Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Questions (565)

Catherine Murphy


565. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the code of practice or business code of conduct to which recipients of funding must subscribe in order to remain funded by her Department in instances in which funding is provided directly to early years settings for children that they have registered on the ECCE scheme; the grievance or complaints procedure open to persons if they have issues with a service provider funded by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24917/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

In order to participate in Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) childcare funding programmes, a service provider must sign the relevant childcare programme funding agreement and agree to abide by the rules of the childcare programme as outlined in the DCYA childcare funding programmes 2018/19 rules document.

It is compulsory for service providers to register with Tusla (the Child and Family Agency) prior to offering any DCYA childcare funding programme. As part of this registration process, a service provider must submit a copy of their complaints policy (a policy specifying the procedures for making and dealing with complaints in relation to any aspect of the service). This is outlined in the Childcare Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016:

32. (1) A registered provider shall ensure that the complaints policy of the service specifies— (a) the procedure to be followed by a person for the purposes of making a complaint in relation to the service, (b) the manner in which such a complaint shall be dealt with, and (c) the procedures for keeping a person who makes such a complaint informed of the manner in which it is being dealt with.

(2) A registered provider shall ensure that— (a) a record in writing is kept of a complaint made to the provider in respect of the pre-school service, and (b) the complaint is duly dealt with in accordance with the provider’s complaints policy.

(3) A record in writing referred to in paragraph (2)(a) shall— (a) include the nature of the complaint and the manner in which the complaint was dealt with, and (b) be open to inspection on the premises by an authorised person.

(4) A registered provider shall ensure that a record in writing referred to in paragraph (2)(a) is retained for a period of 2 years from the date on which the complaint has been dealt with. 24 [221]

(5) The requirement in paragraph (4) is without prejudice to any requirement to retain the record in writing referred to in paragraph (2)(a) under any other enactment or rule of law.

In the first instance, if a parent/guardian is experiencing an issue with a service provider, the Department encourages both the parent/guardian and the service provider to seek to resolve the issue between themselves using the service provider's complaint policy. The local City/County Childcare Committee may also provide assistance to both the parent/guardian and the service provider in order to resolve the issue.

If the complaint is in relation to a breach of the DCYA childcare funding rules, the parent/guardian should contact their local City/County Childcare Committee or Pobal who will escalate the issue to my Department if the issue cannot be resolved.

If there is a concern that a child may have been, or is currently at risk of harm or neglect, Tusla should be contacted immediately. However, if there is a concern that a child is at immediate risk, An Garda Síochána should be contacted immediately.

The core principle underpinning all of the regulatory requirements in the Early Years sector is the health, safety and well being of children. It must be noted that Tusla acts as an independent legal entity with responsibility for supporting and promoting the development, welfare and protection of children, as such, it would be inappropriate for my Department to intervene in any way with the functions of a statutory regulator, who are tasked with investigating these complaints.