Creches face new regulations and higher fines under new law
Facilities that repeatedly fail to comply with orders will face closure
The Government has been under pressure to improve childcare regulation and enforcement since an RTÉ Prime Time investigation into alleged mistreatment of children at three creches aired in May. Photograph: Getty Images
Creches and preschool services face new sanctions including closure orders and increased fines under new legislation.
At its last meeting before the summer break, the Cabinet approved the heads of Bill of new legislation which will underpin regulations and enforcement provisions for preschool services.
The new measures will grant preschool inspectors the power to issue statutory notices and orders to creches and other facilities found to be in breach of standards. Facilities that repeatedly fail to comply with orders will face closure. The legislation will also increase fines for non-compliance available to District Courts from about €1,270 to €5,000.
However, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs predicts the new powers for inspectors will mostly remove the need for court prosecutions.
At the moment creches can be prosecuted for serious breaches of childcare regulations but according to the department, the majority of breaches are minor or mid-range. As such, just a handful of cases came before the courts in 2012.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said the new legislation will “give preschool inspectors greater flexibility to act speedily in response to findings of poor quality and non-compliance with regulations and standards.”
If a creche found to be in breach of standards fails to comply with an improvement notice, the inspector can issue an improvement order and then, if there is still no improvement, a closure order. These will be administrative enforcement powers that can be used without going to court.
The Government has been under pressure to improve childcare regulation and enforcement since an RTÉ Prime Time investigation into alleged mistreatment of children at three creches aired in May. Ms Fitzgerald said the new measures were a response to “ongoing concerns from parents and the sector”.
The proposed amendments to the Child Care Act 1991 will also introduce a registration system for all preschool services.