August 28, 2014

MummyPages uncovers the pressure facing early childcare facilities in Ireland, Ireland’s largest online parenting community investigates the real issues facing crèche owners in Ireland. Recent figures obtained from Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, highlighted major regional variation in the level of inspections of early childcare facilities but that is just the tip of the iceberg, according to crèche owners in the private childcare sector.

 MummyPages can reveal that crèche owners across the country are battling on a daily basis to meet the new requirements and guidelines put in place by Tusla, the new child and family agency who took over the governing of early childcare facilities from the HSE, following the disturbing undercover RTE Primetime investigation last year.

Crèche owners want to comply, but say that it is impossible when new guidelines on which they are currently being assessed, have not been made available to them. In an effort to make their very real concerns heard, a number of crèche owners have approached the nation’s biggest online parenting community to tell their story. Here we identify the reality of the issues facing crèche owners today and the lack of support offered to them by state agencies:

Key issues for crèche owners in Ireland:

  • Not enough inspectors – Tusla, the Child and Family Agency has only increased the number of crèche inspectors from 38 to 42 in the 18 months since the Primetime investigation. Crèche owners say that this is not good enough. Most early childcare facilities haven’t had an inspection of their facility since the Primetime investigation aired last year. A large number are still waiting to have an inspector assigned to their facility to act as an advisory and liaison on the new regulations and have no one to talk through their issues.
  • New crèche regulations – passed by Tusla in April this year have yet to be shared with the early childcare facilities, yet if they were to be inspected today they would be assessed on these and ruled as non-compliant. The 4-week appeal process would merely allow an addendum to their report and all a parent would see is the initial non-compliance ruling.
  • New education requirements – for staff were introduced following the Primetime programme last year, on which most crèches are now compliant. But this is now set to change again, following an announcement in April. There is no support for crèche owners to help facilitate the required new college courses and very few places available for the number of workers looking for them. This is compounded by the 3-hour arduous application process for just one staff member to request a position on these courses, making it almost impossible for crèche owners to comply with new requirements.
  • Introduction of new obligatory education programme Aistear – for children from 6-months to Montessori age in early childcare facilities now places crèche staff as educators and not carers. Crèche owners are appealing that this curriculum should not be forced on them with zero support as to how to implement this programme or additional funding from the Government.
  • Paperwork is killing the crèche owners. For example a 50-page document has to be completed on every staff member including a re-admittance interview every time they return to work after a sick day. Observations on every child to ensure they are meeting developmental milestones are required every day and the required paperwork completed to reflect this, thus taking the carers away from the children in when important staff to child ratios need to be maintained.

In the wake of the childcare scandal last year following undercover reporting by RTE’s Primetime Investigates series, the government pledged increased investment and tougher inspections to improve childcare standards. However these promises have fallen flat. Tusla has failed to deliver adequate inspections or support to childcare facilities. Last year, the 42 pre-school inspectors made only 2,432 inspections yet there are over 4,600 facilities in Ireland.

Commenting on the regulating issues affect childcare facilities in Ireland is Nathalie Roberts, owner of ‘Star Tots’ crèche:

“Star Tots had its last inspection in April 2013 and previous to that it was in 2010. At present we do not have a HSE officer or inspector assigned to our Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown district. We have no support and no one to go to for advice on different issues. When an inspector does come in, they spend very little time observing the childcare workers, children and overall running of the crèche. Instead they spend 90% of their time in the office checking the paperwork.”

“We are drowning in paperwork. Completing the necessary paperwork is important but the sheer volume is becoming a major concern for management and the staff, as each room must stay in ratio at all times. The emphasis should be on caring for the children and not on the countless forms we are required to fill-in each day.”

“Tusla said in April this year that they have new guidelines to introduce for early childcare facilities. As these have yet to be published and formally given to crèche owners, I’d like to invite a representative to come into my crèche for a week and observe the day-to-day running of a busy child care facility. To date their guidelines have made little sense to crèche owners and are almost impossible to implement. I would like to see any new guidelines sense-checked in a busy crèche environment to see if they can be practically applied and actually contribute to any improvements in the care of the children.”

“Tusla also need to review the inspectors they recruit to review the early childcare facilities. The majority of Tusla inspectors have nursing backgrounds and no experience working in childcare. They simply don’t understand our work and the daily challenges we face each day.”

Laura Haugh, Mum-in-Residence for MummyPages says,

“Crèche owners are calling on Tusla to work together with them in developing the new guidelines for early childcare facilities. We are happy to help make their voice heard since their appeals to government and local support agencies are falling on deaf ears. We agree that any new regulations should be grounded in the reality and practical aspects of running a childcare facility. We support the crèche owners that MummyPages have spoken to and their open invitation to Tusla to come and work with them, and observe their crèche in action.”

“A certain amount of paperwork is of course necessary but the current process seems unmanageable and is taking staff away from our children and the managers away from the front-line supporting their workers.”

“Our MummyPages community were horrified by the childcare investigations aired on television last year. The paperwork didn’t stop childcare workers abusing their positions and the young children in their care, with all those workers investigated meeting the required qualification standards in existence today. A crèche owner/manager needs to be able to spend their time supervising, supporting and listening to their staff and the children in their care so they can spot stress points before they accelerate. It seems that at the moment this is just not possible due to the excessive paperwork required on a daily basis.”

Full story on