‘Shocking and deplorable’

A THREE-YEAR-OLD boy walked out of the front door of his creche, crossed a busy road and was found playing in his front garden by his mother 15 minutes later.

The frightening incident was just one of a litany of complaints filed by parents about creches their children attend.

In one incident, two preschool children were picked up by a passer-by as they walked along a main road. It later emerged the internal doors and the front door were left open. The children had left unnoticed.

In another case, a 22-month-old child was sent home following a “minor fall”.

It later emerged she had a fractured skull. Further investigation found another child had been withdrawn from the service after 19 accidents/incidents.

One creche was threatened with legal proceedings after the HSE found a catalogue of neglect when following up on a complaint. It emerged children spent long periods strapped into high chairs, staff ratios were being ignored and the creche was operating without insurance for a number of years.

The creche has since been shut down.

The disturbing complaints made by parents to the Health Service Executive during the period from October 2006 to October 2007 were released to the Irish Examiner under the Freedom of Information Act.

The most serious include:

* Children left without supervision for up to 40 minutes while creche staff were away from the building. The parent said she believed this was happening regularly.

* A girl was left outside a school gate for 20 minutes after the creche forgot to pick her up.

* Two-year-old fell off a slide in a playground and fractured upper left arm. No one from the creche contacted the family.

* A child with a skin ailment was asked to leave the creche. The creche defended its action saying the child’s skin was shedding a lot and they had difficulty vacuuming it up and stopping other children eating skin flakes.

* Babies strapped to highchairs for long periods with little or no interaction.

* Child being constantly bitten. A follow-up HSE inspection warned the creche owner to take action because there was a “biting epidemic in your school”.

Yesterday, HSE specialist in children and families Aidan Waterstone said regulations came into force in the childcare sector last year and these allow a “more comprehensive and robust” quality framework.

They also said new quality standards have been developed for the sector. “This will increase confidence as it will improve the quality of services to young children and will contribute to their development as children in later years.”

Meanwhile, Barnardos’ director of advocacy Norah Gibbons said parents and creche providers must realise that bad quality childcare will have a detrimental effect on a child.

“It’s our constant mantra: quality of childcare is crucial and by that I mean loving care and good interaction with the child. Health and safety is vital too when you are looking after large numbers of small children. To ensure both of these, training should be mandatory,” she said.


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