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Loose blind cords and faecal matter in cots: Details of Tusla inspections of Hyde & Seek creches emerge

The reports for the various creches identified numerous non-compliance issues.

Image: RTÉ

A LOOSE BLIND cord, faecal matter on mattresses and medicine administered to a child without evidence of parental consent were among the issues raised by Tusla inspectors at the three Dublin creches which featured in last night’s RTÉ Investigates documentary.

Inspection reports from Hyde & Seek creches at Shaw Street, Tolka Road and in Glasnevin also reveal issues with fire safety, sleeping arrangements and a lack of garda vetting at the three facilities.

The RTÉ documentary highlighted multiple issues at the three creches, prompting the resignation of Hyde & Seek owner Anne Davy yesterday morning.

RTÉ spoke to concerned families, who had raised issues about the standards of care in the creches, before researchers – qualified and garda vetted – took up employment at the creches to investigate the allegations.

Footage from inside the facilities was filmed by these undercover reporters, and some issues raised in Tusla’s inspection reports were also mentioned during the broadcast, including a lack of training and garda vetting and concerns about fire safety.

Now, TheJournal.ie can reveal other issues discovered by the Child and Family Agency’s inspectors at the three facilities.

Risk of suffocation

The Glasnevin branch of the business, where parents pay around €1,000 per month, opened in 2018 but went unregistered with Tusla for 14 months before it was legally compliant.

RTÉ revealed that, earlier this year, the company pleaded guilty at the Dublin District Court to non-registration of the creche, but that its owner Anne Davy was read the Probation Act.

Tusla inspected the facility on 15 February this year, when it noted that the service had been operating since January 2018 without being registered.

Although the agency’s inspectors found that the creche was compliant with staffing levels, management and its registration, its report also notes some non-compliance with regulations.

It found Hyde & Seek in breach of Regulation 20, which covers rest and play, because the pre-school rooms were not adequately resourced, lacked areas to enable children to make their own choices about their play, and that a rest area for toddlers contained bean-bags, which presented a risk of suffocation.

Inspectors also found that cots were placed in four rows of three, without the standard 50cms between each, which meant staff were unable to move freely between them to check on sleeping and resting children.

The facility’s rooftop playground was found to be covered with an unfinished synthetic surface that was unsecured, which inspectors said could be subject to an insurance claim.

By the time of the report’s publication on 1 March, Tusla noted that all of these issues were outstanding.

RTE Investigates - Hyde and Seek Creche Glasnevin External 2 The Hyde & Seek Creche in Glasnevin Source: RTÉ

Meanwhile, the creche was also found to be in breach of Regulation 23, which covers the safeguarding of children’s health, safety and welfare.

Inspectors discovered a large hole in the ceiling of a nappy changing room, refuse bins located in an area that was accessible to children, and fire extinguishers which had not been serviced since December 2017.

They said that the changing room roof was subject to an insurance claim, and ordered a fire service company to carry out the servicing within a number of days.

Once again, Tusla found that the regulatory requirements remained outstanding by the time of the report’s publication on 1 March, when it was noted that no evidence had been provided to show that the bins had been secured or that fire extinguishers had been serviced.

However, all other regulatory requirements were found to be compliant in Tusla’s report.

Garda vetting

Meanwhile, two Tusla inspectors also visited Hyde & Seek’s creche in Dublin 3 on 25 September 2017, when similar issues to those raised in last night’s RTÉ documentary were discovered.

The inspection report noted that the creche was operated by Anne Davy, who resigned yesterday morning, and that her daughter Siobhan was the designated person in charge.

RTE Investigates - Hyde and Seek Creche Tolka Road External 1 A sign for the Hyde and Seek Creche on Tolka Road Source: RTÉ

On the day of the inspection, Tusla found that one staff member had not been garda vetted and that two staff members had no certification in Early Childhood Care or an equivalent qualification.

A follow-up by the inspectors noted that the individual without garda vetting had been vetted the following month, while those without the adequate qualifications no longer worked at the creche.

Inspectors also found that the creche was non-compliant on Regulation 16, which covers its record in relation to pre-school service.

They said that the creche’s policy on accidents and incidents did not include details about how accidents and incidents would be prevented or documented, or how information about them would be shared with parents or guardians of children.

The creche’s accident and incident procedures were subsequently updated and the policy was made available to Tusla, who deemed the creche compliant with its regulations.

