Only one out of 22 Mayo creches met all HSE standards

Inspection reports show most failed to provide Garda vetting and staff photo ID

From September any new creches wanting to open must first register with the HSE

From September any new creches wanting to open must first register with the HSE


Just one out of 22 creches and childcare providers in Mayo met all HSE standards in inspection reports just published, with most having failed to provide Garda vetting and photo identification for staff.

Many providers also failed to provide rest areas for children and fell down on hand-washing standards, including providing disposable paper towels as opposed to cotton towels which can spread disease.

Fire drills were often not carried out on a monthly basis, as required, insurance was in some cases out of date or did not cover the number of children present and ventilation from toilet and nappy changing areas was not adequate.

One creche left a shed open with crates, containers and a boat with a cord “which a pre-school child could catch and pull down . . . on themselves”, said one report.

Rita’s Playgroup, Knock Road, Ballyhaunis, was also found to only provide biscuits during the session which was “neither suitable nor sufficient”, the report added.

All of the 21 providers that had failed to comply with some regulations gave responses showing how they had since tackled deficiencies.

Rita’s Playgroup wrote to the HSE three months after the inspection report last October saying the cord from the boat was gone and the crates and containers had been moved into a locked shed. Parents had been asked to provide a nutritious snack for children, it added.

Safety risk
Little Acorns, Brickens, Claremorris, had a disused computer on a table outside the back door which “could easily be knocked over and cause a safety risk for the children”, said the inspection report last November.

In a response given the following month the creche said it had removed the computer.

Lollys and Robins, Ramolin, Shrule, was storing a box of detergent in an unlocked press under the sink in the playroom when an inspection was carried out last November. It had since been removed, the creche said in response.

Lorraine O’Malley Montessori, Church Road, Ballina, was the only Mayo creche published online yesterday which was fully compliant with all regulations. Mayo is the second county to have creche inspection reports published online. Reports on Limerick childcare providers went online last week. More inspection reports for counties in the west of the country are expected in the coming days.

Police clearance
The most persistent problem of non-compliance was a lack of Garda vetting and police clearance from staff who were from other countries or who had lived in other countries.

Twelve-week delays in getting Garda vetting was causing a problem for creche owners trying to comply with regulations, said Teresa Heeney, chief operations officer of Early Childhood Ireland, which represents more than 70 per cent of childcare providers. There were also “huge problems” in getting police clearance from some countries, particularly African states, for staff who have lived there.

Ms Heeney called for panels to be set up at local level with qualified vetted workers available to provide cover for childcare providers when staff leave. “It is very hard for small services to be able to replace staff at short notice when such delays in getting Garda clearance exist,” she said.

A pattern was also emerging between creche inspection areas which showed some inspectors were focusing on certain aspects of compliance with rules and neglecting others, said Ms Heeney.

Often this came down to the type of training inspectors had, with environmental health officers solely trained for that purpose, for example focusing on health and safety of a premise rather than the well-being of children.

More reform on creches and childcare is expected. From September any new creches wanting to open must first register with the HSE. Currently creches need only notify the HSE once they have started operating.