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Tusla releases advice for parents as Zappone 'appalled' at treatment of children in creches

Children were filmed being roughly handled in the footage recorded by RTÉ Investigates, and concerns were raised about fire safety and other issues.

Source: RTÉ - IRELAND’S NATIONAL PUBLIC SERVICE MEDIA/YouTube

MINISTER FOR CHILDREN Katherine Zappone has said she is “deeply shocked and appalled” by the content of undercover footage filmed at a number of Dublin creches run by the same company.

Children were filmed being roughly handled in the footage recorded by RTÉ Investigates, and concerns were raised about fire safety, food quality, and staff to child ratios. 

Anne Davey, the owner of Hyde & Seek, the company which ran the three creches, resigned yesterday ahead of the documentary, Crèches Behind Closed Doors, airing last night.

Reacting to the programme on Morning Ireland today, Zappone said “deeply shocked and appalled to see the children being treated in this way”.

She said she was “so concerned” that such appalling behaviour” took place despite “improved standards and regulations” in the sector and enforcement regulation from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

Zappone said parents who watched the programme “must feel devastated”. The minister added that she didn’t “want to say anything further that might impact the due process”.

A mother whose child was filmed in the documentary told Morning Ireland her son was “really secure” and “confident” but over time she noticed changes in his behaviour.

“He was confident and then I saw that … he was not that confident, he came to me a lot. Now it’s like he doesn’t want to go to sleep, he started to get upset and nervous,” Moran Yitshak Aikalay said. 

The mother added that parents need to speak out when they have concerns about a facility as “[owners] close the door and you can never know what happens inside”.

TheJournal.ie today revealed further issues discovered by Tusla inspectors at the three facilities in question, including concerns about a loose blind cord, faecal matter on mattresses, and medicine administered to a child without evidence of parental consent, as well as fire safety issues being flagged four years ago

Advice for parents 

In a statement released after the documentary aired, Tusla said the “distressing” footage “will undoubtedly cause upset and anxiety for parents/guardians and the general public”.

We recognise and share the serious concerns the programme raises about the quality of care within these crèches, but more importantly the impact of concerning adult behaviours on children.

Tusla has released the following advice for parents and guardians who “may need assurances (about a childcare facility) following this broadcast”:

  • Check if the service provider is registered
  • Check the last inspection report
  • Speak to your provider and seek assurances about the quality of care
  • If you have a concern about an early years’ service, contact Tusla on 061 461700 or by via early.yearsui@tusla.ie
  • Check Tusla’s Quality Regulatory Framework which will help providers and parents to understand the regulations

As outlined here, people can obtain inspection reports for a childcare centre from Tusla’s website under the 2016 Child Care Regulations. However, if they want to see if there were any issues before then, they have to specifically ask for a centre’s report.

The statement from Tusla added that the agency “has been proactively addressing areas of non-compliance with regulations in these creches since 2018″, noting the following: 

  • Hyde & Seek Glasnevin was successfully prosecuted by Tusla in 2019 for the operation of an unregistered service (under Section 58 (d) of the Childcare Act, 1991, as amended); enforcement activity began in January 2018 when this was first brought to our attention.
  • Hyde & Seek, Shaw Street, was inspected in September 2018, and again in July 2019, and it is subject to ongoing enforcement action
  • Hyde & Seek, Tolka Road, has been subject to a significant level of regulatory enforcement activity and referrals have been made to Tusla’s child protection and welfare services

Brian Lee, Director of Quality Assurance at Tusla, stated: “Every single registered service provider in Ireland has been inspected, and the majority of service providers are compliant with the majority of regulations. In 2018 Tusla carried out 2,513 inspections, and reports are available on Tusla’s website.

However, in a small number of cases enforcement action is necessary and in those instances Tusla can and does take action, up to and including closing the service, and/or taking a criminal prosecution.

“It is the responsibility of the registered provider to ensure they are fully compliant with the regulations. Tusla actively works with service providers all around the country to highlight areas where improvements are necessary and to ultimately improve the standards in services for children. Not all non-compliances mean there is a risk to a child and in the majority of cases the service provider can rectify the issue promptly.”

RTÉ has agreed to share footage and detailed information about the creches with Tusla, which is further investigating the situation.

In a statement released yesterday, Hyde & Seek said Anne Davy “will take no future role in the front line childcare provision” and acknowledged “that in recent months she has occasionally fallen below the standards of our behavioural management policy, and has found herself being short, rather than simply direct”.

In recent days, we have had unannounced Tusla inspections and fire safety inspections at several of our premises and we do not believe any major issues will arise from them.

“We operate an open door policy and parents are free to visit our creches at any time. We are in ongoing contact with parents of children who use the services featured in [the] programme this week and expect to meet many of them in the coming days.”

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Órla Ryan

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