Chicken fillets

Meanwhile, the creche was also found in breach of Regulation 19, covering health, welfare and the development of children in care.

In one finding, inspectors noted that an insufficient quantity of chicken was being given to children for their main meal.

They were told that the total amount of chicken used in the main meal was six medium sized fillets, which were used to feed 64 children across two sites.

RTE Investigates - Hyde and Seek Creche Glasnevin - Children fed instant noodles costing 12 cent a pack and not vegtable stir fry on menu p A child is seen being fed at Hyde & Seek's Glasnevin creche during RTÉ's broadcast last night Source: RTÉ

Inspectors also found that there were only four books in the toddler room, which was insufficient to support language development, while there was also an over-reliance on plastic toys in the tiny tots room.

Hyde & Seek subsequently hired a cook and advised them to use 40 grams of meat per child when cooking, while new books, materials and toys were also sourced, bringing the creche up to compliance with standards.

However, the creche was found non-compliant with Regulation 20 covering facilities for rest and play.

Inspectors found an inadequate number of cots for both the number and age range of children attending the creche, with six standard cots for 15 children under the age of two.

Tusla said the service required 11 new cots, and that despite ordering seven, the creche was still non-compliant because they replaced six that were present at the time of the inspection.

In a letter sent in October last year, Tusla noted that it had received documentary evidence to show that this issue had since been addressed.

Roller blind cord

Elsewhere, the agency found several issues of non-compliance with health and safety under Regulation 23 of its standards at the Tolka Road creche.

During the inspection, a communal hand towel was noted as a source of possible infection, while adults did not wash their hands and used the same gloves for different children while changing nappies.

Covers on mattresses in a sleep room were found to be neither washable nor wipeable, and one was soiled in faecal matter while another two were badly worn and torn.

Cots and stackable beds were not properly stored to enable staff to access children if an emergency occurred, and the temperature for the sleep room, which is supposed to be between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius, was found to be over 21 degrees.

Meanwhile, a cord from a roller blind was discovered loose and trailing, presenting a risk of strangulation.

And medicine was also found to be administered to a pre-school child without signatory evidence that their parent had been informed.

The creche subsequently changed its hand-washing and nappy-changing policies, fixed the blind cord, bought new cots and wipeable mats, installed a digital thermometer, pledged to inspect mattresses every week and to monitor blind cords as part of health and safety checks.

Tusla therefore found that the company had addressed the issues of non-compliance at the facility and deemed that regulatory requirements had been met.

No person-in-charge

Another inspection report by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs gives details of an inspection at Hyde & Seek’s creche in Shaw Street in Dublin 2 in May 2015.

Inspectors for the government found a number of issues of non-compliance in relation to staffing, including problems with adult/child ratios, which were as high as 1:13 in some areas.

Two staff members had no proof of identity, validation of references, or garda vetting, while the designated person in charge was missing for the first 15 minutes of the inspection, with no named person to deputise in their absence.

The creche was told to improve its adult/child ratios, to ensure that designated persons-in-charge were on the premises at all times, and to provide copies of unvalidated references and unprocessed garda vetting for the two staff members to whom this applied.

6182 Hyde & Seek Crech_90576286 The Hyde & Seek Childcare Creche on Shaw Street in Dublin Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

However, inspectors also noted a number of health and safety issues at the creche.

These included a staff member leaving a two infants in a bouncer to self-bottle feed unsupervised, and another staff member not wearing disposable gloves during nappy-changing.

Sharp objects and chemicals

The report also found that there was a lack of seating for staff members to sit and read or comfort children in the tiny tots and Montessori rooms.

One child was left to be fed on a sofa away from their peers during lunchtime, while children in the toddler room were not observed to carry out appropriate hand hygiene before snack time.

There were also 41 children attending the creche on the day it was inspected, despite the company saying that the premises was certified for up to 30 children, which inspectors found to be non-compliant with general safety.

Elsewhere, a kitchen door was wedged open when inspectors arrived, leading to an area where cutlery, sharp objects and toxic chemicals were stored unsecured.

The creche was subsequently told to put infants in appropriate positions during feeding time, to adhere to nappy-changing and appropriate hand hygiene procedures, and to allow toddlers to eat their lunch together.

It was also told to obtain Fire Safety Certification from the Chief Fire Officer to ensure children could safely be evacuated in the event of a fire, as well as keeping the door of the kitchen closed and to lock drawers and presses.

However, the inspection report did not note whether any of the issues at Shaw Street had since been rectified.

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