Tuesday 20 August 2019

Unfit staff will be banned from working in childcare facilities under proposals

  

Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone (Niall Carson/PA)
Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone (Niall Carson/PA)
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Crèche staff found unfit to practice will be banned from working in childcare facilities under new Government plans.

It comes in the wake of revelations about the treatment of some children in the Hyde and Seek childcare chain in Dublin.

Children's Minister Katherine Zappone is looking to set up a professional body for the childcare sector, similar to the Teaching Council and Medical Council, that would be able to strike off childcare professionals and staff found not fit to practise.

Ms Zappone announced the plans yesterday in the wake of disturbing revelations about Hyde and Seek uncovered by an 'RTÉ Investigates' programme that showed instances of children being given poor care, fed cheap meals and in some instances suffering overcrowding in some of the facilities.

Ms Zappone said she agreed with the suggestion from the Children's Rights Alliance that a professional standards body with legal powers to strike off staff who are unfit to practice be established.

"We have already begun those discussions in the department. I've established a workforce development plan group, one of my assistant secretaries is chairing that, and that is that they are beginning to look at that and that it would be our intention to establish such a body along with the Department of Education and Science," she said.

Ms Zappone said she had been in talks with Tusla, the child and family agency, about speeding up enforcement actions against childcare facilities found to be in breach of regulations.

She also wants to bring in regulations to ensure childcare facilities display their registration certificate.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the special Cabinet meeting in Donegal yesterday, Ms Zappone said she found the 'RTÉ Investigates' programme "deeply distressing".

She said: "I still have a lot of the images from the programme in my heart and mind and it's really appalling behaviour that was broadcast, so I can appreciate then that certainly the parents in the services as well as parents throughout the country would also be very distressed and concerned."

She said there was a robust system of standards and inspections in place and said parents who were concerned about how their child was being treated in a facility should contact Tusla.

"They've established an unsolicited information office and they will respond immediately," she said.

"I want to assure parents throughout the country. I think that generally the standards are high.

"We put in place a robust system of standards and inspections and regulations that are fulfilled, action is taken, so it's really disheartening and upsetting that in this particular instance of this service provider and these services that in spite of all of that, these really troubling things are happening in those services."

The Garda Child Protection Unit confirmed it was investigating concerns raised about the Hyde and Seek crèche chain. The Oireachtas Children's Committee is preparing to hold hearings on the matter as early as next week and officials from Tusla will be called before it.

Hyde and Seek said it would hire external consultants to look at its service in the wake of the RTÉ programme.

Irish Independent

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