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Van Turnhout "not convinced" HSE equipped to respond to parental concerns

Senator Jillian Van Turnhout said that the amount of GDP Ireland spends on preschool care and education compared to other European countries is “stark”.

IRELAND’S INVESTMENT IN children was called into question by Senator Jillian Van Turnhout this morning, who said that figures on how much the country spends on young children are “stark”.

She was speaking on RTÉ radio show Morning Ireland following the broadcast of A Breach of Trust, a Prime Time investigation by RTÉ’s investigations unit which looked at the treatment of children in three creches.

Senator Van Turnhout said that she will be raising her concerns with the Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald today. She said that any childcare service that hasn’t been inspected in the last 12 months has to be inspected, and that the Minister should make this a priority.

Concerns

The Senator said she has a concern which she will be raising with the Minister today:

That if a parent has any concern over a child protection issue in relation to their child, whether they are in an early years setting or in any other setting, will the HSE respond to that concern that a parent raises. Are we really equipped to respond? I am not convinced.
For some reasons we accept if a child is in danger the system can’t quite respond.

Van Turnhout also said that if inspectors can inspect a restaurant and then go back a number of months later to see if concerns had been addressed, “why can we not do it for children?”.

She said she would like to see a greater urgency in investing in children in Ireland. “It’s actually now down to investment, political will, priorities by cabinet,” said the Senator.

Van Turnhout said that many childcare workers take it upon themselves to get training, but continue to still be paid the basic minimum wage in most cases. She said there is an issue with “not seeing childcare workers as a profession” and “we will have to look at having a professional sector, having graduates involved” in childcare.

Ireland spends just 0.2 per cent of its GDP on preschool care and education, and Van Turnhout said:

I think people who are working in early years education are really trying to do their best, but for me, those figures are stark. It shows our political priorities and that has to change.

Minister Simon Coveney told Morning Ireland that the show was “shocking to a lot of young parents, myself included” as he has two daughters in a creche and a third about to start in one.

Coveney said that “the standards that we expect are not being implemented in every creche in the country” and that is not acceptable.

He said that the Government and Minister for Children “will prioritise getting this issue right in coming weeks so we can reassure parents” on the issue. “I think you will see a very strong response from Government on this,” he assured.

A garda investigation into alleged child abuse at childcare facilities has begun following the broadcast of the documentary, and the HSE is also investigating the undercover footage.

Read: Did you miss the Prime Time creche expose? Here’s what happened>

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