Friday 26 July 2019
Gardaí now called in to crèche at centre of mistreatment claims
The crèche chain at the centre of a damning undercover exposé is set to be investigated by the Garda Child Protection Unit.
Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, has obtained a copy of the secretly filmed television footage showing distressing practices involving mistreatment and emotional abuse of children, at centres run by the Hyde and Seek crèche company. It has handed the tape over to gardaí.
Gardaí in two Dublin stations are asking any parents or guardians who have complaints to contact them.
A Garda spokesman said they were “aware of issues raised by the RTÉ ‘Prime Time Investigates’ programme” aired on Wednesday night.
Gardaí in Mountjoy are separately investigating an alleged assault on a young girl at one of the crèches. This separate incident is alleged to have taken place earlier this month. Gardaí visited the crèche and it is understood no arrests have been made.
“An Garda Síochána are notified where there is identifiable harm to children of a child protection nature,” Tusla confirmed.
As parents spoke of their distress, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he was “appalled”.
“I know that a lot of parents dropping their kids off to crèche or to preschool this morning must have been that little bit more worried or that little bit more nervous than they would be normally,” he said.
Several parents of children attending the chain’s crèches expressed their devastation.
“We are devastated by what was revealed by the programme. We trusted the crèche to provide the standards of care it advertised and undertook to provide, at all times, and from all carers. This trust was badly misplaced,” they said.
The Hyde and Seek chain is family run by Anne Davy and her husband Peter and has centres in Shaw Street, Tolka Road and Glasnevin.
Tusla said yesterday it is already taking enforcement proceedings against the chain and it will be using the disturbing footage, taken by two undercover childcare workers, to speed up the action.
The programme showed flagrant breaches of safety including blocked fire exits, crammed cots, lack of Garda vetting of staff and children being held down to make them go to sleep.
Milk was diluted with water and children were served cheap noodles instead of the vegetable dish in the menu given to parents.
Tusla said it had closed down five crèches since the beginning of last year for contravening child welfare and protection laws.
A spokesman for Hyde and Seek, one of whose owners Anne Davy has stepped down from frontline work, said the company would be calling in external consultants to look at the service.
He insisted the “overall picture it painted does not reflect who we are, but there are specific issues we need to address and are addressing quickly”.
“One of the first changes we make will be the recruitment of a new manager at our Tolka Road crèche, which was the focus of much of the criticism in the programme.
“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.”
Tanya Ward, CEO of the Children’s Rights Alliance, warned that any childcare facility that continually flouted regulations must face sanctions, funding cuts and closure.
“The question has to be asked whether centres that fail to comply with regulations should get any Government funding at all towards parents’ childcare fees.”
The company received €1.25m in State funding to cover subsidised childcare over the last five years.
“A Programme for a Partnership Government committed to withdrawing funding from providers that do not meet quality standards in the free pre-school scheme. We are calling on Government to expedite this commitment and introduce a new quality mark to ensure that public money doesn’t go to non-compliant providers,” she added.
Tusla, which is responsible for regulating 4,500 crèches and childminders, said that if a crèche provider was prosecuted under the current regulation then it would be prohibited from operating an early years’ service.
“If a provider is removed from the register they are entitled to make a new application which the Tusla Early Years’ Inspectorate will consider.”
A spokeswoman said inspection should happen every three years but they are done more regularly than this. Where there is an immediate concern, it can trigger an immediate inspection. All registered providers have been inspected, and the majority are compliant with the majority of regulations, she added.
Speaking in Donegal last night, the Taoiseach said: “I think I speak for everybody in the country when I say that I was really appalled by what we saw on ‘Prime Time’ in relation to the way that children were treated.
“And I know that a lot of parents dropping their kids off to crèche or to preschool this morning must have been that little bit more worried or that little bit more nervous than they would be normally.
“But we do want to reassure people this was just about one particular chain and we’re confident that what people saw last night doesn’t reflect standards across the crèche sector, or the childcare sector, or the preschool sector at all.
“We do have some very strong regulations in this area around minimum standards and over the past four or five years.”
If any parent or guardian has any concerns in relation to this matter, they can contact gardaí at Mountjoy 01-666 8600 or Pearse Street 01-666900.
TUSLA guidelines set out strict adult to child ratios which crèches must adhere to so that staff can look after children in their care.
