The standard of practice in early childhood facilities has come into question after an investigation by the Irish Independent. In one centre, example, the staff child ratio was 2:20 when regulations require 1 adult to every 5.
Dublin, Ireland, July 2012 - Stricter regulation of creches and preschools is being planned to reduce risks to young children, the Irish Independent says.
A new plan is being drawn up by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs that is expected to lead to updated legislation on the screening and monitoring of childcare facilities.
News of the strategy for early childhood care and education facilities comes after an investigation in the Irish Independent highlighted concerns about the neglect and ill-treatment of children in some creches.
Problems included chronic under-staffing with one case where 20 children were being looked after by just two staff, when the ratio should have been one adult to every five.
Other issues uncovered included a lack of background checks on staff responsible for youngsters, and cases where children were injured because of inexperienced carers.
A spokeswoman for Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald confirmed work had been started on a National Early Years Strategy, and this is expected to lead to the tightening of regulations in the childcare industry.
For the first time, joint inspections by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Department of Education are being carried out on a pilot basis in a bid to see how quality checks can be improved.
The spokeswoman said the inspection of preschool facilities is also likely to be transferred from the HSE to the new Child and Family Support Agency, which is to be set up early next year to improve the protection and care of children, including those in State care.
"The matter will be confirmed in the legislation setting up the new agency," she added.
It is not yet clear whether the new strategy will deal with smaller childminding services.
Currently, a creche owner is under no obligation to inform the Health Service Executive (HSE) if operating a business with less than three children.
And under the current system, a businessperson planning to look after more than three children does not have to undergo preliminary checks before they set up a creche.
They do, however, have to notify the HSE of their existence and be subject to inspection.
But, as the Irish Independent discovered, it can take months before a new childminding facility is inspected by the HSE to check out if the welfare of children is protected.
It is only at that point that they must prove they have enough staff, that vetting has been carried out and that they meet space, fire safety and insurance requirements.
For more, see Independent.ie.