There are more children in crèches or other centre-based care in Ireland than ever before. But the shocking RTÉ Prime Time report on one particular crèche has prompted many parents to reevaluate their choices.
"Our trust has been betrayed," the statement read from the 35 parents at the centre of the Hyde and Seek crèche controversy. They met yesterday to discuss the programme and said they felt "devastated" by its content. Footage taken by undercover reporters from inside the Dublin facilities showed children sleeping in unsuitable spaces, breaches of fire safety, food quality and staff to child ratios.
Related: We need radical reform for our childcare system right now
But it was the rough handling of the child that really got us in the gut. At one stage, Anne Davey, the owner and manager of the creche, is shown physically pushing a child's head into the mattress, holding her hand over the child's eyes to make it sleep as it struggled, trapped beneath her grasp. And throughout the entire report, there were parents all over the country watching it unfold with tears in their eyes.
Creche care is a reality of modern living. It is a place where we place our children to keep them safe, cared for, and happy while we go out to work, and it doesn't come cheap. The fact that young babies and children can be mistreated like this under the care of those we are paying, is devastating. The creche chain said it is "addressing specific issues" quickly but that the "overall picture painted does not reflect who we are".
But the most damning part of this situation is how this was allowed to happen and why it took RTE reporters to uncover such bad practices. The parents say they want answers. “Furthermore, we trusted that the State, through the Department and its regulatory and oversight body (Tusla), would provide a framework within which the breaches of regulations broadcast last night could not occur."
A recent survey carried out by Pobal found that there are over 200 thousand children attending early years services, a 9% increase on last year. But according to a group representing the sector high staff turnover in crèches is a cause for concern (staff turnover rates in the past year was 24%.)
Of course, as it has been pointed out, there are hundreds of excellent facilities all over the country who treat other people's children with the respect and care they deserve. For every upsetting and negative story, there are thousands of parents who are happy to share their happy experiences with their child's creche. But is there a better way?
Abroad, they do things a little differently.
"There are ways to improve the current system to improve the quality of life both working parents and their children".
Suzanne moved to Sweden with her family. She told the Irish Times that childcare costs were the biggest factor. "We both earned good salaries but after mortgage and crèche fees there wasn’t enough. We both worked four-day weeks, as after-tax it was cheaper to do that than put our kids in full-time childcare. We used to pay over €1,000 for three days a week, and that included the ECCE supplement. Now we pay around €180 for two full-time places. We receive €290 in children’s allowance. It is subsidised by the tax you pay. I am really happy with the level of care."
The school system in most continental European countries runs until 4 or 5 pm which means parents are not shelling out for all-day care. Why are Irish primary school buildings sitting empty for half a day while parents pay a fortune for childcare? There are ways to enhance the current system to improve the quality of day to day life of both working parents and their children.
In Canada, daycare centres must meet certain standards to be registered. Parents can pay anything from the equivalent of €4.60 per day to €6.60 a day per child. These are for daycare facilities that are registered for government subsidy.
High taxes should bring better government subsidised child-care. That doesn't seem to be happening here in Ireland. Here it is expensive and questions have now been raised about how many other facilities have been allowed slip the net. In this case, Hyde and Seek was not registered correctly, despite receiving millions in government funding, for not just sub-standard care but care that might even endanger children.
On Twitter, parents were rightly frustrated about the gaps in regulation which allowed this to go unchecked. Many demanded to know how they could ensure their child would be safe. "I have done my research but I can't police the policies - that's up to the regulator" wrote one user. "I'm pregnant with my first child and am now freaking out. How do I know if the creche I pick will treat my baby well if this is allowed to happen?" wrote another.
"This creche is unlikely to be the only one operating in such a manner. What kind of system is this?" asked one father.
Working parents and their children deserve more. It is time to demand much better for our children.
Image via Unsplash.com
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