Dublin South West TD, Seán Crowe, has said that the revelations on the recent RTÉ Investigates programme about childcare facilities raises serious questions for legislators and society in general about how we look after our children.

The Sinn Féin TD said that the government and the Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, need to get real about the early years and child care sector, because their laid-back and light touch legislative approach to these services is not delivering for our children.

Deputy Seán Crowe said:

“The recent RTÉ Investigates programme about a childcare facility was extremely disturbing to watch. The investigation revealed disturbing practices at a chain of Hyde and Seek crèches in Dublin. The children were clearly being treated appallingly and the footage appeared to show the crèche breaking the most basic standards of childcare, including gross overcrowding. 

 “At an Oireachtas meeting following the programme it has now emerged that Tusla does not have the statutory authority to shut down unregistered crèches and that only course of action it has is to write a cease-and-desist letter. If that is unsuccessful, they may proceed with legal action – which can take months.

“We need to see the immediate closure of many of these creches while an investigation takes place to ensure that children are being cared for in a safe, proper, and caring environment. That is key to all this. We also need legislative changes in this regard. No more time can be wasted – this needs to happen now. It can’t be left up to RTE Investigates team to monitor the early years sector.

“I support the call from Early Childhood Ireland for the Department of Children to establish a team of childcare specialists to investigate the failings at Hyde and Seek crèches. They need to be empowered to implement substantial changes, deliver significant and sustainable interventions, and to identify flaws in the current childcare system, some of whom were identified by the Primetime Investigates programme.”

Crowe continued:

“The government and Minister Zappone need to urgently adopt a new proactive approach when it comes to the Early Years and the Child Care sector. It should not be a for profit sector. That needs to be agreed as a starting point on the way forward.

“Childcare should be seen as an investment in our children and their future, in nourishing them and encouraging them to be the very best that they can be.

“It should not be the for profit sector that we saw in this programme and which is demanding huge fees parents.

“For the large part, early years services deliver high quality care to children and workers in this sector are committed to delivering a crucial service. Most of these workers are on very low wages and in precarious working conditions. They are massively undervalued in terms of pay and conditions. The early years workforce must be valued if we expect our children to be valued.

“It’s about time that this government used public and taxpayers’ money to ensure that we have good quality, affordable, and accessible childcare that cherishes children and childcare workers.”