Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has confirmed there are seven employees of Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, currently under suspension.
In a written Dáil reply to Richard Boyd Barrett, Ms Zappone said Tusla has confirmed seven employees are currently on administrative leave on full pay pending an internal investigation.
Oberstown Children Detention Campus also confirmed one employee is on suspension from work without prejudice and on full pay pending an inquiry.
In a statement yesterday, Tusla said: “In line with our HR policies and procedures, staff can be placed on administrative leave for various reasons and periods of time, which are dependent on individual situations.”
Separately, additional funding may be found for creches in disadvantaged areas facing closure if they can demonstrate that their children have higher levels of need, Ms Zappone said.
Speaking in Cork where she met the Cork Early Years Alliance, she said her officials will review the needs of children at each creche on a “case-by-case” basis.
“We have a number of centres operating in the context of disadvantaged children and the level of need is not the same at each centre. I will examine if there are other ways they can receive the support they deem that they require,” she said.
“If there are ways to provide funding, we need to look at where that might come from.”
Seven creches in some of the most disadvantaged parts of Cork City have said they are facing closure in September as they are not receiving enough funding.
Under changes to childcare regulations, community creches can no longer use CE workers as part of staff/child ratios. Instead, they are being told to hire more childcare workers at €24,000 a year each — salaries they say they cannot afford.
The Cork Early Years Alliance say their subvention per child needs to be doubled as their children have far greater needs than children in most private creches. They are also arguing that they should receive an increased staff grant and an acknowledgement that their work is not only childcare, but early intervention family support, which is proven to reap dividends for the child and its wider family.
Up to 225 children, aged one to three years, attend these early years community creches in Cork and the staff also provide wider support to their families, many of whom are disadvantaged by homelessness, addiction or mental health challenges.
Some 44% of these children live in one-parent families and 26% have already been identified as having special needs, while another 24% are awaiting a diagnosis.
Meanwhile, Ms Zappone also met the board of Tusla yesterday for the first time since the Sergeant Maurice McCabe controversy. Two weeks ago it emerged a “clerical error” was responsible for a false allegation of sexual abuse against the Garda whistleblower. She said assurances were given that systems were in place to ensure nothing like this could happen again.
“The purpose of meeting was to lay questions to the board and to find out if they can assure me that from today forward, systems and processes are in place so this is unlikely to happen again.”
She said as part of these changes, subgroups are being established to review information handling around sensitive cases and how officials deal with ‘adults of concern’ in abuse cases. Freedom of information processing is also to be centralised.
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