Written Answers. - Child Care Services.

Frances Fitzgerald

Question:

634 Ms Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Health and Children the number of inspections carried out in the Cork health board area under the child care regulations in 1999-2000; and the outcome in each area. [20442/00]

Under the Child Care (Pre-School Services) Regulations, 1996, which give effect to the provisions of Part VII of the Child Care Act, 1991, pre-school providers are obliged to notify their local health board that they are carrying on, or proposing to carry on, a pre-school service. On receipt of notification the health board will provide relevant information to the applicant and arrange for an inspection to be carried out by an authorised person. Based on the most up to date information available from the Southern Health Board, 178 inspections were carried out in 1999 and 191 in 2000 to date in the four community care areas in County Cork. The number of inspections carried out include first, second and third annual inspections as appropriate.

Where deficiencies in services are identified during inspection, the health board and the providers work in a co-operative manner to make specific improvements in a planned way provided that any delay would not adversely affect the welfare of children. The following is a summary of the type of deficiencies found during inspections: the requirement to reduce places is mainly related to the availability of adequate space per child in the premises and/or the requirement to have a sufficient number of competent adults supervising the pre-school children in the service at all times; inadequately equipped first aid box – a list of suggested contents is forwarded to the provider, where necessary; incomplete record keeping in respect of register of children; details of staff; fire safety and maintenance records etc; inadequate sanitary accommodation for adults and children; inadequate storage of toxic materials, and inadequate rest and outdoor play facilities.

When deficiencies are identified during an inspection a summary pre-school inspection report detailing all deficiencies is forwarded to the pre-school provider as part of the inspection procedures. The provider is given a timeframe to reply to the report, outlining what measures are to be put in place to deal with the deficiencies. If the deficiencies noted during inspection are of a serious nature and the team is of the view that there is a potential risk to the safety of the children, the provider is so informed and a follow-up inspection will be carried out within a shorter period of time to ensure compliance with the recommendations of the inspection team.

The Southern Health Board has also made available grant aid to a range of community pre-school playgroups, as part of its financial support of certain pre-school services which cater for children regarded as being at risk or disadvantaged, to enable them to improve structural accommodation to comply with the regulations. The board's community workers facilitate this process and build relationships with the community pre-school playgroups. In addition, the pre-school inspection teams in the Southern Health Board offer an advice-support service to pre-school providers who are proposing to commence a new pre-school service, in order to outline to providers the requirements for a pre-school service.