Posted: July 25th, 2019
Dublin-based childcare group Hyde and Seek are bracing themselves for coming creche scandal compensation claims, government agency investigations and criminal convictions after an RTE Investigates report uncovered multiple cases of child maltreatment and breaches of childcare management legislation.
The report showed a range of illegal and unprofessional work practices in the four crechés owned and operated by the group. Ahead of the airing of the show one of the owners of Hyde and Seek, Anne Davy, has stepped down from frontline work with immediate effect.
This is not the first time that Ms Davy has found herself answering for breaches of childcare legislation as she was convicted in 2004 after her staff left a three-year-old boy on his own at a local playground. Following this, in 2007, she was convicted for breaching child care requirements including child to adult ratios and failing to keep adequate records. Following these convictions Davy’s company changed name on three separate occasions.
As part of the report, two undercover childcare workers were sought employment at crèches managed by the Hyde and Seek chain for RTÉ Investigates. They discovered serious violations of legislation, best childcare practice and required safety procedures. Child Protection Agency Tusla had completed 11 inspections at the facilities since September 2017 and, despite passing these reviews, children were being badly treated and place at serious risk in the event of fire.
Babies were seen to be left in high chairs for considerable periods of time which lead to them to becoming very stressed. One child was placed by themself in a room with the door closed due to perceived bad behaviour. The reporters also recorded incidents of poor food quality and inappropriate staff to child ratios.
This was only the beginning as it was seen that new staff, including one of the undercover reporters, was allowed to begin employment before they were appropriately Garda vetted. Sleeping conditions were another area of some worry as infants were placed to sleep on bouncers and there was not enough space between the cots to allow child care staff monitor the children.
Tusla issued a statement saying: “We recognise and share the serious concerns the programme raises about the quality of care within these crèches, but more importantly the impact of concerning adult behaviours on children.” The body will review the case and apply sanction up to and including criminal prosecutions and removing Hyde & Seek creches from the childcare register.
The Hyde & Seek group release a public statement commiting to their efforts to improve their practices. It said: “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. We note that while the programme made criticisms of aspects of our service, it praised our childcare staff whose dedication, professionalism and kindness are central to the care we provide.”
Speaking in relation to the incident, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar 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,” said Mr Varadkar in Donegal tonight. 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.”
It is likely that the Hyde and Seek group will now be facing a number of creche scandal compensation claims from parents and guardians of the children who were attending the Hyde and Seek crechés.