Wednesday 11 December 2019

Tusla tells creches policies 'do not meet required standard'

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Stock photo

Wayne O'Connor and Fionnan Sheahan

Tusla has raised concerns that more than 2,500 creches face being unable to operate in the new year because of low numbers applying to renew their registrations with the body.

The child and family agency has also warned thousands of creches about sub-standard policies currently in place by childcare providers seeking to re-register with them.

It has written to more than 4,000 childcare providers because officials are worried about the small number of applications received so far.

In the letter, seen by the Sunday Independent, the agency issued a warning about the quality of policies submitted by creches due to renew their early years' services registration.

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These include policies surrounding the administration of medication, behaviour management and health and safety plans.

However, these policies will not be subject to scrutiny until inspections are carried out after creches register with the agency, meaning it is possible to register despite submitting a sub-standard policy.

Providers are told to anticipate an inspection on average every 18 months.

They are also told Tusla's early years' inspectorate is not sufficiently resourced across all areas of the country to meet this timeframe and the 18-month average only serves as a guideline.

They have been told by Tusla head of registration and enforcement Mike Corcoran to address these policy issues before inspections are carried out.

"We have noted that the quality of some of the policies submitted in applications received so far do not meet the required standard," his letter said.

"Whilst the application process requires the submission of policies, they are not assessed for quality, their assessment will take place during later inspections.

"I would advise in due course that you would all review your policies and procedures to ensure that they comply with the available online guidance."

Some childcare providers have complained about finding it difficult to carry out fire risk assessments.

Tusla has given these creches a six-month extension, allowing them to proceed with an application without submitting relevant fire risk documents.

They must then submit the relevant fire safety paperwork by the end of June, 2020.

Legislation means a childcare provider cannot go longer than three years without re-registering with the agency.

Less than 40pc of the 4,117 childcare providers who are due to re-register with Tusla before an upcoming December 12 deadline have done so.

Legislation does not allow for the automatic renewal of registrations so each creche must apply individually. Tusla has warned them of the approaching deadline. The letter sent last week said "services will not be permitted to operate with expired registration".

As of last Friday, just 1,604 applications had been received. Reminders had already been sent out in September.

A spokeswoman for the agency said policies sent with the applications must be in line with current regulations.

"However applications received to date have not met the required standard," she added.

"These areas where improvement is required will not delay the renewal process as the policies will be reviewed with the registered provider on inspection.

"Policies are expected to be aligned with current regulatory requirements; however applications received to date have not met the required standard relating to policies including the administration of medication, behaviour management, health and safety, a statement of purpose and function, infection control, and complaints policy.

"Tusla is aware that some providers were finding it particularly challenging to carry out fire risk assessments.

"In order to support providers, Tusla is permitting them to proceed with applications without the risk assessment document included, and to submit this document by June 30, 2020."

Providers have also been told only completed applications can be processed.

"To date we have received very few completed applications," Mr Corcoran said.

Sunday Independent

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