Public still reeling from creches’ ‘breach of trust’

New legislation is said to regulate crèches-Photo by Laura Somers

New legislation is said to regulate crèches-Photo by Laura Somers

Following the RTÉ’s Prime Time Investigates exposé on some of the country’s leading crèches, Jennifer McDonald explores the impact it’s had on the public and the crèches themselves.

The Prime Time Investigates programme on crèches was one of the most talked about of the year. The revelations from the programme left the nation in shock.

The programme titled ‘A Breach of Trust’ contained footage captured with hidden cameras revealing childcare workers shouting at young children, fabricating diaries and strapping children into chairs for hours on end.

Since, new measures have been signed off by ministers in an aim to strengthen the regulation of pre-school childcare services. However, regulating facilities is one thing but the staff also need to be regulated says a Dublin childcare student.

This student spoke anonymously to The Liberty about her concerns in the industry.  She told us that while on placement last year in a crèche in North Dublin she was often left in charge of children with a Community Employment worker. “Neither of us had a full qualification to be left in charge of kids without supervision,” she says.

Under new legislation inspectors will have new enforcement powers and uncooperative facilities will see their registration removed. The Minister for Children, Frances Fitzgerald, spoke to Newstalk Breakfast and said: “If you lose your registration you will not be able to continue.” She also added that several warnings would be given before a facility would be put out of business.

“Due process will be in place. If these standards are not in place, then playschools and pre-schools will get time to correct them but we will ensure now that inspectors have the power, if improvements are not made, to say you will lose your registration,” said the Minister for Children.

The Liberty took to the streets to find out what local people had to say about the crèche scandal.

“I wouldn’t consider putting my child, if I had one, into a chain of crèches. The problem seems to be centred around the chains. I’d put them into a private crèche,” says Caroline Dalton (26).

Large for-profit creche chains have been criticised for their reaction following the scandal.  Speaking on RTÉ News, special rapporteur on child protection Geoffrey Shannon criticised the chains for what he said was “absolutely appalling” silence following the exposé.

Currently there are 39 inspectors in the field and Fitzgerald said that she aims to have another 10 by the end of the year.  The Department of Children and Youth Affairs predicts that the new powers for inspectors will mostly remove the need for court prosecutions.

Liberties locals Claire and Bernard Carey said that they wouldn’t put a child into a crèche “unless I really knew that they were well trained, the people running them.” When asked if they were surprised by what they saw on the Prime Time programme, they said: “Yes, we certainly were.”

Irene Gunning, Chief Executive of Early Childhood Ireland, spoke to Newstalk in the wake of the scandal and said that their members are stepping up openness with parents following the revelations. “People who have good crèche facilities, the parents know it,” she said.

Gavin Duffy, a local and father, said that the crèche scandal didn’t change his opinions completely. “It didn’t change dramatically but maybe a small bit, but as a parent I’d probably just be a bit more cautious of them [crèches].  They vary from one to another and you tend to get to know the people in there as well if you pay a little bit of attention.  It has made me think I should be a bit more vigilant and a bit more concerned.”

New measures have been introduced this year, aiming to regulate crèches, pre-schools and after-school services.

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