Creche claims documentary ‘does not reflect who we are’

Company to appoint ‘expert external consultant’ to review management and service

 

The chain of creches at the centre of a childcare scandal is to appoint an expert external consultant to review its management structure and service.

An undercover investigation carried out by RTÉ Investigates revealed a pattern of disturbing behaviour and practices in the Hyde & Seek chain of Dublin creches, including fire-safety breaches and rough handling of children.

In a statement on Thursday, Hyde & Seek said the programme “raised some real issues for us” which it would “deal with quickly”. It added it had already “taken some steps to deal with urgent issues”.

“The overall picture [the documentary] painted does not reflect who we are, but there are specific issues we need to address and are addressing quickly,” it said.

“We will shortly retain an expert external consultant to review our management structure and our service. We began seeking to identify such a consultant this week.”

Footage taken by undercover researchers over the past several weeks showed cots packed into rooms leaving it difficult to access babies in the event of an emergency, raising fire safety concerns.

Hyde & Seek said the issues raised in relation to the layout of the cot rooms in two of its creches had been resolved, “and fire safety inspections in the past week have confirmed that to us”.

“We will work as always with Dublin Fire Brigade to address any other issue that they identify,” it added.

Shouting

Some of the most shocking incidents appeared to occur at the hands of Hyde & Seek’s majority owner, Anne Davy, who also manages the chain’s Tolka Road creche. Ms Davy is caught on camera shouting at very young children.

In other footage she is seen flipping toddlers on to their stomachs and holding them down in their cots in an effort to get them to go to sleep. She also instructs staff not to make eye contact with the children.

Ms Davy has said she is stepping away from “front line childcare provision” following the documentary.

“One of the first changes we make will be the recruitment of a new manager at our Tolka Road creche, which was the focus of much of the criticism in the programme,” said Hyde & Seek in its statement.

The investigation also found frequent and significant breaches of the strict ratios that cover the number of adults supervising children in their care.

Hyde & Seek said its “policy and practice was to abide by the staff ratios set out by Tusla, though we know that, as in most creches, this may not be the case at every moment of every day”.

Standards of care

“The programme suggested that at lunchtime in one of the creches there is a particular ratio problem which we will address urgently,” it said.

“We dispute some of the detail of what has been reported. But this is not to dispute the overall point, which is that we have work to do to ensure we continue to offer the highest standards of care.”

Between 2014 and 2018, Hyde & Seek Childcare Ltd profits after salaries amounted to almost €2.75 million. During the same period it received €1.25 million in taxpayer-funded Government subsidies.

In its statement, the company said all profits have been “reinvested in developing our creches”.

“The directors receive modest salaries and no dividends have been paid to any shareholder in recent years,” it said.

Documents filed with the Companies Office list Ms Davy and her husband Peter Davy as the two directors of Hyde and Seek Childcare Ltd. Between them, they were paid €54,810 last year by the company.

Ms Davy is also listed as a director for a subsidiary of the company called Hyde and Seek Glasnevin Ltd, along with her daughter Siobhan Davy.

Its accounts show that both parties were paid €47,115 between them through that entity last year.

The Irish Times has also learned that Ms Davy is the owner of the property from which the creche on Shaw St operates, and is in receipt of rent from Hyde and Seek for its use.

Furthermore, the accounts for Hyde and Seek Glasnevin Ltd show that its properties and lands are valued at just under €3 million.