Friday, 6 September 2019

Questions (1663)

Gino Kenny

Question:

1663. Deputy Gino Kenny asked the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the reason parents of children attending crèches (details supplied) were not informed of breaches and issues uncovered by Tusla; the steps she plans to take to ensure that in future Tusla informs parents in circumstances in which a company or individual faces criminal charges in respect of the care of their children; her plans to introduce mandatory reporting of crèches, breaches and issues to parents of children attending such crèches; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34968/19]

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Written answers (Question to Children)

Tusla as the independent statutory regulator of early years services has the power to inspect early years services and to carry out prosecutions in relation to breaches of regulations by early years services. In relation to child protection concerns, the Tusla Early Years Inspectorate also takes immediate action through referral to the social work function within Tusla. In relation to Tusla's ability to inform parents of breaches of regulations, Tusla is required to follow due process, including giving service providers the opportunity to take corrective action and to appeal against decision (including a legal right to appeal against deregistration decisions to the District Court), and must take considerable care to ensure that it does not - through the information it shares in public or with other parties- prejudice the outcome of ongoing regulatory or enforcement processes that are the subject of legal action. Tusla publishes its inspection reports on the Tusla website and these reports outline the outcome of regulatory or prosecutorial activity.

Tusla's powers were strengthened considerably in 2016, including being given the power to deregister a service without going through the courts and the power to attach conditions to a registration. At the end of July 2019 I wrote to the Chairperson of Tusla requesting his views on what additional powers Tusla might need, and he replied in recent weeks. Officials in my Department are currently examining his proposals, which will require amendment of primary legislation as well as of the Early Years Services Regulations. The powers my Department is examining include potential ways to share more information at an earlier stage with parents in relation to inspection findings, the registration status of services, and any enforcement actions being undertaken. In framing any legislative changes or regulatory reforms in this area, it will be necessary to balance parents' legitimate interest in being kept informed with the need for due process, particularly given the need to avoid undermining any legal actions that Tusla might be taking.