Almost 600 crèche facilities around the country are currently operating with conditions attached to their registration, RTÉ Investigates can reveal.
The figures, obtained by Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Children and Youth Affairs Anne Rabbitte, show that at the end of August 2019, just over 13% of the country's 4,500 early years services inspected by the Child and Family Agency Tusla, had some level of conditions attached to their facility for a failure to comply with childcare regulations.
Of the inspectorate's eight regions nationwide, the number of crèches with conditions attached to them breaks down as follows:
- Dublin South: 88
- Dublin North: 113
- Dublin and North East: 120
- Mid-Leinster: 67
- Mid-West: 32
- North-West: 35
- South-East: 57
- South-West: 83
- Total: 595
Tusla attaches conditions to a service's registration for a variety of reasons, including a failure to address a non-compliance which impacts the safety of children, where there is a high level of non-compliance found on inspection, to limit the number of children attending a service because of overcrowding, to limit the age profile of children cared for when a facility is deemed unsuitable, and to limit the type of care provided.
Commenting on the figures, Tusla said: "The conditions on all services are currently under review in preparation for the renewal of registrations, which will be completed by the end of this year. This process is likely to result in a decrease in the number of services with conditions attached."
However, Ms Rabbitte has called for greater transparency.
"Tusla seems to be reluctant to say where these crèches are so parents have to actively seek out the information and see if their crèche is affected," she told RTÉ.
"Many parents are likely unaware such conditions are attached to the crèche their child is in. I think it's important people find out if their crèche has conditions, which is available on Tusla's website, and then make sure that the crèche is adhering to them. If not, they need to raise it with the crèche staff.
"What's important here is transparency. Parents are paying a lot of money for childcare and need to be able to make informed decisions about what's best for their child."
Meanwhile, it has also emerged that officials at the Department of Children are currently considering a wide range of additional powers which may be provided to Tusla. They include the power to close a crèche immediately, mechanisms to inform parents of inspection findings at an earlier stage, to require services to display inspection outcomes prominently and to alert parents to the operation of unregistered crèches.
This follows the RTÉ Investigates programme, Crèches: Behind Closed Doors, which examined standards of care provided at the Hyde and Seek chain of crèches in Dublin, including revelations that the company's Glasnevin branch operated, unknown to parents, for 14 months without registration.