Strangulation hazards, poor hygiene and safety risks uncovered by inspectors
When an Early Years inspector arrived at a childcare drop-in centre in a Co Meath town, it was discovered that the main entrance door had been left open.
This, the inspector noted, could allow a child to gain unsupervised access to a source of danger, and also could have potentially allowed unauthorised access to the centre.
Several safety risks were identified at the centre, which caters for a maximum of six children, including six pillows which were on the ground in the play area. These pillows should be replaced with alternative soft seating, while the pull-cord on the alarm in the sanitary accommodation/wheelchair access toilet was accessible to children, posing a strangulation hazard.
Inspecting records at the service, the inspector noted that a child registration form did not have the child's name, date of birth or contact details for the parent/guardian and did not have any details of who was authorised to collect the child.
* A north Co Dublin playschool was criticised by a Tusla inspector for using a "thinking chair".
The playschool and Montessori, which caters for six children, used the chair as a means to deal with behavioural issues.
However, the inspector said this was not an appropriate method of positive behaviour management for a child, as it could be experienced as "degrading and isolating".
The inspector also found a number of hazards at the service, including that plastic cover caps of radiator valves were missing from two radiators, exposing sharp prongs which could cause injury.
Electrical cables from a TV, CD player and photocopier were trailing and exposed, and could potentially be pulled down on to a child, while several sockets were not covered.
The handles of low level windows were accessible to young children and were not fitted with window restrictors to prevent falls. When the inspector arrived at the service unannounced, the side entrance gate was open and unsecured.
* A group of children at a south Dublin childcare service were put sitting on the floor to wait for their turn to have their nappies changed, and staff did not wash their hands in between nappy changes, an inspection of the service discovered.
The inspection, conducted by Tusla, also noted that none of the children was offered a drink with the main meal and there was no drinking water readily available to the children in the toddler room.
Babies who were sleeping were not properly checked on, as some of the staff only used the observation panel to look in at the children, rather than entering the room.
A blind cord that was not secured to the wall posed a strangulation hazard and children were allowed to access an unsafe area because a door was left open.
* A risk of cross-infection was posed at a Co Dublin crèche as a cloth towel was being used for drying hands instead of paper towels, an inspection found.
The inspection by Tusla also discovered there was no running hot water for the wash hand basin in the sanitary area and the window blind cords in the sanitary area and playroom were not secured and safely out of the reach of the pre-school children attending the crèche, posing a risk of strangulation.
The rest area was inadequately developed as it only had one bean bag available for the 22 children, and the area was positioned too close to the general play area.
The inspection also found no CVs and proof of identification on file for two staff members, and no written reference on file for one staff member.
* Children at a north Dublin childcare service were instructed by a staff member that they "must colour the sky blue", in what was described by a Tusla inspector as "adult-led activities".
The inspector also found that play materials for the 36 pre-school children were not freely accessible and noted that play costumes were suspended from a wall-mounted radiator.
Children were required to complete tabletop activities and there was no free movement around the play area.
* Children at a Co Wicklow Montessori were exposed to a potential risk of infection as rabbits were in the outdoor play area, a Tusla inspection found.
The inspector also observed that children did not wash their hands prior to eating lunch or when coming inside from the outdoor play area.
A staff member preparing fruit for the children at the time of the inspection also did not wash their hands.
On inspecting the outdoor play area, the inspector found that three swings were situated in close proximity to trees, posing a potential risk to an eye injury, while a tap on the oil tank was accessible to the children.
The service, which caters for 11 children, did not have an individualised care plan available for one of the children who had a specific allergy.
Responding to the report, the Montessori owner explained there were more positives to having the rabbits in the garden.
"All the parents love seeing the rabbits there, and they are a huge attraction, which was explained to the inspector. The children wash their hands after being outside and the rabbit droppings are picked up regularly," she said.
She welcomed the input of Tusla inspectors. "The inspections are important and we all do need to keep an eye on things. It's good to get the advice," she said.