The long-awaited RTÉ documentary on standards in Irish creches saw children spending up to two hours a day being strapped into highchairs as they screamed to get out.
It also saw childcare workers screaming aggressively at toddlers at Giraffe Childcare in Belarmine in County Dublin and berating them for not falling asleep, even though they were only lying on mats and there were no black out blinds or curtains in place.
Parents are paying up to €1,200 per month for their children to be taken care of at the creches filmed.
The documentary, which used extensive footage filmed by an undercover researcher, showed children trying to walk with chairs strapped to their backs as they were spending so much time restrained.
It also saw one boy strapped in a chair and put facing a fridge as he wouldn’t comply with the childcare workers’ wishes, and another shouted at repeatedly and manhandled as he wouldn’t eat his meal.
There were many scenes of visibly distressed children who could not cope with staff’s attitudes towards them. The researcher also revealed how the unit was often understaffed and was operating outside the required carer: child ratio.
Overall, the programme showed HSE creche regulations being breached at Links creche in Abington, Giraffe creche in Belarmine and at Little Harvard in Rathnew, Co Wicklow.
Professor of Early Years Developmental Psychologist at TCD, Professor Shiela Greene, described practices at Belarmine as “very, very inappropriate and bordering on abusive”.
Professor Noirin Hayes described the restraining of a child in a chair in front of a fridge as “harmful to the child who is probably bewildered”.
Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin spokesmen on children, Robert Troy and Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, called on the minister for children to direct the HSE to publish all creche inspection reports online immediately.
Childcare organisations are calling on the Government to fund improved training of childcare staff as they try to dampen down a “crisis of confidence” created by these revelations.
One childcare staff member has already been fired at Links and five more suspended at Links and Giraffe.
No staff have been sanctioned at Little Harvard to date and its public relations company said: “Little Harvard and its legal advisers will continue to carry out a full investigation and review all options available.”
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