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Hundreds of city creches policed by one HSE inspector

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Links Creche, Abington, Malahide. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Links Creche, Abington, Malahide. Photo: Caroline Quinn

Links Creche, Abington, Malahide. Photo: Caroline Quinn

LARGE parts of the greater Dublin area have only one HSE inspector to police hundreds of creches.

The lack of officials available to assess childcare facilities is more acute in the capital than across the country, new figures show.

Irene Gunning, chief executive of Early Childhood Ireland – which represents 3,330 childcare facilities – said up to 60 creche inspectors were employed nationwide by the HSE when the monitoring regime began in the late 1990s but that number has fallen sharply.

"It (the number) is very low. We have always spoken about it. The gaps (between inspections) in Dublin are very lengthy. We have known it for quite a number of years," Ms Gunning told the Herald today.

She believes the moratorium on hiring within the public sector is at the root of the problem.

"There is a rule that they (the HSE) cannot employ anybody new if somebody is leaving the post," Ms Gunning said.

"Our members are telling us that they don't get inspections."

The data shows there is an average of one full-time inspector for every 127 creches nationally.

However, most parts in greater Dublin have only a part-time or one full-time official to assess hundreds of creches.

The embargo on recruitment has left some areas, like Dublin's south city, with no inspector until last month.

In total, some 37 full-time inspectors are charged with monitoring 4,700 creches and pre-schools across the country, figures published in the Irish Times today show.

Other areas with no inspectors include Co Louth, where there are 116 creches, and Cavan/north Monaghan, which has 126 nurseries.

Areas which are better monitored include Limerick, where there are five inspectors for 247 creches, and Galway, which has five for 306 creches.

It comes following an RTE investigation which exposed poor standards of childcare in three creches.

As part of the probe, undercover researches secured jobs in two creches – Links in Abington, Malahide, and Giraffe Childcare in Belarmine, Stepaside, and the Little Harvard centre in Rathnew, Co Wicklow.

Video footage showing from inside the creches revealed below standard care.

Meanwhile, Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald is planning major changes aimed at improving standards in childcare facilities.

It will involve six key measures, including a requirement that all childcare staff have, as a minimum, a relevant FETAC level five qualification.

All providers of care will have to be registered and new national pre-school standards will be introduced.

"I'm going to do this when next year's contracts are being written. I will put into those contracts that everybody working in childcare has to have a basic FETAC 5 qualification," Ms Fitzgerald stressed.

comurphy@herald.ie


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