Posted by SchoolDays Newshound on 26/07/2013. Tags: Parenting Kids Health
The issue of childcare
is always a sensitive one, but it has been thrust into the spotlight in recent weeks following reports of mistreatment at three creches. This was followed by claims that staff cutbacks have resulted in a reduction in the number of creche inspections and suggestions that the evaluations are failing to focus on the quality of care.
It is therefore important that greater emphasis is placed on improving the standard of childcare in Ireland, to not only reassure parents wanting to leave their sons and daughters in the care of others, but also to make sure children are safe and properly looked after in these facilities.
Childcare standards concerns
Concerns were raised about the quality of childcare in Ireland towards the end of May following the airing of an RTE Prime Time programme.
Included in the episode was the suggestion of mistreatment of children in three creches - Giraffe Childcare and Early Learning Centre in Belarmine, Links Childcare in Abington Wood and Little Harvard in Rathnew - with the show featuring evidence gathered from various sources, including Health Service Executive (HSE) reports, internal HSE documentation and undercover filming.
The programme was entitled A Breach of Trust and centred on a report from the RTE Investigations Unit. It raised concerns about the creches in a number of areas, including faults with training, issues with inspection systems and breaches of regulation.
It was shown in the footage that children had been treated aggressively at nap time and even strapped into their chairs outside for as long as two hours at a time.
Before the broadcast of the programme, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said: "These allegations will throw doubt into every parent's mind about whether quality is good enough ... it is a terrible position for parents to be in.
"But there is more and more training [and] more and more emphasis on quality in the sector."
Cutbacks 'affecting creche inspections'
The Irish Examiner recently reported figures from a HSE regional health forum that revealed a marked fall in the number of inspections carried out in Ireland over the past two years.
It was shown that assessments of this type have reduced by almost one-third (30 per cent) in this period - leading to Ms Fitzgerald and Health Minister Dr James Reilly to offer reassurances that the HSE is working hard to make sure everything is being done to address the issue.
However, opposition parties claimed the main reason for the drop in the number is that the inspection system is under-resourced. Fianna Fail children's spokesman Robert Troy commented on the matter: "Every creche should be checked at least once a year, but this isn't happening.
"The fact is, as the health committee has been told, there are more animal welfare inspectors in the country than early years services inspectors."
Concerns about focus of inspections
A new survey from Early Childhood Ireland - which represents childcare providers - found that 82 per cent of creche owners would be more than happy for the results of their inspections to be made available. However, concerns were raised about the focus of the assessments, the Irish Times reported.
Indeed, many of those questioned said they were unhappy with the way inspections are carried out, claiming that rather than placing emphasis on the quality of care, they are centring too much on 'dust behind the radiator' and other less important factors.
Written by Donal Walsh