But on 75 per cent of the days the RTÉ undercover researcher worked in the Tolka Road branch, room ratios were in breach of regulations – sometimes they were minor but more often they were serious breaches.
The normal staff to child ratio is 1:8 but 1:20 was observed.
Anne Davy was prosecuted and convicted in 2004 when staff at the Tolka Road branch left a 3-year-old boy on his own at a playground.
And in 2007, she was convicted for breaching regulations around child to adult ratios, and failing to keep records.
It has also emerged one branch of the business, the Hyde and Seek creche in Glasnevin which opened in 2018, went unregistered for 14 months.
For months after the creche opened, there was an exchange of correspondence between the company and the Child and Family Agency, TUSLA, with the agency requesting it complete its registration.
It continued to operate without registration – meaning it was not subject to regulatory inspections and checks.
Earlier this year at Dublin District Court, Hyde and Seek pleaded guilty to non-registration and given the benefit of the probation act.
It was eventually registered on 1 March 2019.
Crucially, the the poor practises RTÉ witnessed were they said not performed by care staff but by owner Anne Davy herself.
In a statement, Hyde and Seek Childcare said Anne Davy ‘will take no future role in the front line childcare provision’ and acknowledged ‘that in recent months she has occasionally fallen below the standards of our behavioural management policy, and has found herself being short, rather than simply direct.’
It said that ‘in recent days, we have had unannounced TUSLA inspections and fire safety inspections at several of our premises and we do not believe any major issues will arise from them.
‘We operate an open door policy and parents are free to visit our creches at any time.
‘We are in ongoing contact with parents of children who use the services featured in [the] programme this week and expect to meet many of them in the coming days.’
Fred: Abhorrent behaviour by the State who part funded Creche facilities and the privateers who today have received An Garda Siochana; criminal charges may follow:- In the last 20 years we have been bombarded on a daily and a weekly basis in the hunting down of child abusers, paedophiles lurking at work or a home and rightly so. Many people have come before the courts, but sadly too many, have walked out with suspended sentences (one Judge in particular prefers suspension). Catherine Capone and Leo stated, after watching the RTE programme, on the above (Wednesday night) that they were horrified. I like many others today am horrified and angry about the lack of an urgent response that this deplorable viewing highlighted and the vulnerable children and what they were subjected to at this creche which you could compare with to a Nazi camp. Like many other people I did not realise that this creche is funded by the Irish Government (taxpayers) to the tune of £1.2 mn. One would have to ask a question today: After decades from the fall-out from the Catholic Church and other Churches in relation to child abuse let us not kid fool ourselves that ABUSE has disappeared in the Ireland. In fact it is quite the contrary. Abuse of children is more prevalent now in Irish society than decades ago and the reason I am saying this that the cover-ups now are more organised and sadly in sum cases by the establishment of the day. This woman Anne Davy has appeared in the Dublin District court for breaching laws in relation to childrens’ safety and she has been convicted in all cases. Now one would have to ask – Where is TUSLA? But like Gsoc it is unfit for purpose. They say they lack resources but Tulsa had no problem in falsifying documents and rape charges against Maurice McCabe, a decent former Garda and they had no problem in keeping the file active for almost 7 years. Gsoc will never be able to function until the Gardai who work there are removed and outside expertise is sought and employed. The programme on Wednesday night showed how far we have not progressed in relation to the protection and the care all children deserve on this island. Sadly the harsh reality is the programme made us aware that ABUSE NEGLECT RESTRAINING CHILDREN INTO HIGH CHAIRS FOR HOURS WATERING DOWN MILK AND IN SOME CASES ONLY GIVING THEM 50 CENT MEALS TO CUT COSTS. WE AGAIN HAVE BROUGHT SHAME TO OUR COUNTRY AND THE GOVERNMENT SADLY ARE SPONSORING THAT SHAME BY FUNDING THIS ROGUE CRECHE. TULSA STATED THAT THEY DON’T HAVE THE AUTHORITY TO CLOSE IT DOWN. I DON’T ACCEPT THIS. THE GARDAI SHOULD BE IN PLACE IMMEDIATELY AND CERTAIN STAFF SHOULD BE TAKEN IN FOR QUESTIONING.
I will conclude – a Nation is judged by how it treats it’s most vulnerable. Ireland has failed yet again but this time I hope the parents stand up and demand answers and convictions of those who are behind the orchestrated abuse.