Committee hears Tusla had concerns about creche chain before RTÉ exposé

Committee hears Tusla had concerns about creche chain before RTÉ exposé

Tusla has told the committee that it had concerns with the Hyde and Seek chain of creches before the programme aired and enforcement actions were underway.

However, it says it had no evidence of the high degree of serious non-compliance shown in the programme.

The child and family agency and the Department of Children are before an Oireachtas Committee this afternoon following last week's RTÉ creche exposé.

Tusla's Brian Lee was asked if it has considered introducing mandatory CCTV in childcare facilities.

"I would support any particular regulation because that would support the protection of children," Mr Lee said.

Tusla says it has not got the power to shut down a service that is not registered, it must prosecute, which takes too long.

If a service is registered and has a serious breach, the most they can do is deregister them but they must give the service 21 days notice within which it can still operate.

Bernie McNally from the Department of Children says it is looking into beefing up Tusla's powers.

"Where Tusla find that the standard is so concerning we will look to give them those powers to close those services down immediately," said Ms McNally.

Tusla says it can never guarantee that these issues will never arise again, but inspections and regulations reduces the risk significantly.

Committee hears of ‘deeply distressing’ care standards at creche chain

Update 11.20am: An investigation into the standard of care at a creche chain in Dublin was “deeply distressing”, TDs and Senators have been told.

An undercover investigation into the Hyde & Seek creches revealed children were being roughly handled.

It also showed a series of fire safety breaches at the multimillion-euro family-run business.

The company has four creches across Dublin city catering for children from three months up to 12 years.

The appalling mistreatment of children and the terrible management practices were unacceptable and inexcusable

Undercover footage revealed repeated breaches of regulation, as well as concerns around sleep room conditions.

Bernie McNally, assistant secretary general of the early years division at the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, is appearing before the Oireachtas Children’s Committee in an emergency meeting.

“Last week’s (RTE) Prime Time Investigates programme was deeply distressing for all of us to watch,” she said.

“The appalling mistreatment of children and the terrible management practices were unacceptable and inexcusable.

“I know that Tusla, in collaboration with the gardai and the fire safety authorities, are pursuing those responsible.

“We are working intensively to improve quality in services and to ensure that there is robust regulation.

“We believe that Hyde & Seek does not represent the standard of care and education offered by the 4,500 services.

“But one case such as this is one case too many, and we are working extremely hard with Tusla, and via other means, to ensure that all children have access to loving and nurturing services, and to ensure that services which do not meet required standards are closed down as soon as legally possible.”

Pat Smyth, interim chief executive at Tusla, also addressed the committee (Oireachtas/PA)
Pat Smyth, interim chief executive at Tusla, also addressed the committee (Oireachtas/PA)

Pat Smyth, interim chief executive at Tusla, the child and family agency, told the Oireachtas committee the behaviour towards children and the serious breaches of regulations at Hyde & Seek creches were “shocking, unacceptable, and worrying”.

He added: “Tusla had concerns regarding repeated breaches of compliance with regulations in all the Hyde & Seek services which were informed by inspection, some of which was triggered by information received through the Unsolicited Information Office.

“However, it is most important to state in the clearest possible terms that Tusla’s Early Years Inspectorate had no evidence of the serious child protection concerns or the high degree of serious non-compliance with standards that was shown in the RTE programme.

“Indeed, the behaviours displayed are unlikely to be evident during an inspection and we rely on good professional practice and appropriate mandatory reporting under Children First, or through Tusla’s Unsolicited Information Office for the notification of child protection concerns.”

- Press Association

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