HSE ‘notes’ District Court judge’s pre-school inspection concerns
Judge Alan Mitchell raised issue at sentencing of Edenderry playschool operator over dangerous breaches of childcare regulations
Keeping an eye on the kids: District Court judge Alan Mitchell said the HSE needed to be more proactive in its inspections of childcare facilities. Photograph: Alan Betson
The HSE has noted comments by a District Court judge who said the executive must be more proactive in its inspections of childcare facilities.
It follows concerns voiced by Judge Alan Mitchell at Edenderry District Court, on imposing a three-month suspended sentence on a pre-school operator who pleaded guilty to 20 breaches of childcare regulations.
He also banned Tracey Stynes of Graceland playschool of Greenwood Park, Edenderry, from operating a facility for 12 months until she completed a management course. He expressed his concern that Stynes’s facility had been inspected 11 times in the four years since it opened, yet standards had deteriorated.
He questioned the purpose of inspections if conditions got progressively worse, and said Stynes might not have understood what was expected of her following inspections.
The court heard how the children’s safety was at risk in a dirty and dangerous facility where their developmental needs were not met.
During a visit in March 2013 to the playroom attached to Stynes’s home, HSE inspectors found eight children aged between two and 4½ years. In her private kitchen and sitting room Stynes also had four children under two years old.
A looped metallic wire attached to the underside of a kitchen table posed “a serious risk of strangulation”.
The children had access to household chemicals and had dirty couches and dirty buggies to sleep in. The outdoor area was not fenced, giving children access to the road.
In a statement the HSE said it had noted the judge’s concerns. It said the HSE preschool service for the midlands achieved an inspection rate of 95-98 per cent and had four times the national average of prosecutions.