Online CCTV in creches 'waste of money' – expert
Real-time monitoring is not the solution – in fact it may breach privacy of staff and children
A childcare expert who featured in last week's devastating Prime Time investigation into the level of care in creches says the installation of online CCTV coverage in the nation's childcare facilities would be "a ridiculous waste of money".
Professor Noirin Hayes said there was no evidence that CCTV monitoring "improves anything" and that there were also huge privacy issues for parents, staff and children.
She says the clamour for widespread surveillance of children, which would be available online in real time, is a knee-jerk reaction to the shocking documentary.
"Individual parents may want it and feel it is right for them but as a principle there is no evidence that it is good and there are a lot of difficulties," she told the Sunday Independent yesterday.
"Parents having access to checking in on their own child online, well the child will probably be in a group setting so there will be other children being observed as well. In principle, I don't think it is a good idea."
Professor Hayes said that what was required was more systemic reform.
"It's not simply about increasing inspections. It is not sufficient to simply put the inspection reports up online – though of course they should be available and should have been available from the get-go," she added.
But she said that fees being paid by parents, which were already considerable, cannot go up.
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That would mean that as a nation we would have to get used to making sure our childcare system is fit for purpose and be prepared to pay for it.
"The Minister for Finance has to put his head and heart into making sure all Ireland is a good place for children to grow up. It's all down to money.
"Hundreds of thousands of children will access early years services. It's a fundamental feature of contemporary Irish life. It's good for children, it's good for parents when the quality is dependable.
"The early years strategy gives us an opportunity to plan out short, medium and long-term goals. We need to confront some of the more important goals. We should create a situation to train up all managers to a high minimum level and create a leadership within creches and other settings," she said.
"What we observed in the three creches that were the subject of the TV programme was disturbing. You should not be expected to have to train people not to behave like that. It is simply wrong to behave like that.
"However, if those girls had appropriate training, then the situations we saw would not have arisen and the threat levels that were evident would not have been there."
She added that the sleep situation at one of the creches was problematic.
"You had children laying in a room very close together in full sunlight, loud music being played and people moving around it.
"You do need training to know how to organise an environment properly and to recognise what any particular child needs at the time. Not all children need to sleep at the same time. And that's where the training comes in."
Meanwhile, the chief executive-designate of the Child and Family Agency has said there should be a significant registration fee for all private creches and pre-schools.
Gordon Jeyes said the money generated would then go towards funding training and improvement of services. He said that services should not be solely dependent for development on the contribution of taxpayers.
"Early childhood services for profit should be contributing to the regulation and improvement of a sector in which they have, to date, insufficiently invested," he wrote in the Irish Times.
It has also emerged that the three private creches at the centre of the RTE expose – Giraffe Childcare, Links and Little Harvard – all received significant injections of cash from the State – mostly in funding related to the pre-school year.
Giraffe received €2.3m in State funding, Little Harvard got nearly €900,000 and Links received more than €800,000.