Look after our children with more inspections
IT IS the greatest dread of every parent with young children and it will especially strike a chord with parents, more usually mothers, who have recently returned to work at the end of parental leave. The allegations of poor conditions and bad staff behaviour in three creches, two in Dublin and one in Wicklow, are deeply shocking and disappointing.
We trust the authorities – both gardai and the Health Service Executive – will investigate all of these cases and take appropriately strong action to ensure there can be no repeat of this reprehensible state of affairs.
This is a most sensitive subject, and in deference to the anxieties of parents and in all justice for the vast majority of creche operators, we must stress again that these revelations relate to just three centres. We are also relieved that there is no suggestion of sexual abuse here.
But we must also note that the level of inspections on such pre-school childcare centres appears dangerously low. It too often takes disturbing revelations such as these to prompt overdue changes.
One recalls the nursing home scandals of almost a decade ago as a case in point. Nobody wants to damn the childcare sector with heavy-handed regulation. But it is in the interest of everyone involved in the sector that proper standards are upheld.
It was gratifying to hear the Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore, and opposition leader, Micheal Martin, speak strongly on the issue in the Dail yesterday. This is a very appropriate subject of concern for the national parliament as all parents must be able to have total confidence in the people who care for their children.
Mr Gilmore correctly described these developments as "the stuff of every parent's nightmare". But his words will only have merit if swift action – especially an increase in inspections – follows soon.
Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald has pledged to take a personal interest in this matter and ensure swift progress. The Government recently updated its Children First national guidelines, introduced to protect children and promote their welfare.
We understand work is being done to finalise legislation to put guideline compliance on a legal basis. Expressions of concern are welcome but action is what counts.