RTÉ can reveal that one of the owners of the Hyde & Seek Childcare crèche chain in Dublin, Anne Davy, is to step down and take no future role in front line childcare provision as a result of findings to be revealed in an RTÉ Investigates documentary.

RTÉ Investigates: Crèches, Behind Closed Doors, which was broadcast tonight, went undercover to look at standards of care in the company.

Hyde & Seek Childcare is a family-run business owned and run by the Davy family - Anne and Peter Davy and their daughter Siobhan Davy.

The company has four crèches across Dublin city catering for children from three months up to 12 years old.

Recently, RTÉ Investigates was contacted by several families who were concerned about the standards of care their children had received while at various Hyde & Seek Childcare crèches.

RTÉ has also learned that last year the company opened a new, purpose-built facility in Glasnevin, but failed to register it appropriately.

The crèche opened in January 2018, but unknown to parents, it went unregistered for some 14 months.

For months after the crèche opened there was an exchange of correspondence between the company and the child and family agency Tusla, with Tusla requesting the company complete its registration. 

However, the crèche continued to operate without registration, meaning it was not subject to regulatory inspections and checks.

Earlier this year, Hyde & Seek pleaded guilty at the Dublin District Court to the non-registration and was given the benefit of the Probation Act.

The crèche was eventually registered on 1 March 2019.

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But this was not the first time the company found itself in trouble.

In 2004, company owner Anne Davy was convicted when staff from their Tolka Road branch left behind a three-year-old boy on his own at a local playground; she was also convicted for a number of other breaches of regulations.

In 2007, she was convicted again for breaching regulations, including child to adult ratios and failing to keep records. During these years, the company changed name three times.

Tusla inspection reports for the various Hyde & Seek crèches also identify numerous non-compliances.

RTÉ had two undercover researchers successfully apply for childcare positions with the Hyde & Seek company.

Both researchers had the required qualifications, are highly trained and were garda-vetted by RTÉ.

RTÉ also worked with two care experts, who advised it at all points on the evidence gathered by the researchers.

Crèches and preschool facilities must abide by a lengthy list of regulations, which have been designed to protect the welfare of children.

However, it was not long before our workers started to observe repeated breaches of regulation.

Some of those issues observed include the failure of Hyde & Seek management to ensure staff were garda-vetted before working with children.

Tusla regulations state that vetting must be completed before a staff member is allowed any access to children, but this did not happen.

RTÉ also witnessed concerns around sleep room conditions.

For example, at the company's crèche on Tolka Road, cots were packed so tightly together workers found it difficult to provide appropriate care for children at nap times. 

RTÉ also observed frequent and significant breaches of ratios. 

Tusla guidelines set out strict adult to child ratios, which crèches must abide by so that staff can look after children in their care.

But on 75% of the days our researcher worked in the Tolka Road branch, room ratios were in breach of regulations, sometimes they were minor, but more often they were serious breaches.

On a number of occasions, this meant up to 20 children were left in one worker's care for periods of approximately one hour at a time. 

Significantly, the poor practices RTÉ witnessed were not performed by care staff, but by Hyde & Seek owner Anne Davy herself. This included how she interacted with and handled children.

RTÉ has reported its concerns to both Tusla and Dublin Fire Brigade and continues to liaise with both bodies.

In a statement to RTÉ, Hyde & Seek Childcare said it has been operating crèches for over 15 years and strives to provide a top quality child-centred service.

However, having been made aware of our findings, the company has confirmed that Anne Davy is stepping down and "will take no future role in front line childcare provision".

In a statement, she acknowledged "that in recent months she has occasionally fallen below the standards of our behavioural management policy and has found herself being short, rather than simply direct".

Anne Davy added that she "very much regrets this".