover footage revealed repeated breaches of regulation, as well as concerns around sleep room conditions.

RTÉ Investigates goes undercover in a Dublin creche company to expose serious failings in the standard of care provided to children in a number of branches across the city.
Broadcast 24/07/19 on RTE One
RTÉ Investigates goes undercover in a Dublin creche company to expose serious failings in the standard of care provided to children in a number of branches across the city. Broadcast 24/07/19 on RTE One

At the company's creche on Tolka Road in Dublin, cots were packed so tightly together workers found it difficult to provide appropriate care for children at nap times.

Frequent and significant breaches of ratios were also found at the branch.

Anne Davy, the owner of Hyde & Seek, resigned ahead of the documentary which aired on Wednesday night.

Hyde and Seek has said today that it is to hire external consultants to look at its service.

The Garda Child Protection Unit is also investigating concerns raised about the Hyde and Seek crèche chain revealed in the Prime Time Investigates programme.

The gardai at Mountjoy garda station have become involved, according to Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

But a group of parents who meet to discuss the programme have said their trust in both the carers and the State has been "badly misplaced".

"We are devastated by what was revealed by the programme. We trusted the creche to provide the standards of care it advertised and undertook to provide, at all times, and from all carers. This trust was badly misplaced," they said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.

"Furthermore, we trusted that the State, through the Department and its regulatory and oversight body (Tusla), would provide a framework within which the breaches of regulations broadcast last night could not occur. It appears that the current oversight system, even when it detects breaches, is inadequate to ensure that the same, similar, or more serious breaches do not occur again.

"This leaves us asking whether the system is fit for purpose. This is a question that must be answered not just for our children and for us, their parents, but also for parents throughout the country who often have no choice but to enrol their children in a childcare system that puts serious financial strain on many households.

"It is a question that must be addressed also for the many childcare professionals who offer exemplary care, but who will today be facing legitimate questions concerning oversight of the sector they operate within.

"Most pressingly, this question must be answered for the many thousands of children enrolled in creches and other childcare facilities around the country, who cannot ask it themselves.

"Our trust has been betrayed. We call on all parties concerned to immediately address how this happened, and to credibly explain how they will make amends."

Separately, speaking to RTE's Liveline on Thursday afternoon, Deirdre McGrane has said she “could not believe” what she was watching last night.

In 2005 Ms McGrane won a court case against Anne Davy when she arrived to collect her three-year old son from the crèche but he was nowhere to be found. Her son, Nathan, had been left alone in Fairview Park following an impromptu visit on a sunny day.

A judge ordered the crèche to pay €1,200 in fines and convicted Ms Davy of failing to provide adequate supervision in accordance with her insurances and of having inadequate staff and attendance records.

"I couldn't believe that she hasn't learned from what happened 15 years ago," Ms McGrane said.

Mother-of-three Fiona Henry said watching the programme was "like Groundhog Day" as she recognised the same complaints that she said she brought to TUSLA five years ago.

Ms Byrne claimed she raised issues such as the ratios not being correct, the high staff turnover and mistreatment of children with the agency when her children were under their care in 2014.

She said that TUSLA responded to her complaint and carried out inspections as a result, but a few days later she received written notice from management to take her child out of the crèche.

Another parent, Sinead, said that her daughter, who has been in Hyde and Seek for nearly eight years, "loves" the facility and never had any issues, but she found the programme extremely distressing to watch.

"She's so happy there. Our experience has been nothing but positive," she said.

"It was very distressing to watch last night but there's other parents who have had fantastic experiences.

"I was shocked by the footage. I can honestly say when my daughter was small like that I would go in to the crèche at unusual times...and I never witnessed anything like I saw on the footage last night.

"I asked her [my daughter] does she want to leave and she absolutely doesn't want to leave.”

A spokesman for the Hyde and Seek said today the RTÉ Investigates programme "has raised some real issues for us and we will deal with them quickly.

"The overall picture it painted does not reflect who we are, but there are specific issues we need to address and are addressing quickly."

The undercover operation revealed children were ill treated and also some serious fire safety risks.

"We will shortly retain an expert external consultant to review our management structure and our service. We began seeking to identify such a consultant this week," said the spokesman.

"We strive always to provide the highest quality of childcare and to give children a happy safe place in which they can develop and play, and we are determined and committed to do this.

"One of the first changes we make will be the recruitment of a new manager at our Tolka Road creche, which was the focus of much of the criticism in the programme.

"We know we need to work to rebuild, retain and enhance the trust our parents have in us. We have spoken to many of them in recent days and would urge others with concerns to contact us. We are available to talk to and meet parents at any time.

"We note that while the programme made criticisms of aspects of our service, it praised our childcare staff whose dedication, professionalism and kindness are central to the care we provide."

He said: "We have taken some steps to deal with urgent issues. For example the fire safety issue raised, in relation to the layout of the cot rooms in two of our creches, has been resolved, and fire safety inspections in the past week have confirmed that to us.

"We will work as always with Dublin Fire Brigade to address any other issue that they identify.

"Our policy and practice is to abide by the staff ratios set out by Tusla, though we know that, as in most creches, this may not be the case at every moment of every day.

"The programme suggested that at lunchtime in one of the creches there is a particular ratio problem which we will address urgently.  We dispute some of the detail of what has been reported.  But this is not to dispute the overall point, which is that we have work to do to ensure we continue to offer the highest standards of care."

He said the "programme referred to profits made by the creches.  However profits in recent years have all been reinvested in developing our creches.

"The directors receive modest salaries and no dividends have been paid to any shareholder in recent years.We have been in direct communication with many parents over the past week to discuss concerns they have and we would encourage any parents with concerns to come directly to us."

If parents believe that their children are affected, they can contact gardaí at Mountjoy on (01) 666 8600.

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