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Parents left in limbo after Tusla closes unregistered aftercare facility in south Dublin

Dimples Creche in Sandyford has been forced to close its after-care from tomorrow.

The after-school facility at Dimples Creche in south Dublin will close from tomorrow
The after-school facility at Dimples Creche in south Dublin will close from tomorrow
Image: Google Street View

DOZENS OF PARENTS in south Dublin have been forced to make alternative after-school arrangements for their children following the sudden closure of an unregistered aftercare facility by Tusla.

The créche, which opened in 2011 and is registered to provide full daycare and Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) services to up to 147 children, has also been recently providing an aftercare facility to around 90 children.

This week, the owners of Dimples Créche and Montessori in Sandyford were advised that the facility’s registration would be withdrawn entirely if it did not cease its after-school service. 

School-age services were not previously subject to registration with the agency, but since February, such facilities – including aftercare providers - have been invited to register with Tusla.

Following a Tusla inspection and subsequent meeting with the childcare regulator last month, Dimples’ owners were told that the créche did not meet a number of standards which are required for it to register as an aftercare facility.

A spokeswoman for the créche said that Tusla asked Dimples to reduce the number of children in its care to 140 and to undergo a number of changes to its building.

It is also understood that there were concerns about staff-child ratios and the number of cots for under 2-year-olds in the building, while six staff members also lacked the appropriate qualifications.

The créche has said it was hoping to avoid a closure of its facilities but hopes that it is temporary to allow them to make the necessary changes required by Tusla. 

Email to parents

In an email to parents at the facility, seen by TheJournal.ie, the owners of Dimples, Gillian and Jason Doyle, noted that Tusla has been ‘very active’ in looking at all childcare providers as a result of an RTÉ Investigates documentary into practices at Hyde and Seek in July.

It read:

Childcare providers have been in the spotlight recently due to some very poor practices in certain organisations. As a result, Tusla has been very active in looking at all providers around the country now.

The owners also told parents that new changes were required for after-school service providers, including lower staff to children ratios and a requirement for staff to be qualified.

The créche owners also said that providers found it “extremely difficult” to get qualified staff.

Previous inspections 

The most recent inspection report for Dimples Creche and Montessori on Tusla’s website shows that staff ratios were also an issue when Tusla visited the facility in 2017, although the issue was subsequently corrected.

The same report also noted that there was no evidence that 11 adults working with children had achieved adequate qualifications, although this was also subsequently addressed by the créche.

Commenting further on their recent meetings with Tusla, Gillian and Jason Doyle accepted that the agency was within its rights to withdraw the créche’s entire registration if they did not cease operating an after-school service there.

They said that such a move would have major implications for all those who used the créche, but added that they hoped the closure of the after-school service would be a temporary measure until they had met requirements and secured an updated registration.

“We have spent the last number of days looking at how we can avoid this but unfortunately we cannot risk the entire registration being revoked,” they said.

“We appreciate that this is very disappointing for all concerned, however we have no choice but to cease the after school service on 11 October 2019.”

The créche owners also told parents that they would refund any fees and deposits, and apologised for any inconvenience caused.

‘It’s a disgrace’

A number of those whose relatives attended the after-school facility were critical of Tusla’s decision not to allow Dimples to register when speaking to TheJournal.ie.

“The government can’t say on the one hand that it wants to encourage people to go to work, but on the other take any support that we had away from us,” said one parent, who did not wish to be named.

“We don’t know what we can do.”

A spokeswoman for Dimples also expressed disappointment at the move, saying the owners had no choice but to close the aftercare facility at the créche.

“Once again we can only apologise for this huge inconvenience to the families involved,” a statement said.

“We are devastated and heartbroken to be turning all our lovely children away and hope that it is temporary.”

Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Josepha Madigan, whose constituency Dimples is in, called on other childcare facilities in the area to accommodate affected families.

In a statement, Tusla told TheJournal.ie that the agency would not comment on individual cases, but said it was essential that all early years services operated within required legislation in order to allow them to provide safe services.

“The regulations have been in place since 2016 [and for aftercare facilities since February], and it is the responsibility of all providers to operate within these parameters and comply with these,” the agency said.

“There is a clear and timely process for services who want to change the circumstance of their operations with Tusla. Tusla assesses these requests and makes a determination based on regulations and best practice.”

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