Wednesday 21 August 2019

Hyde and Seek controversy: 'It's like leaving Cruella De Vil with your kids' - mum of boy left alone in park by creche staff

(Inset: Anne Davy. Picture: Maxpix)
(Inset: Anne Davy. Picture: Maxpix)
Anger: Residents from Ballybough at a protest outside Hyde and Seek crèche on Tolka Road in Dublin. Photo: Mark Condren
Action: A group of protesters outside the Hyde and Seek premises on Tolka Road, Dublin. Photo: Mark Condren
Hyde & Seek Creche ,Tolka Road,Drumcondra.
Message: Cassie (9) and Penny Connolly (2), from Ballybough in Dublin, at a protest outside Hyde and Seek crèche on Tolka Road in Dublin. Photo: Mark Condren

Alan Sherry

THE mother of a boy left alone in a park while attending one of Anne Davy’s crèches said she should “hang her head in shame” and her operations should be closed down.

RTE this week broadcast shocking treatment of children attending Davy’s ‘Hyde and Seek’ chain of crèches in Dublin.

Davy has since stood down from looking after children, but is still in charge of the childcare chain, which currently has four locations in Dublin – Tolka Road, Millbourne Avenue, Hart’s Corner and Shaw Street – and has made more than €2.75m in profits after salaries over the last five years.

The group also received €1.25m of taxpayers’ money from 2014 to 2018.

Since the broadcast there have been protests outside Davy’s businesses and the Tolka Road premises was egged this weekend.

Anne’s daughter Siobhan met with parents at the creche yesterday and locals said she was heckled as she left the building.

RTE’s exposé was not the first time practices at Davy’s businesses were called into question.

She was previously convicted after a three year-old boy attending her crèche on Tolka Road was left behind by staff after an outing to Fairview Park.

The boy’s mother, Denise Coleman McGrane, this week told the Sunday World that Davy “shouldn’t be allowed near kids at all, she’s a horrible person”.

Staff only realised they had left Denise’s son Nathan behind when she went to the crèche to collect him.

Denise rushed to the park where, thankfully, she found her son Nathan by the swings – but she described how she was thinking the worst on the way.

“I ran down to Fairview. I was nearly running under cars. Any siren I heard, I thought ‘is that him and are they after scraping him off the road?’ I can’t understand how she’s still open today,” she said.

Anger: Residents from Ballybough at a protest outside Hyde and Seek crèche on Tolka Road in Dublin. Photo: Mark Condren
Anger: Residents from Ballybough at a protest outside Hyde and Seek crèche on Tolka Road in Dublin. Photo: Mark Condren

While Davy initially apologised to Denise, she later denied the child had been left on his own.

During the subsequent court case, Davy claimed a staff member had been watching Nathan the whole time and it was just a mix-up.

However, Denise had seen the staff member in a shop a kilometre away on Clonliffe Road at the same time it was claimed she was looking after Nathan.

CCTV footage proved the case and Davy was convicted and fined €1,200.

Days after her conviction she changed the name oft he crèche to ‘Just for Kids’, before changing it later again to Hyde and Seek.

Denise claimed Davy would wave at her and grin when she would see her on the street after the court case.

“She was turning her head grinning at me. She enjoyed every bit of it,” said Denise.

She said while she found this week’s footage shocking, she was not surprised there were still issues with Davy’s crèches.

“It was horrific watching those distressed babies. I don’t know how anyone could send their kids in there after seeing that.

“There was no love for the kids at all. She didn’t care. When she was pushing babies down face first, it was heartbreaking. She’s an evil woman. They’re treated like cattle.”

“It’s like leaving Cruella De Vil with your kids. How someone like that ever worked with children is beyond me. I wouldn’t say staff last there for long if that’s the way she goes on.”

She said when Nathan attended the crèche he never wanted to go in.

“When I dropped Nathan in he was screaming, but at the time I just thought it was because he was starting Montessori and didn’t want to leave me – but God knows.

“He was probably traumatised going in every day. Nathan has Asperger’s so he couldn’t tell you.”

She took him out of the crèche after the park incident, but said he was different after his time there.

“After it happened, any time we went away and put Nathan into kids’ clubs he was terrified. We’d have to go in every few minutes. He just didn’t trust anyone after that.”

She said despite the trauma of what happened to Nathan, she is thankful it wasn’t worse.

“We were just blessed that day. He was fascinated with swings. When he went to the park he was standing watching kids on the swings. He had no road sense or anything and at that stage he wasn’t talking much. He couldn’t explain to us what happened in the park or anything.

“All the diggers were in the park with the tunnel work. You also had the Tolka River beside the park and the busy road. Fairview was also known for people selling drugs. You wouldn’t know who would have been in the park. We were just lucky that he didn’t move from that spot.”

Footage shown on the RTE Investigates documentary included Davy forcefully pushing babies faces down into cots because they wouldn’t sleep at the times she demanded.

Other issues included 18 babies at one time being left with one staff member, repeated breaches of fire safety regulations, overcrowding, issues with food, infants being left unattended or strapped into high chairs for lengthy periods of time, lying to parents to claim their children did activities, as well as Davy shouting angrily at children and threatening them.

Davy told staff it wasn’t a babysitting service and it was just a business.

Several parents had already taken their children out of Hyde and Seek before the documentary aired as they were aware of what was due to be broadcast. More followed suit in the wake of Wednesday’s broadcast.

A number of parents have already contacted legal representatives with a view to taking civil action against the crèche chain.

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