We'll act to ban crèche staff found unfit to practice from working in childcare facilities, vows Government
It comes in the wake of revelations about the treatment of some children in the Hyde & 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 unfit to practice.
Ms Zappone announced the plans yesterday in the wake of disturbing revelations about Hyde & Seek that were uncovered by an RTÉ Investigates programme that showed instances of children being given poor care and fed cheap meals. In some cases the facilities were crowded.
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 should 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 they are beginning to look at 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, which they are not currently required to do.
Speaking to reporters at the cabinet meeting in Donegal yesterday, Ms Zappone said she found the programme to be “deeply distressing”.
“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.
She said there was a robust system of standards and inspections in place and said that parents who are concerned about how their child is being treated in a facility should contact Tusla.
“They’ve established an unsolicited information office and they will respond immediately.
“So 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,” she said.
Her comments come as the Garda Child Protection Unit confirmed it is investigating concerns raised about the Hyde & 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 & Seek said that it is to hire external consultants to look at its service in the wake of the RTÉ programme.