Tusla refuses to provide details of 37 creches with ‘critical risks’

Creche owners should tell parents about quality or regulatory concerns, says Zappone

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has said owners of crèches should discuss any quality or regulatory concerns with parents. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has said owners of crèches should discuss any quality or regulatory concerns with parents. File photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has said it will not be providing any further information about a group of 37 creches which were found to have “critical” risks.

It emerged this week that Tusla maintains a risk register on which 37 creches are listed as having serious issues with potential regulatory non-compliance.

Fianna Fáil has said affected parents should be told what the issues are in the facilities in question. Tusla said on Thursday that the services, which are being inspected or undergoing enforcement action, have “a right to fair procedures, which can be highly litigious”.

The Minister for Children Katherine Zappone has asked Tusla to update her on the status of these facilities.

Tusla’s director of quality assurance Brian Lee said he understood that parents have concerns about the agency being unable to share information with them when an early years service is undergoing enforcement action.

“This would never prevent us from informing a parent where there is an immediate child protection concern being managed by the social work team, and we hope this provides some reassurance to parents during this time.”

The agency said, however, that it will not be sharing further details of the 37 early years’ services at the highest level of enforcement.

“This could cause significant issues in any future prosecutions of sub-standard services which could prevent us from removing these services from the register. This would not be in the best interests of children and families.

“The vast majority of early years’ services at this level of enforcement make the necessary changes to improve the standard of care and as a result are de-escalated from this level of concern.”

Transparency

Ms Zappone has said owners of crèches should discuss any quality or regulatory concerns with parents.

“In the interests of openness and transparency Minister Zappone would encourage Early Learning and Care providers to discuss any quality or regulatory concerns which have been raised by the Inspectorate with parents,” a spokesman said.

“In providing transparency for parents, the Minister would ask that information on inspections and any details in relation to non-compliance that Tusla may observe in an inspection, is also shared with parents at the earliest possible juncture. The Minister has agreed to consider legislative reform to assist with this.

“Where a service has failed to respond to Tusla’s requirement that it become compliant with regulations, and where Tusla is forced to use its statutory powers to de-register this service, the service may appeal this to the courts. The Minister recognises that in order to protect children, and for justice to be served, nothing should be done which would prejudice legal proceedings.”

The information about the 37 creches in question came to light during a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Children on Wednesday, where the fall-out from an RTÉ undercover investigation into a chain of Dublin crèches was discussed.

Footage showed babies that were restrained in high chairs for lengthy periods, causing them to become highly distressed. In one instance a child was placed alone in a room with the door closed for misbehaving.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said on Thursday he would like to hear from parents about suggestions to install CCTV cameras in childcare facilities around the country.

“I think it’s something that has to be considered, but it needs to be considered carefully as well,” he said.

“I would certainly want to know what parents would think of that in particular. While parents might be reassured by having CCTV in creches, they also mightn’t like the idea that their children are being videoed all the time. I think there’s a balance of issues there that would have to be considered before going ahead with that.”