An RTÉ Investigates’ expose has revealed a number of significant shortcomings in the management and supervision of crèches are still prevalent despite a previous investigation highlighting creché mismanagement two years ago.
‘RTÉ Investigates’ sent in two undercover childcare workers to crèches managed by the Hyde and Seek chain and showed serious violations breaches of good practice and safety procedures. Despite 11 inspections being conducted by Tusla since September 2017, children in various facilities in Dublin belonging to the company were being ill-treated and left at serious risk in the event of fire.
Footage in the documentary showed babies being left in high chairs for lengthy periods of time, causing them to become highly traumatised and being left alone in a room with the door closed for misbehaving. There were also some concerns raised in relation to food quality, and staff to child ratios.
Some of the other serious issues encountered by the undercover reporters included:
- Workers not being Garda vetted prior to taking up employment.
- Babies being left to sleep on bouncers, despite Tusla warning against this practice in previous reviews.
- Insufficient space being allowed between cots to allow staff to check sleeping babies
Child protection agency Tusla has committed to completing an investigation and taking the necessary action, up to and including criminal prosecutions and removing Hyde & Seek creches from the register so they can no longer do business. A statement released by the agency said: “We recognise and share the serious concerns the programme raises about the quality of care within these crèches, but more importantly the impact of concerning adult behaviours on children.”
A representative for the Hyde & Seek group said: “We know we need to work to rebuild, retain and enhance the trust our parents have in us. We have spoken to many of them in recent days and would urge others with concerns to contact us. We are available to talk to and meet parents at any time. We note that while the programme made criticisms of aspects of our service, it praised our childcare staff whose dedication, professionalism and kindness are central to the care we provide.”
The statement said that the RTE investigation that highlighted “some real issues for us and we will deal with them quickly” but that it “does not reflect who we are”. It committed to the group reviewing the matter and addressing all issues quickly.
This controversy comes less than three years following a tightening of the laws governing 4,500 childcare facilities following a previous RTÉ expose on the management of crechés called ‘A Breach of Trust’. The economically successful Hyde and Seek chain of crechés is family-run and consists of four crèches in the Dublin area.
Katherine Zappone, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs released a statement to say how saddened she was at the treatment of the children in the creches featured while Alan Farrell , Fine Gael TD and chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Children said: “I am absolutely appalled by the mistreatment of children and clear lack of standards revealed on Primetime’s investigation last night.”
He went on to say: “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.”
It is likely that the Hyde and Seek group will now be facing a number of personal injury compensation actions from parents of the unfortunate children.