Creche practices ‘a recipe for disaster’, says childcare expert

Dr Mary Moloney ‘shocked’ at poor safety procedures highlighted by RTÉ documentary

 Hyde & Seek creche on Shaw Street in Dublin. Many parents are going to be extremely concerned when they see the footage, but it is important they are aware most creches operate to a high standard, Dr Moloney said. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Hyde & Seek creche on Shaw Street in Dublin. Many parents are going to be extremely concerned when they see the footage, but it is important they are aware most creches operate to a high standard, Dr Moloney said. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

An apparent lack of staff training at the Hyde & Seek chain of creches combined with poor safety procedures is a “recipe for disaster”, according to an early childcare expert.

Dr Mary Moloney of the University of Limerick said she was shocked when she first viewed footage gathered by undercover RTÉ researchers from inside the company’s creches.

“My overall impression was one of extremely poor management procedures. And I think a lot of the bad practice stems from that,” said Dr Moloney, who worked as a consultant on the RTÉ Investigates programme which aired on Wednesday.

“One thing that absolutely shocked me to the core was the staff who had no awareness of what SIDS [sudden infant death syndrome] stood for. My mind just couldn’t comprehend that.

“That taken with what we saw in the sleep rooms was a recipe for disaster.”

She said the footage showing so many cots placed in one room that staff “couldn’t even get to the children if they were upset” was alarming.

The practice of allowing children to sleep in “bouncers” was also shocking, Dr Moloney said. “They are totally unaware of the risk that poses to little children’s airways.”

Hyde & Seek says it has since addressed the cot overcrowding issue and has stopped using bouncing chairs.

Concerned

Many parents are going to be extremely concerned when they see the footage, but it is important they are aware most creches operate to a high standard, Dr Moloney said.

Most people get into the industry because of a love for children and want to do as best as they can

“I have had so many phone calls over the last few days by creche owners who are outraged, saying they do their best to comply and that they don’t want to be painted by the same brush.

“Most people get into the industry because of a love for children and want to do as best as they can.”

Tanya Ward of the Children’s Rights Alliance said she had yet to view the footage, but had examined Tusla inspection reports of Hyde & Seek facilities. One of these reports highlighted children were being given diluted milk, while another found 36 children were being fed by a meal containing just six chicken breasts.

“Something as fundamental as that tells you something about the ethos of a centre,” she said.

Ms Ward said Tusla requires stronger inspection powers for childcare facilities which are repeatedly found in breach of regulations. It should also be easier to close down centres or deny them Government funding.

“Not one cent of public money should be going to a centre that waters down milk.”

Quality of care

Responding to the programme, Tusla, the child and family agency, said it recognised and shared the serious concerns the programme raised about the quality of care within these creches, “but more importantly the impact of concerning adult behaviours on children”.

In 2018 Tusla carried out 2,513 inspections, and reports are available on Tusla’s website

Brian Lee, director of quality assurance, said “every single registered service provider in Ireland has been inspected, and the majority of service providers are compliant with the majority of regulations”.

“In 2018 Tusla carried out 2,513 inspections, and reports are available on Tusla’s website,” he said.

“However, in a small number of cases enforcement action is necessary and in those instances Tusla can and does take action, up to and including closing the service and/or taking a criminal prosecution.”

He said Tusla had contacted RTÉ to seek any further information that will assist it to take any further action to protect children.