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Dublin: 11 °C Wednesday 22 May, 2019
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'The kids know something's wrong': Staff at Tallaght Hospital crèche fight its closure

Parents and employees have said they are “devastated” and “shocked” by the news.

CameraZOOM-20140521101623414 Parents at the crèche Source: Save Small World Crèche

STAFF MEMBERS AT Small World crèche at Tallaght Hospital are trying to keep the environment as “normal as possible” for children as they fight to stop the facility’s closure.

Karen Doolan, the crèche’s assistant manager, told TheJournal.ie that employees were “devastated” upon hearing the facility would close on 29 August.

Employees were told on 14 May that the crèche would be closed after the hospital’s board accepted a report saying the facility was not financially viable and would not meet new regulations from Tulsa, the child and family support agency, due to be published next year.

Should it fall short, Doolan said the crèche would have six to twelve months to meet the necessary requirements, but isn’t being given that opportunity.

She said employees and parents, most of whom work at the hospital, were blindsided by the move and have not been allowed to see the report.

“We weren’t expecting it. We have babies due to settle in. It just came out of nowhere. We’re all devastated, but still hopeful. None of us are planning on moving, we’re happy where we are.”

Upon questioning from staff, Doolan said the board gave “no solid answers that were valid enough” about the closure.

None of us have said anything to any of the kids. Routine is so essential for them. With the busyness that’s been going on I feel like they know there’s something wrong.

Staff and parents are angry. Many believe the hospital is closing the facility as it wants the land upon which it is built.

“It’s the only thing that makes sense,” one parent commented.

A statement released by the hospital said it has “engaged the services of a company that specialises in early childcare services” to assist employees in finding new jobs and parents new crèches.

‘Double standard’

Niamh Geoghegan, whose daughter attends the crèche, works in HR at the hospital.

She said that the board of management should have given parents and staff an opportunity to save the facility, rather than shutting it outright.

“The haven’t approached the parents to ask for additional funding,” she said, noting that parents are willing to pay more than the current fee of  €42 a day if necessary.

The crèche has passed all HSE inspections … While [the board] have their reasons we just don’t agree with them or see them as valid.

Geoghegan said her two-year-old daughter has been attending the crèche for over a year and “absolutely loves it”.

“As parents we’re totally opposed to the closure – the attempted closure – of our creche.”

A father who wanted to remain anonymous told us that the board’s decision made no sense and smacked of “a double standard”.

“How many board members have children in the creche? It doesn’t directly affect them,” he said.

From my background in healthcare, regulations are constantly changing. If new regulations come in, you don’t just shut down part of the hospital if it doesn’t meet those regulations. It’s kind of a double standard that’s being presented by the board. They’re using something to their advantage to close the crèche.

Parents also noted that the Department of Children recently received an additional €5 million to improve childcare facilities, saying that part of this money could be used to help the crèche meet regulations.

An online petition and Twitter and Facebook accounts have been set up in a bid to reverse the decision.

Staff hope to present the petition at a board meeting next week.

Small World caters for six-month-olds up to five-year-olds, Monday-Friday. It has been open for 11 years and has 12 members of staff. It is currently attended by about 50 children.

Some families have three children in the facility.

“You build a relationship with the children you have there – you see them from six months until they go to school. It’s a matter of not wanting to go. You could just go off and find somewhere else. There are so many childcare facilities around, but we don’t want to go. We want to stay where we are. It wouldn’t be the same,” Doolan said.

‘Unique facility’

Fiona Delaney, a nurse at the hospital, has two children enrolled in the crèche. Her eldest child also attended before starting school.

She praised the facility’s “excellent” staff and said she “might have to give up work” if it closes.

“When my mother was dying in England, they took the kids for extra days and helped me so I could go back and forth at the weekends. They’re very flexible for working women.

“This is a unique facility for people working in the hospital … I feel safe in the knowledge that I can go to work and leave the kids here.

I didn’t say anything to [my children] because I don’t want to upset them. My daughter will be going to school in September but my son will be here and everyday he comes home talking about how much he likes it … He’s just such a happy little fella coming in in the morning, he jumps out of the car.

Delaney said the news was a “complete shock” as there had been “no consultation” with the parents and even less with the staff.

“Everyone seemed to know before [employees] knew themselves,” she noted.

“If it wasn’t for the parents we wouldn’t be kept informed of the progress,” Doolan admitted.

Read: Appeal for funding as largest community childcare centre in Ireland faces closure

Read: Upgrades to childcare facilities on the way under €2.5m investment fund

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Órla Ryan

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