THE OWNER of Irish crèche chain Hyde & Seek has stepped down following an undercover investigation by RTÉ into the welfare of children in the premises.
Anne Davy, who runs the chain with her husband and daughter, announced that she would no longer be involved in the front-line provision of childcare after provoking national outrage by her behaviour in the televised investigation.
RTÉ Investigates: Crèches, Behind Closed Doors aired on Irish television last night and the backlash was swift and merciless.
Among other things, RTÉ revealed that their two undercover reporters successfully applied for jobs in the crèche and started working with children without being vetted by the Gardaí, which is a legal requirement. The vetting would have revealed any historic reason why a person should not be trusted to work with children.
Caught on video, it was seen that the crèches were overcrowded and many emergency exits were blocked, guaranteeing chaos in the case of a fire. In the nap room, the space between cots was far too tight for staff to provide adequate care for the children as they slept.
Often, the strict child-to-carer ratio was unsatisfactory, and in one case eighteen children were left in the care of just one person for over an hour—the ratio should be one adult to three children.
The children’s milk was watered down to save money, and they were fed meals of 12 cent instant noodles despite the menu given to parents promising a vegetable stir-fry.
Most worryingly, the investigation showed babies and toddlers being flipped on their stomach and held down to force them to go to sleep, while an upset young child was separated from other children and isolated in a room on their own as they cried.
The owner, Anne Davy, was caught on video screaming in a room filled with young children because the area was untidy. She says she “very much regrets” the revelations.
In a statement, she announced she “will take no future role in front line childcare provision” and admitted 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.”
The Hyde & Seek chain has four crèches in Dublin, with a fifth planned. Whether this will go forward is uncertain.
The Irish Minister for Children, Katherine Zappone, said she was “deeply shocked and appalled” by the revelations.
The chain had been in trouble with Tusla (the Child and Family Agency) before, for issues that had still not been fixed such as fire safety, and for accidentally leaving a 3-year-old child at a playground.
A parent of one of the children identified in the investigation, Moran Yitshak Aikalay, spoke to RTÉ today to speak of their experience when her and her wife’s son was in the care of Hyde & Seek crèche.
“[My son] was confident and then I saw that he was not that confident and he came to me a lot. One of the symptoms I saw is that he wouldn’t want to go to sleep. He started to get upset and nervous and had anxiety.”
Much of the failures in the crèche came from the management rather than the staff, but many are unconvinced that the resignation of Ms Davy will lead to improvement enough to put their minds at ease.