Latest: Creche to bring in external experts to review 'issues' raised in RTÉ documentary

An undercover investigation had revealed a pattern of disturbing behaviour and practices including fire-safety breaches and rough handling of children.

Latest: Creche to bring in external experts to review 'issues' raised in RTÉ documentary

Update 12.28pm: The creche highlighted in an RTÉ documentary last night says it will bring in external experts to review management structure.

In a statement to RTÉ, Hyde & Seek said the RTÉ Investigates documentary "raised some real issues for us and we will deal with them quickly".

It said the overall picture painted "does not reflect who we are" and it disputes some of the detail of what was reported.

But, it added, there are specific issues "we need to address and are addressing quickly".

Earlier: Tusla and CRA want professional standards body for childcare sector

Update 11.20am By Vivienne Clarke: Tusla, the child protection agency and the Children’s Rights Alliance have both called for a professional standards body to regulate the childcare sector.

Brian Lee, the director of quality assurance with Tusla and Tanya Ward of the Children’s Rights Alliance both told RTÉ radio’s Today with Miriam show that there should be a requirement to adhere to specific standards.

Mr Lee called for professional regulation along the lines already applied to social workers and members of the medical profession. That way standards would be underpinned and childcare operators would be threatened with de-regulation if they did not adhere to the standards, he said.

Ms Ward called for State funding to childcare services to be linked to quality and that crèches and pre-schools should have to carry a quality mark which would only be given if specific standards were met. This would reassure parents, she said. She also wanted Tusla's powers "beefed up".

Mr Lee said that what he had seen in the RTÉ Investigates programme had been “completely unacceptable.”

He had been personally “very angry” at the breaches of regulations evident. However, he pointed out that Tusla does not have the power to close down a service.

“We need those powers. We are seeking them.”

Tusla had already initiated proceedings against Hyde&Seek he said and the footage from the RTÉ programme would be of great assistance, he said.

He also pointed out that Tusla did not have the power to directly contact parents if there were 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.”

Tusla has commenced research into the best way to communicate with parents. “If we start telling people that could limit the success of prosecution.

“We will not shirk our responsibility. It is not a case that we do nothing.”

Mr Lee also expressed shock that in the programme childcare workers could be heard revealing their lack of knowledge about SIDS (sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Ms Ward pointed out that the profit margins for the Hyde&Seek company were “huge” while they were “cutting corners” with food, safety and facilities. “You can see how they could make so much money.

“You have to ask is childcare in Ireland a place to warehouse children or a place where they are cared for? Parents will be very worried at what they saw and they need to be reassured.”

Earlier: Katherine Zappone shocked by Hyde and Seek creche revelations

Update 8.07am By Vivienne Clarke: Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone has said she was deeply shocked and appalled at the manner in which children were treated in a chain of Dublin crèches.

An undercover investigation had revealed a pattern of disturbing behaviour and practices including fire-safety breaches and rough handling of children.

The investigation was carried out by RTÉ Investigates into Hyde & Seek, a multimillion-euro company that runs four crèches in Dublin with a fifth due to open shortly.

Ms Zappone told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that she had been deeply upset by the revelations and she urged parents to “listen to their gut” if they were concerned about their child’s care.

She was particularly concerned that despite regulations and improvements that “this appalling behaviour is happening.”

However, when asked if she would be seeking the closure of the Hyde & Seek chain, she said that as Minister she did not want to say anything that would “inhibit the process.”

Tusla inspectors are engaged in enforcement proceedings.

I am assured that enforcement actions are continuing and I don’t want to impact due process.

She advised parents to check the Tusla website for reviews of childcare facilities and warned that Tusla can only know of problems if they see them and if they are brought to their attention.

“If they (parents) have any form of concern, if they report it to Tusla, they will go in very quickly.”

The Minister was adamant that no government money goes into any deregulated services and that Tusla has the power to deregulate facilities.

Two-thirds of the providers of pre-schools who offer places under the government’s free pre-school scheme are in the private sector, these are also inspected by the Department of Education, she said.

Earlier: Calls for creches shown in documentary to be closed down

Update 6.46am: The Children's Rights Alliance is calling for the creches in last night's documentary to be closed down.

An RTÉ Investigates report showed rough handling of children, and babies restrained for long periods.

Undercover reporters looked into the standards of care in the Hyde and Seek Childcare creche chain in Dublin on foot of concerns raised by several families.

The company has four creches across Dublin City.

Last night's documentary showed how one of the creches in Glasnevin was unregistered for some 14 months.

It also highlighted repeated breaches of regulations.

Up to 20 children were left in one worker's care for an hour at a time in one creche.

"We at the Children's Rights Alliance are shocked by the blatant disregard for the welfare, safety and development of the children that we saw," said Saoirse Brady.

"A service that consistently fails to adhere to regulations and safety standards, they should face sanctions and where appropriate their funding should be cut.

"If they're in receipt of public money they shouldn't still continue to receive it. The facility should be closed."

The Hyde and Seek group says the documentary raises real issues, but it says some of them have already been addressed.

It says all its creches are now fully registered and regulated by Tusla and it encourages parents to contact it with any concerns.

Tusla says the documentary raises serious concerns about the quality of care within these creches.

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