National review to scrutinise creches

Head of new support agency to carry out examination into profit-driven creches

Ireland’s funding on preschool care is less than 0.2 per cent of GDP, compared to 1.1 per cent in the UK and 1.4 per cent in Denmark. Photograph: Getty Images

Ireland’s funding on preschool care is less than 0.2 per cent of GDP, compared to 1.1 per cent in the UK and 1.4 per cent in Denmark. Photograph: Getty Images

Fri, May 31, 2013, 01:00

 


Profit-driven creches will come under scrutiny in a national review which is to be carried out by the head of the new Child and Family Support Agency.

Gordon Jeyes will examine if there are patterns of non-compliance with regulations, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said yesterday.

The move comes after an RTÉ Prime Time investigation highlighted mistreatment of children at three creches.

The Oireachtas committee on health will take up the issue on June 11th when it will cross-examine the Minister and HSE officials about its “serious concerns about child welfare and standards in creches”, according to committee chairman Jerry Buttimer.

The aim of the review was to set up a national approach to achieving consistency in creches, Ms Fitzgerald said. “We need to understand more thoroughly what is in the inspection reports and to see is there a pattern of non-compliance, for example in the for-profit sector,” she said.

Ms Fitzgerald said she would examine contracts with creches that received Government money as part of the free preschool year and strengthen the ability to withdraw funding if they do not comply with rules.

“You have to be clear about what the red line issues are in terms of treatment of children and we will work out a detailed approach to saying to those services who are providing services, ‘You will not get funding if you are not meeting the range of criteria’ which they should be meeting,” she added.

There needed to be an emphasis on enforcement of regulations governing the training and inspection of creches, she said. The Minister has promised to publish creche inspection reports online within weeks and to require creches to register before setting up.


‘Budgetary decisions’
The Minister said there were “budgetary decisions” to be made on whether to invest more in the sector but that some funding was needed to provide more training for staff and enforcement of regulations.

Ireland’s funding on preschool care is less than 0.2 per cent of GDP, compared to 1.1 per cent in the UK and 1.4 per cent in Denmark.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said later yesterday the issue of funding could be examined since “the estimates are taking place over the next few weeks”. But he added: “Money is not all the answer here – it is about motivation, about suitability, it is about accountability.”

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore confirmed the Government JobBridge internship programme would be withdrawn for the creches exposed in the RTÉ programme. “This Government will not tolerate a situation where taxpayers’ money is being used to subsidise facilities that are not treating children properly” he said.

The Department of Social Protection confirmed that none of the three childcare facilities being investigated by the Garda Síochána and Health Service Executive on foot of the Prime Time programme would be permitted to access the JobBridge scheme pending the outcome of those investigations. “It is important to note that there have never been any JobBridge interns in any of the locations referred to in the Prime Time programme,” it added.


JobBridge advert
The Giraffe creche chain, which runs the Belarmine creche in Stepaside, south Dublin, featured in the documentary, confirmed yesterday it had placed an advert on the JobBridge website but no interviews took place. If it had taken on an intern, they would not have been included in the ratios of adults per child and would not have been left unsupervised, a statement said.

Secret filming by RTÉ also took place at the Links creche in Abington in Malahide, Dublin, and Little Harvard in Rathnew, Co Wicklow.