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Parents looking to Dáil for assurance that childcare mistreatment will not be tolerated – Ó Caoláin

29 May, 2013 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Speaking in the Dáil ‘topical issues’ debate on the revelation of mistreatment of children in childcare facilities, Sinn Féin health & children spokesperson, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, said the public are now looking to the Dáil and the Government to ensure that such practices are no longer tolerated.

He said:

“The RTÉ investigation of childcare facilities ‘Breach of Trust’ is the talk of Ireland today. Parents with children in childcare are extremely worried and they are looking to us here in the Dáil for assurance that the practices seen on our screens last night will not be tolerated.

“Strapping toddlers to chairs for hours on end, shouting in their faces, tossing them about like rag dolls, forcing them down on mattresses with blankets over their heads, locking them alone in rooms – these are appalling practices witnessed in crèches in this State.

“It is hugely distressing for the children and parents directly affected in the crèches concerned. It is distressing also for parents who feel that their children might be subject to similar treatment. And it is distressing for the majority of childcare providers who do their jobs well and provide proper care for children.

“The HSE has itself admitted that there is light touch regulation and that, damningly, there is over-emphasis on the business interests of childcare providers. This is not surprising given the fact that the previous Fianna Fáil/PD administration opted for a model of childcare based primarily on private for-profit providers with minimal trained staff and low pay. They took the same approach to care of older people.

“A review and reform of regulations, with legislative change, is clearly necessary. State funding for childcare should be more closely tied to strict adherence to regulations. This is essential if the free pre-school year is to be extended to two years.

“There needs to be a fundamental review of the policy of dependence on the private for-profit sector for the vast majority of childcare. The training and pay of childcare staff needs to be upgraded. It is a sad indictment that in this society carers are so undervalued – be they family carers in the home or those providing front-line care in crèches and nursing homes. The system is geared to ensure a profit for private providers at the expense of low-paid workers and, as a consequence, with sub-standard care.

“We in Sinn Féin have long advocated comprehensive and well-funded childcare provision. I have questioned the Minister on these issues during the current Dáil. She has spoken of new strategies and programmes and plans. That is all very well but without funding commitments they will be meaningless. We are prepared to work in a cross-party manner to advance these issues. The new Child and Family Support Agency will take a lead role but it must be funded and equipped to do so."

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