Childcare failures highlighted in damning report

A report on pre-schools, nurseries, creches, and day- care centres has found that children had access to dangerous materials, that some centres were damp and rodent-infested, and that there were several instances where staff did not receive Garda clearance to work with children.

Published by child and family agency Tusla, the report found that while most early year services were compliant with regulations, nearly 14% of over 3,000 inspection reports found pre-schools failed to meet standards.

The report, which studied the findings of inspections carried out from January 2012 to May 2013, found:

- Several instances of personnel working in pre- school settings who had not been Garda-vetted;

- A number of immediate safety issues, including children having access to sharp knives, cord blinds, matches and toxic materials, as well as children being left unsupervised;

- A “surprisingly high number of comments” about children being given food that was lacking in nutrition, and a small number of comments highlighting specific instances of children being hungry.

Other comments in some reports related to premises being damp, in poor physical condition, rodent-infested and smelling bad, and there were many references to toys, materials, and furnishings being dirty.

Some reports commented that pre-schools were not adequately heated, with one noting that children had to keep their coats on because it was so cold.

The report, compiled by Dr Sinéad Hanafin, found that fewer than half of the reports recorded compliance with management and staffing regulations.

Garda vetting was not in place for some staff — particularly students, relief and agency staff and FÁS workers — while the lack of appropriate vetting was “especially problematic for staff members who had lived or worked outside the Irish jurisdiction”.

“There is an urgent need to address the issues relating to Garda vetting, children’s safety and the volume, content, and extent of the records required,” Dr Hanafin wrote.

With just 53% of its pre- schools up to standard, the Dublin North East Region’s level of regulatory compliance was considerably lower than the other three HSE regions, with the HSE West reporting the highest level (82%), followed by Dublin Mid-Leinster (75%), and HSE South (74%).

Brian Lee, director of Quality Assurance, said that Tusla, which was formed last January, would impose sanctions upon pre-schools found to have serious regulatory failures.

“Those operating early years services are, in effect, offering a service to parents. Like all good businesses they must have systems in place to ensure that they are providing a good quality service especially as these relate to the wellbeing of children. It should be part of their everyday work to check that children in their care are receiving proper care, that staff are appropriately qualified and vetted, that food is nutritious, and that premises are safe and secure,” he said.


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