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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C
Childcare via Shutterstock
A Breach of Trust

HSE director 'sorry' for not putting creche reports online

“I apologise for that…It was in a queue of things to happen. It was resource-restricted. It will happen now.”

THE CHIEF-DESIGNATE of the Child and Family Agency has apologised for not making creche inspection reports publicly available during his time as National Director of Children and Family Services in the HSE.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One’s This Week programme today, Gordon Jeyes said “it should have happened but it didn’t”.

“I apologise for that…It was in a queue of things to happen. It was resource-restricted. We should have done it. We are doing it now.”

It is understood that all past inspections will be put online within weeks.

Jeyes described Prime Time’s investigation into childcare provisions at three creches in Dublin and Wicklow as a “wake-up call” for those in the sector.

“Much of the documentary, albeit in a very vivid and effective way, was reinforcing what inspectors were saying in their reports,” he added.

Registrations fee

Jeyes believes that childcare services should not be solely dependent on taxpayers. He has proposed the introduction of a “significant registration fee” for all early childhood services. The monies raised would contribute to the regulation and improvement of the system.

The reform plans, which have been prioritised, were welcomed by Early Childhood Ireland, a representative group for 3,330 preschool and full daycare providers.

However, the organisation noted that it is still waiting on “an outline of targets, timelines and investment to make this a reality” from the yet-to-be-established HSE agency.

As a society we can’t and won’t allow the authorities abdicate their responsibilities to underpin this childcare sector and the investment must come from the State rather than pushing back on the sector and hard pressed parents to foot the bill.

A registration fee is common in other jurisdictions, including the UK. It usually ranges between €200 and €300 but that would not cover the cost of required reforms, according to Early Childhood Ireland.

“When having this whole discussion it must be recognised that only 5 per cent of the notified services in the country are chains. All the rest employ on average 5 people and look after 30 children.

Of course private services should invest in their services and should fund training.  And the majority of them do.  This will be a requirement of registration and the operator would be required to have their training in place before opening.

Commenting on the nature of inspection reports, the body said breaches can often be explained “very clearly to parents and given context”.

“Right now staff are demoralised in services across the country and we must take steps to show confidence in them and to support them.”

Inspection regime ‘inconsistent’

The group also welcomed Jeyes’ call  for a national debate about the childcare sector, the budgets set, and the priority given by government, but said he was “wrong” when he says that “inspection is not the problem, enforcement is”.

The inspection regime across the country has serious limitations and now is the time for action. It is inconsistent, putting too much focus on the quality of the physical environment rather than the quality of the learning experience and the wellbeing of the child.  Furthermore, statistics regarding breaches, post the Primetime investigation, are being bandied about, without any proper analysis and separation of the major versus minor breaches.

The group said the fact that all new inspection reports are to be put online in a matter of weeks was to be welcomed, but warned that in doing this the HSE “must ensure that the inspection standards and how reports are written is consistent and it must include a right of reply for the operators”.

A number of inspection reports were released to the Sunday Times, which published details of them today. They reveal complaints of children “escaping” from creches, as well as allegations of verbal and physical abuse and claims that some staff had criminal records.

Responding to comments made by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, Early Childhood Ireland said it was pleased by stated intention to bring the whole sector up to a basic level 5 by 2014 – saying that will require a ringfenced training fund immediately.

“However, we are concerned to see reports today (Sunday Business Post) that the second free preschool year has been ruled out for introduction in this year’s budget by Minister Fitzgerald and this is something we will take up directly with the Minister and her department,” the group said in a statement. “We know that many of the early childhood care and education centres are ready right now to meet the high standard quality criteria for a second free preschool year and these services could serve as a model for other services.”

Additional reporting by Jennifer Wade

Profit-making childhood services to pay ‘significant registration fee’

In letter to parents, creche ‘does not accept general thrust’ of RTÉ footage

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