CHILDREN being harshly addressed, unlocked doors, overcrowding, poorly equipped playrooms and infants being cooped up indoors for too long are among the issues highlighted by HSE inspectors at Limerick childcare facilities.
Dating from 2011 to 2013, a total of 88 reports have been published in the last week with a significant number of businesses and community facilities in Limerick city and county found to be in breach of regulations around child protection, hygiene, safety, child welfare and development and other categories.
Anne McMahon, chairperson of the Limerick County Childcare Committee, said her group was still working through the large volume of reports. But the committee believed it was right to highlight poor quality and added it continued to work with service providers to improve standards across Limerick.
A number of businesses were required by the HSE to “urgently” retrain staff on managing behaviour in children. This was after workers had been found to have raised their voices and inappropriately addressed babies and toddlers.
At Little Stars Creche in Abbeyfeale - which had 30 children in attendance when inspected in April 2012 - the “time out” was found to be used as a way of dealing with challenging behaviour in one child. A review of this child’s records showed “inappropriate action was taken to manage same”.
“The language used to describe a child was subjective and not factual: ‘sulky’, ‘has an attitude’ and on the day of inspection a staff stated that a child was ‘stubborn’,” the inspector notes.
It is recommended that all staff at Little Stars “urgently undertake further training in behaviour management and child protection”.
Inspectors at Little Stars found seven children in the nappy area waiting to be changed. One worker was singing to them as another changed the infants’ nappies in turn without washing her hands or the changing mat between children.
Inspectors also found fault with parents of young children not being given written feedback, with poorly resourced play areas and also found that not enough staff had relevant qualifications.
A response from the creche in July 2012 outlines changes in management; details staff qualifications and highlights changes in handwashing and nappy-changing policies.
Staff at Southill Pre-School - located at Southill Junior School - were also required by the HSE to retrain on managing child behaviour as a matter of urgency. This arose from an inspection on June 21, 2012.
Inspectors found that staff had used “negative language” telling children in a high tone and volume to “stop”, “sit down” or “no”.
And staff at Bruff Montessori School had also inappropriately raised their tone of voice when addressing children. Inspectors observed that children who had begun to wander off in the middle of a group story session were asked to return to their seats rather than offered an alternative activity.
Similarly, staff at Kilcolman Community Creche had used a “sharp and high” tone of voice with pre-schoolers returning from outside play when the facility was inspected on January 15/16 of this year. Inspectors also took issue of the use of “time outs” at this creche. The report highlights inadequate supply of books and of some indoor equipment while the outdoor play area is described as “inadequate”, “unkempt” and in need of a deep clean. Management replied that staff had gone to behaviour management training and that a cleaner had been put in place.
Other facilities were criticised for not allowing children to play outside often enough. At Tall Trees Childcare, Old Singland Road, babies had not played outside in over a week, inspectors said after an inspection in March 2013. This business was also criticised for allowing children to sleep in the same room as others who were watching TV at high volume. This practice had since been discontinued at the creche while young children had also been provided with all-weather jumpsuits that would allow them to play outside even when the ground was wet.
Limerick Social Services Council Pre-School - a service provided on Henry Street by the Diocese of Limerick - was criticised because the entrance door was open and reception unattended when inspectors arrived on March 27, 2012. A second receptionist had been hired to ensure the desk was covered at all times.
Security concerns were also raised at Moyross Integrated Childcare Services following the inspection on March 5 last. Two exit doors were found to be unlocked making it possible for unauthorised persons to enter. Staff had since been reminded to ensure doors were locked at all times.
One childminding service, that offered by Anne Kelleher on O’Connell Avenue, was found to have exceeded the adult to child ratio when inspected on August 28, 2012, with seven children being cared for by one adult. Ms Kelleher replied that no more than five children would be attending the service at any one time.
And Little Treasures Creche on Fr Russell Road was found to be “overcrowded” at meal times with 10 children standing around a table. When the inspectors told staff it would be more appropriate to have the children sitting down at meals, they found there were not enough chairs to go round. It was one of about a dozen Limerick facilities criticised for staff not sitting down with young children as they ate.