Tusla was given significant additional powers in 2016, including the power to maintain a register of early years services; the power to deregister a service without going through the Courts; and the power to attach conditions to the registration of a service.
Following the RTÉ broadcast (Behind Closed Doors) at the end of July, I wrote to the Chairperson of Tusla to ask what additional powers Tusla might need in order to address concerns raised within the programme. The Chairperson of Tusla wrote back to me in August, setting out a range of additional powers that might be provided to Tusla.
Officials in my Department are now examining these and other options, some of which may require primary legislation and/or amendment of Regulations. I have asked my officials to move as quickly as possible, but I recognise that there are complex legal issues involved which may take time to address.
Powers to close a service immediately are being considered among a range of powers including mechanisms to inform parents of inspection findings at an earlier stage, to require services to display prominently their inspection status, and to alert parents in relation to the operation of unregistered services.
In addition, officials in my Department are engaged in on-going discussions with Tusla’s Early Years Inspectorate about the potential for enhancement of its operating procedures with a view to minimising time-delays as far as is possible, while respecting fair procedures and natural justice.