HSE and Gardai investigating creches after RTE exposé
Children in creche File photo posed by models
GARDAI AND THE HSE are probing claims children were mistreated by staff in Dublin creches following an undercover investigation by RTÉ’s Prime Time.
A worker has been dismissed and at least three others have been suspended after an RTÉ researcher secretly filmed staff in a number of childcare centres.
A reporter with basic childcare qualifications recorded staff in the Links Childcare creche in Abington, Malahide and in a Giraffe Childcare centre in Belarmine, South Dublin.
The HSE today confirmed it had received reports from the gardai regarding three independent child care facilities in the Dublin area.
“HSE Children and Family services are working with An Gardai Siochana to review the reports and make an assessment with respect to any child welfare and protection concerns,” a statement said.
“As this process is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this time.”
The garda press office said it had received complaints of “possible mistreatment of children” in two Dublin creches.
The investigations follow an announcement by Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald on Tuesday that her department intended to introduce ”a more comprehensive and broader-based inspection regime” for preschools.
It is believed RTÉ’s investigation was sparked by a tip off from the public and research on childcare standards by Prime Time staff.
Parents were said to be “horrified” when contacted by the station with details of what has been described as a ”nightmare situation”.
“It never set out to be a persecution of creches, it was intended to ask questions of the standard of childcare in the country – what are the safeguards?” a source said.
RTÉ said it could not confirm the specifics of the programme prior to transmission as all editorial and legal processes had not concluded.
“Rigid production and editorial standards have been observed under the guidance of RTÉ’s own journalism guidelines, and childcare experts,” a spokesperson said.
All issues regarding the programme’s findings were reported to the HSE and the creches concerned at an early stage.”
The programme produced by RTÉ’s Prime Time Investigation Unit will be broadcast early next week.
The Links Childcare centre in Malahide is one of 10 crehces owned by Deirdre and Padraig Kelly, who also live in the North Dublin seaside town.
Annual accounts for the pair’s company, The Links Creche and Montessori Limited, show a surplus of €1.6million in its profits and loss account.
Two separate childcare companies were set up by the Kellys last year but have yet to file accounts. The couple also own a motor company and a delicatessen.
Giraffe Childcare Limited has five registered directors including property developer, Tony Kilduff, and recent accounts show the company had a
€14million gross profit. The other directors are Siobhan Moore, Mary Ann McCormack, Anthony McCormack and Simon Dowling.
The company has 21 creches across Dublin and Kildare and has received major investment in recent years.
A Giraffe spokeswoman said a former employee who worked in its Belarmine centre for six weeks contacted them with a complaint in late April.
She said the company later discovered an RTE researcher purporting to be an edu-carer filed complaints about staff and procedure to the HSE.
The company said it has suspended three staff as a “precautionary measure” while it is investigating the claims.
The childcare group found out last Sunday that RTÉ had secretly filmed employees in the creche and the company has asked the station for the footage so it can review the allegations made.
A spokeswoman said: “We are seriously concerned to learn of any possibility of poor quality care in our Centre at Belarmine. Our immediate priority is to establish the facts and to immediately implement whatever remedial actions are required. We will keep our parents informed on these developments as they occur.”
Links Childcare could not be reached for comment.