Creche inspection reports to be made public within weeks

Other childcare reforms planned amid allegations of mistreatment of children at three creches

Links Childcare at Abington Wood. Photograph: Picture Colin Keegan, Collins

The Government is to fast-track childcare reforms which will allow parents to see inspection reports into their children’s creches, following allegations of mistreatment of children in three centres.

Other reforms planned include inspections focusing on quality of care, compelling creches to register and training staff to higher standards.

The publication of inspection reports has been mooted for years, but it is understood they could now be available in six weeks. The urgency follows HSE and Garda investigations into alleged mistreatment of young children in three creches, two in Dublin and one in Wicklow.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald met the HSE and Early Childhood Ireland, which represents most childcare providers, on Thursday evening after details of alleged mistreatment at the creches emerged following secret filming by RTÉ.

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"You don't want to see any child have a bad experience. The types of allegations would strike horror into every parent," Ms Fitzgerald told The Irish Times .


'Deeply concerned'
Little Harvard, a creche in Rathnew, Co Wicklow, said yesterday it was "deeply concerned" after viewing footage that RTÉ will show early next week in a programme highlighting alleged mistreatment.

On Thursday Giraffe said the footage taken at its creche in Belarmine in Stepaside, Dublin, showed “unnecessary strapping of children in to their chairs” and “abrupt handling of the children during rest and sleep periods”. Links creche in Abington in Malahide, Dublin, said it believed the allegations were “isolated to a specific staff member”.

The Minister said she wanted to see HSE inspection reports in all childcare centres made available before September. The Irish Times understands it could be as early as July. She said she also wanted to see changes to the inspection system whereby the quality of care was monitored.


Registration
Plans are also under way to compel creches to register, as opposed to the current system where they only need notify the HSE of their intention to set up.

Childcare workers could be required to have certain qualifications to work in creches. At present there are no minimum qualifications for staff, except for the lead carer for children in the free preschool year.

Garda vetting is another area of concern. The process takes 10 weeks but with some creches having a high turnover of staff, people are employed who have not received Garda clearance with an understanding they will be supervised before they do.

Changes to the childcare system are expected after a national early years strategy is published this summer, which will focus on health, family support, care and education of children under six years.