EXPERT view: Regulations must be updated after shocking footage
A LACK of appropriately trained inspectors and outdated examinations of creche facilities are some of the issues affecting the childcare sector, experts have warned.
Undercover research by the RTE reporters identified huge lapses in childcare provision at three creches in Dublin and Wicklow.
Footage showed poor staffing, children strapped into chairs and aggressive behaviour from some workers.
Parents were reeling at what was revealed during the secret filming at Giraffe creche in Belarmine, Stepaside; Links creche in Abington, Malahide; and Little Harvard in Rathnew, Co Wicklow.
Parent and former Westlife star Nicky Byrne, whose twins Rocco and Jay attended Links, commented: "Watching those little wobblers and toddlers being subjected to that kind of treatment – it make me feel physically sick, if I'm honest.
"Parents have been let down and it was a real breach of trust.''
The majority of pre-school, full day-care and afterschool providers are dedicated and hard-working, representative groups say.
Thousands of HSE inspections are carried out every year by public health nurses and not childhood specialists, as would be ideal.
Service providers say the examinations are outdated.
CEO of Early Childhood Ireland, Irene Gunning, said that it would be rare for a creche or playschool to meet all the requirements.
"100pc compliance is quite a 'wow factor'," she said. "There are so many little things that can trip you up."
"One woman I spoke to today hadn't had an inspection for two years.
"When it finally happened, she was told that the plasters in the first aid box weren't hypoallergenic. This was classed as non-compliance.
"That's not to trivialise serious breaches of regulations. What we were talking about [on Prime Time] were serious non-compliance issues."
Regulations for the sector were first laid down in 1996, were reviewed 10 years later, but haven't been looked at since.
"There need to be more inspectors and on a regular basis," Ms Gunning said.
Marian Quinn, chairperson of the Association of Childhood Professionals, said 100pc compliance would be the exception because workers' time is so stretched.
"I'm not defending anything shown in the programme last night," she said.
"But the paperwork – a really important part of your work – when are you supposed to do that form-filling, before the parents come when you are still supposed to be working with the children?"
Ms Quinn said that the association has also called for a 'garda vetting card'.
"Vetting takes an average of eight weeks, but sometimes 14 to 16 weeks.
"We were calling for the garda vetting card. When you have workers moving around between different centres, it makes it difficult for everyone involved," she added.