Gardaí begin investigation into issues raised by RTÉ creche documentary; Parents speak of 'devastation'

Gardaí begin investigation into issues raised by RTÉ creche documentary; Parents speak of 'devastation'

Tusla has confirmed that the Garda Child Protection Unit at Mountjoy Garda Station has begun an investigation with the Tusla Social Work Unit, into the issues raised by an RTÉ investigation.

An undercover investigation into the standard of care at Hyde & Seek creches revealed how children were 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 investigation was carried out by the RTÉ programme 'Creches, Behind Closed Doors'.

Director of quality assurance with Tusla, Brian Lee, said he was angry and “sick to his stomach” when he watched the documentary.

“There were serious regulation breaches and child protection concerns. I am going to make sure the full rigour of the law is applied in this case,” he told RTÉ radio.

He said the services provided by Hyde & Seek were at a “very heightened space of enforcement” with Tusla.

Mr Lee said Tusla did not have immediate powers to close a service – it had to make a very clear case first.

Tusla would take full action up to criminal prosecution, he said.

Over the past year, it has deregistered five childcare services and was taking very detailed enforcement action against 20.

Mr Lee said he would be seeking additional powers of immediate closure from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Tusla does not have the power to directly contact parents if there are problems with a specific service.

“All our reports are on our website; all cases of de-regulation and prosecution are on the website. If they are concerned and there isn't a report on the website they can telephone Tusla and ask us," said Mr Lee.

The Oireachtas Committee on Children and Youth Affairs is expected to meet next week to discuss the documentary with representatives from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and Tusla.

Meanwhile, parents of children attending creches operated by the Hyde & Seek chain say they are “devastated” by the harm and neglect of babies and toddlers that was exposed in the RTÉ programme.

Following the broadcast, a group of around 35 parents met to discuss the damning expose.

“We are devastated by what was revealed by the programme. We trusted the creche to provide the standards of care it advertised and undertook to provide, at all times, and from all carers.

"This trust was badly misplaced,” the parents said afterwards.

Gardaí begin investigation into issues raised by RTÉ creche documentary; Parents speak of 'devastation'

They trusted the State, through the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and its regulatory and oversight body – the Child and Family Agency, Tusla, to ensure the regulatory breaches shown in the documentary could not occur.

“It appears that the current oversight system, even when it detects breaches, is inadequate to ensure that the same, similar, or more serious breaches do not occur again,” they said.

The parents questioned whether the system was fit for purpose.

This is is a question that must be answered not just for our children and for us, their parents, but also for parents throughout the country who often have no choice but to enrol their children in a childcare system that puts a serious financial strain on many households.

“Our trust has been betrayed. We call on all parties concerned to immediately address how this happened, and to credibly explain how they will make amends,” they said.

As well as the emotional impact the broadcast has left the parents at the centre of the childcare controversy facing a host of logistical and other challenges.

The parents, who asked for their privacy to be respected, said they did not claim to speak on behalf of all parents who had or have a child enrolled in Hyde & Seek.

The RTÉ investigation has also prompted more than 500 people to sign an online petition calling on Tusla, the independent regulator of child services, to close the centres.

It comes after Hyde & Seek confirmed it is seeking an external expert consultant to review the management structures.

- additional reporting by Steve Neville and Press Association

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