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Parents left in the dark over findings of inspections into childcare facilities

Thousands of parents will leave their kids in creches and other childcare facilities today believing they are in secure hands and in well-regulated surroundings.

And, for the most part, they are. But as the Irish Independent revealed in a major expose last year, inspectors have found serious lapses of standards in many facilities, including Montessori schools.

The shocking litany of complaints included shouting at children and slapping, serious understaffing and youngsters being left go thirsty.

We also uncovered, after a painstaking search and trawl through inspection reports obtained under Freedom of Information, damp and cold buildings and a lack of vetting of carers for possible criminal records.

The problems were revealed in both private and publicly funded facilities. In one creche, just one person was looking after 22 children when the ratio should have been one for every five.

These were just the premises that were inspected. It the responsibility of the Health Service Executive (HSE) to check if all registered facilities are up to standard.

But in 2011, there were just 2,789 inspections carried out of the 4,500 childcare facilities registered with the health authority. This will undoubtedly lead to some childcare facilities falling through the cracks.

At least 280 serious complaints were referred to HSE staff by parents in the course of the year. In many cases, the names of creches were redacted and it was not made clear what action followed the complaint.

There were deep differences in some cases between parents and childcare providers over discipline. In one creche, children were forced to face a wall when naughty.

The HSE said that in 2011 it conducted 704 reviews and follow-up visits and another 755 "advisory visits".

Unlike nursing home inspections, which are made public, the reports on creches can only be obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, leaving most parents in the dark about their findings.

Irish Independent