The Government is deeply concerned over allegations of mistreatment of children at a number of creches, the Tánaiste has said.
Eamon Gilmore described the reports of enquiries into three Dublin childcare centres as “shocking” and insisted Frances Fitzgerald, the children’s minister, would give the matter her “highest priority”.
“These allegations tap into every parent’s worst nightmare,” he said. “Parents need to have confidence and trust in the people who are looking after their children. As a Government we are deeply concerned.”
One childcare worker was fired and several more suspended after an undercover RTÉ reporter filmed children being treated badly at three Dublin creches. It is understood the children were forced into high chairs, cursed at, and yelled at.
Gardaí are investigating the matter and complaints have also been made to the HSE Children and Family Services by parents.
The footage was shot by the RTÉ Investigations Unit for a Prime Time programme on care standards in creches which is to air next week.
The evidence of childcare regulations being breached was brought to the HSE by RTÉ and it is understood the parents, once informed, also contacted the HSE.
One childcare worker was dismissed at Links creche at Abington, Malahide, while suspensions were put in place at Giraffe in Belarmine in Stepaside. Standards at Little Harvard in Rathnew, Co Wicklow, were also found to be in breach of HSE regulations.
Parents are said to be distressed, with some complaining that they were never asked if their children could be filmed. RTÉ said the production team had shown parents footage. It also said the team liaised with a childcare expert throughout production.
According to Early Childhood Ireland, “the fallout from this programme will impact on all services, not just those highlighted on Prime Time”.
“Parents from around the country who have children in services will undoubtedly feel concerned and anxious — and the press coverage has already started via national media and radio. This pre-Prime Time publicity will only heighten parental concerns,” said CEO , Irene Gunning.
“This programme will also serve to highlight the limitations with the current inspection process in pre-schools across the country today, with inadequate numbers of inspectors and an approach which is not tailored to the preschool curriculum.”
According to RTÉ, “the programme finds various degrees of mistreatment of young children in specific rooms of the creches, involving inadequate care and serious breaches of child care regulations”.
No evidence of violent or sexual abuse was found.
“Gardaí have been given footage intended for transmission; RTÉ will cooperate with any further requests on foot of a court order, as is standard. The footage will also be viewed by the HSE. The creches involved have been given access to the footage that will be shown in the programme.”
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