More Government funding is needed to improve standards in Ireland's floundering childcare sector, Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald has said.
As cross-party politicians discussed the fallout of an undercover sting that recently exposed the mistreatment of children in three creche facilities, the minister insisted more inspectors must be hired to probe the industry.
"It is very clear there are some areas where there have been unacceptable levels of non-inspection, so we do need more inspectors. That's absolutely clear," Ms Fitzgerald said.
"We need to have people in to fill those vacancies. Undoubtedly some redeployment will be possible, but we will have to examine some extra funding for the sector."
The minister insisted that legislation for the creation of a long-promised single agency with responsibility for child welfare and protection was near completion.
She said the Child and Family Support Agency is one of the largest public sector reforms to be undertaken by the Government, as it will involve 4,000 staff members.
"We will have legislation coming to Government in the next few weeks," she said.
Ms Fitzgerald was addressing a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children where politicians and experts discussed revelations in an RTE Prime Time expose on three creches in Dublin and Wicklow, which aired last month.
Gordon Jeyes, chief executive designate of the Child and Family Support Agency, also attended the hearing.
He said authorities need to "drill down" to see what patterns emerge between childcare facilities and creches in breach of standards.