Following the screening, on Tuesday 28 May 2013, of RTE’s investigative programme ‘Breach of Trust’, which raised serious concerns about the standards of childcare in Ireland, based on evidence gathered from HSE Inspection reports, internal HSE documentation and undercover filming in three crèches, people in Ireland felt shock and horror. Staff were shoving toddlers to sleep, forcing them to eat, leaving babies to cry for long periods, strapping children to their chairs for up to two hours… The programme that demonstrated that standards in three crèches were in breach of HSE regulations and childcare guidelines, was followed by an investigation by the Health Services Executive and the Garda, upon complaints by parents about the mistreatment of their young children.
I went back to Who’s Minding the Children?, a book I co-wrote with Geraldine Niland (and Stella McMahon on Northern Ireland), published by Attic Press in 1980. Many of the issues highlighted by RTE were covered in our 1980 book. Here I quote from the final chapter, ‘The future and what needs to be done’ to demonstrate that while our demand to introduce day care has been met, largely by private operators, some things have not changed in relation to childcare in Ireland, a country obsessed with protecting unborn children, but apparently less concerned with children after they are born. Some things have changed, of course. In 1980 crèches were few and far between, today there clearly is a wide supply; our demand for a Department for Children has been met; finally, today I would not insist that childcare is a women’s issue – it’s clearly a parents’ issue. However, some things have not changed, particularly in relation to standards, training, inspection, and fair wages to staff; and reading the 1980 conclusion is interesting : Read more