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Thursday 22 August 2019

'Much greater clarification' needed on 37 'high risk' creches - Simon Harris

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Cormac McQuinn and Ralph Riegel

Health Minister Simon Harris has called for much greater clarification from Tusla on the critical risk associated with 37 creches, after the child and family agency said it would not be providing more detail.

Tusla director of quality assurance, Brian Lee, said there would be no further information shared on the "37 early years services at the highest level of enforcement" because the services being inspected or undergoing enforcement action have a right to fair procedures, which can be highly litigious.

"More importantly, this could cause significant issues in any future prosecutions of sub-standard services which could prevent us from removing these services from the register."

However, speaking to reporters today, Mr Harris said:

"I think it's really important. I understand that TUSLA say they can't just publish the list of 37 crèches, and be that as it may I do think there is a need for them to come forward with much greater clarification as to what constitutes ‘high risk’," he said.

"There are parents today dropping their kids to crèches, so many excellent crèches, and they want to know ‘is my kid’s crèche one of those 37?’, and if you can't provide the list, and I understand why they may not be able to for due process reasons, they do need to provide more information on what they are doing to protect our children in crèches today, and I know minister [Katherine] Zappone is working very hard on this," he added.

The Department of Children confirmed Minister Katherine Zappone has sought an update from Tusla on the 37 cases at the highest level of the agency's enforcement process. She is also reviewing how to add to Tusla's enforcement powers.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has cautioned that the use of CCTV security cameras in crèches needs to be considered very carefully. His warning came as a major protest march is planned in Dublin today from Tolka Road to Tusla headquarters demanding urgent action over the shock revelations from 'RTÉ Investigates' about childcare standards in some crèches.

Mr Varadkar said the issue was being taken very seriously by the Government - and all parties involved needed to be consulted.

"On the issue of CCTV in crèches it is something that has to be considered, but it needs to be considered carefully as well," he said.

"I would certainly want to know what would parents think of that in particular because while parents might be reassured by having CCTV in crèches they also mightn't like the idea that their children are being videoed all the time. So I think there's a balance of issues that will have to be considered."

Early Childhood Ireland (ECI) said while the use of CCTV systems may prove initially attractive, it raises major issues including privacy rights, data protection and even internet/dark web concerns.

Irish Independent

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