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06.00 19 Aug 2019


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There has been big rise in the number of children who have been seriously injured in childcare services this year.

The Child and Family Agency, Tusla, said it has received 116 reports of children suffering serious injuries while attending pre-school services so far this year.

That is up 35% from the 86 injuries that had occurred at the same time in 2018.

The figures were released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The agency said it was also notified of the deaths of two children attending Early Years Services over the same time period.

Missing

Meanwhile, five children have gone missing while in the care of childcare services.

Barnardos CEO Suzanne Connolly said that is a huge concern.

Suzanne Connolly Tusla Barnardos CEO Suzanne Connolly. Image: Barnardos

“The sort of times that a child may go missing, if staff aren’t paying due attention, is at transition times,” she said.

“So say for example when it is very busy in the morning and all of the parents are dropping their children off.

“If staff are not paying attention, with parents, a child may well wander off.”

She said staffing issues may have been a factor – and warned that no childcare service should open its doors if it is understaffed.

“Sometimes closing a service might actually be the prudent thing to do” she said.

“If you can’t guarantee the health and safety of the children because say, a number of staff members are off sick, then you shouldn’t be running the service on that day.”

Families Say Cost Is Mean Reason For Unmet Childcare Needs File photo of a child playing. Picture by: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/PA Images

Serious breach

Tusla said a child can only go missing in care if there has been a serious breach of regulations.

It said cases can range from a child 'missing' from a room in a service, to being left behind on a trip - but said it can’t comment further on individual cases.

Ms Connolly said that is not good enough.

“I know they don’t want to make anywhere identifiable but they can certainly say what the incidents involved,” she said. “I don’t see why they can’t do that.”

“The whole purpose of monitoring practice is so that we all learn. So we learn good practice.”

Childcare deaths

In March, a child died in hospital after being transferred from a full day-care service in the Dublin Mid-Leinster region.

In June, another death was reported - this time the child died in a full day-care service in the Dublin northeast region.

Ms Connolly expressed her condolences to all involved.

“It is really tragic and really sad and your heart goes out to the parents, the staff who were and obviously the children who would have been there when that happened,” she said.

Reporting

Tusla said it has been working since 2016 to raise awareness among providers of the need to report serious incidents.

It said this increased oversight may account for the rise in reports of injuries.

Reporting from Eoghan Murphy


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