Ireland's childcare minister wants more 'robust follow-up' on nursery inspections

Katy Morton
Friday, May 31, 2013

Ireland's children's minister has ordered an investigation into nursery inspection reports following the abuse allegations at a Dublin nursery group.

The minister has commissioned the HSE, the equivalent of Ofsted, to conduct an analysis of inspection reports carried out at 'commercial childcare chains'.

The move follows the broadcast of a TV programme about standards in childcare on Irish channel RTE last Tuesday, which revealed alleged mistreatment of children at three Dublin crèches.

The programme showed scenes of children being shouted at and physically restrained at three early years settings, one of which is owned by Giraffe Childcare, one of Ireland's largest private nursery providers.

The alleged mistreatment of children at the three Dublin crèches is being investigated by Garda, the Irish police Force, and HSE.

Frances Fitzgerald, the minister for children and youth affairs, told the Senate of Ireland (Senand Eireann) on Thursday (30 May) that she found scenes from the programme ‘distressing, shocking and absolutely unacceptable’. Also, that the ‘matters addressed in the programme deserve and demand a comprehensive response’.

She went on to say, ‘We must learn the lessons of past inspections and we also need more robust follow-up on inspection findings’.

The minister said that HSE is currently logging all prosecutions, with plans to make the information accessible to parents.

Other changes being made by HSE include a requirement for early years setting to register with the inspectorate and inspections reports to be available to view online.

Currently, childcare providers only need to notify the HSE of their intention to set up a nursery. Inspection reports can only be accessed via a provider or by contacting an inspector.

The minister added that a ‘more comprehensive and broader-based pre-school inspection regime is being developed, which will move away from a narrow focus on compliance only, to a greater focus on children’s outcomes, including educational development and child well-being.'

Ireland’s first ever Early Years Strategy is expected to be published this year and work is underway on a pre-school quality agenda.

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