Minister deemed exposé creche as safe

The minister for children gave one of the creches at the centre of allegations of mistreatment a clean bill of health just a year earlier after parents reported another incident there to both the HSE and to the gardaí.

Last night it emerged there was an incident at Giraffe Belarmine in 2010 which was reported by parents as a child protection issue to a HSE duty social worker and also to gardaí.

According to a Prime Time report last night, over the next 18 months the HSE carried out several inspections. On the first, soon after the incident, the creche was found to be in breach of regulation five on child welfare and development and three other regulations. In Apr 2011, it was still in breach of regulation five on welfare and development as well as regulation nine on good behaviour management and nine other regulations. An inspection at the end of 2011 found it was in continuing breach of regulation five and seven other regulations and in May 2012 Giraffe was found to be in breach of one regulation.

As the parents were unhappy with the way the creche and HSE dealt with the complaint, they approached Justice Minister Alan Shatter who replied enclosing correspondence from Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald. It referred to inspections and said “no further concerns existed” within the HSE about the operation of the service but it would continue to monitor it.

According to Prime Time, in an email to the boy’s father last week, Mr Shatter wrote that if it is a case that practices detrimental to the welfare of children have been ongoing in these creches, it was “regrettable” it took an RTÉ programme to uncover them.

Meanwhile, Ms Fitzgerald has outlined initiatives to improve childcare standards.

Ms Fitzgerald told the Irish Examiner she wants to establish a €10m training fund for creche staff — but she said private providers will have to contribute to training costs also.

“It’s poorly paid work so it’s reasonable to expect us now to contribute to a training fund. Coming up later this year, I will be arguing for resources to do this. And then [ when you have a training fund], you will move to basic qualifications being required.”

She wants to bring in basic qualification standards for all childcare workers.

At present, only childcare leaders working on the free preschool year are requested to undertake Fetac Level 5 training in childhood care.

In response, Early Childhood Ireland said the new initiatives “all make sense and are well overdue” but that timelines were needed.

Figures obtained by the Irish Examiner show there is a shocking disparity between the number of inspectors available.

Just three inspectors cover West Dublin, Kildare, West Wicklow, and Dublin South West. Limerick has five inspectors while Galway only has one. There are six in Co Cork, and just two in Co Kerry. Waterford has a single inspector.

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