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Tusla identifies 'critical' level of risk at 37 childcare facilities across the country

The figure was revealed at an Oireachtas committee hearing this morning.

Image: Shutterstock/AKIRA_PHOTO

TUSLA HAS IDENTIFIED dozens of childcare facilities across the country where “critical” levels of non-compliance are occurring.

The agency’s Director of Quality Assurance Brian Lee told the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs this afternoon that 37 facilities are on the highest level of risk on Tusla’s risk register.

He was appearing before an emergency meeting of the committee to discuss the revelations contained in an RTÉ documentary about a Dublin creche chain last week.

Footage broadcast during the documentary showed a number of issues at Hyde and Seek, which has four branches in Dublin, including concerns about fire safety, child protection and the garda vetting of staff.

Lee told the committee that every creche registered with Tusla appeared on the agency’s four-stage risk register, and are categorised as ‘low’, ‘medium’, ‘high’ and ‘critical’.

“There’s 37 on what we consider to be our national registration panel, which would be the highest level of concern,” he said, adding that the register covered all childcare services, not just creches.

Lee added that he didn’t have a complete breakdown of each category, but would provide the committee with this information ahead of future sittings.

Earlier, the Committee heard that Tusla could not give a “cast-iron guarantee” that issues like those seen at Hyde and Seek during last week’s documentary would never happen again.

Lee called for Tusla to be given greater powers to regulate the sector more efficiently.

They include the ability to immediately close creches which are not registered with the agency and those where there is evidence of child protection issues, as well as the introduction of a legal instrument to let the agency inform parents about problems at creches when they occur.

He also said the agency was open to the idea of introducing mandatory CCTV recording to creches to monitor any potential issues, saying: “Child protection trumps GDPR any day in our business”.

“If we could get those [powers] quickly through the legislative system, that would be of huge benefit to children and families,” he said.

Sinn Féin TD Kathleen Funchion said that while it was important to legislate for such powers, it was just as important for representatives to provide support to parents who would potentially be affected by such closures.

“It’s all well and good to say we have to close that, where there situations that children are at risk, but there also needs to be emergency supports there for parents,” she said.

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