Belfast Telegraph

Minister ‘disgusted’ at treatment of children in creches

An undercover investigation into the standard of care at Dublin’s Hyde & Seek childcare chain revealed how children were roughly handled.

An undercover investigation into the standard of care at Hyde and Seek childcare chain in Dublin revealed how children were roughly handled (Anthony Devlin/PA)
An undercover investigation into the standard of care at Hyde and Seek childcare chain in Dublin revealed how children were roughly handled (Anthony Devlin/PA)

The children’s minister said she is disgusted and appalled at the mistreatment of children at a number of Dublin creches.

An undercover investigation into the standard of care at the Hyde & Seek childcare chain revealed how children were roughly handled.

It also showed a series of fire-safety breaches at the multimillion-euro family-run business.

The company has four creches across Dublin city catering for children from three months up to 12 years old.

The investigation was carried out by RTE programme, Behind Closed Doors.

Undercover footage revealed repeated breaches of regulation, as well as concerns around sleep room conditions.

At the company’s creche on Tolka Road in Dublin, cots were packed so tightly together workers found it difficult to provide appropriate care for children at nap times.

Frequent and significant breaches of ratios were also found at the branch.

I share parents’ distress at seeing young children being subjected to such abhorrent behaviour Katherine Zappone

Anne Davey, the owner of Hyde & Seek, resigned ahead of the documentary which aired on Wednesday night.

Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone said she was “shocked and angered” at the mistreatment of the children.

“I was appalled and horrified. I share parents’ distress at seeing young children being subjected to such abhorrent behaviour. I am disgusted by what I saw,” she said.

The minister said she remains confident in Tusla, the independent regulator of child services, adding that Tusla has been taking “robust action” to address poor standards and management failings.

She added: “While there is clearly more to be done to improve quality standards, we have come a long way and we must maintain this momentum for several years to come.

“My department has introduced a minimum qualification for all staff working with children in creches or pre-school services, we established a national Quality Development Service where experts are available to mentor and advise Early Learning and Care practitioners.

“In addition, Tusla was given new powers in 2016 and I have substantially increased Tusla’s funding, which has enabled it to nearly double the number of inspections since 2014 and to address malpractice where it is found.”

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Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone (Niall Carson/PA)

Brian Lee, director of quality assurance at Tusla, however, said he will call for further powers from the Government.

“We don’t have powers of immediate closure and that is something that I am going to be seeking from the Department of Children, Youth and Affairs,” he said.

“We need those powers.

“We have to make a very clear case of evidence to make sure a service is closed and we are in that process with this service now that we actually have footage of child protection issues and serious breaches of regulation.

“We are going to be taking swift action with these services using all the powers available to take this registered provider to task.”

He added: “I am going to make sure the full rigour of the law is applied in this case.”

In 2004 company owner Ms Davy was prosecuted and convicted when staff from their Tolka Road branch left behind a three-year-old boy on his own at a local playground, she was also convicted for a number of other regulatory breaches of regulations.

Three years later in 2007 she was convicted again for breaching regulations including child to adult ratios and failing to keep records.

During these years the company changed name three times.

Alan Farrell, the chairman of the Committee on Children and Youth Affairs called for the cross-party group to convene “as soon as possible”.

The Fine Gael TD said the issues raised in the documentary must be discussed with Tusla and Ms Zappone, as a matter of urgency.

He said: “I am absolutely appalled by the mistreatment of children and clear lack of standards revealed on Primetime’s investigation.

“The disregard of fire safety, the prioritisation of staffing needs over children and the wanton disregard for child:adult ratios have deeply shocked the nation.

“The documentary revealed a complete failure to adhere to Tusla guidelines and instructions, poor management and unbelievable mishandling of children.

“And all of this from a company that made huge profits over the previous years on the back of state contributions, topping 2.5 million euro after wages.”

PA

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