I propose to take Questions Nos. 283 to 285, inclusive, together.
Tusla is the independent statutory regulator of early learning and care and school age childcare services in Ireland. In performing its regulatory function, its actions include responding to breaches of regulations while respecting fair procedures and natural justice.
Tusla conducted an inspection of the service in question - which catered for both pre-school and school-age children - in line with the requirements of the Child Care Act 1991 (Early Years Services) Regulations 2016 in June 2019. During this inspection it was observed that the service, which was approved for a set number of children, was operating outside its registration status, with a substantial number of additional children observed in attendance. Tusla advised the service to revert immediately to its approved registration status, and to take immediate remedial action to address the risk posed to children on the premises due to inadequate insurance. Tusla also referred the service to the local Chief Fire Officer and to the Planning and Enforcement Section of the local Council.
Tusla carried out a follow-up inspection of the service in September 2019, and found that more children were attending the service than were approved. Tusla again instructed the service to revert to its approved registration status.
Tusla also received an application from the registered provider for registration of a school-age service which highlighted that the service has been operating in contravention of its planning permission, which states that the number of children to be accommodated at the facility must not exceed a certain amount. This has resulted in the regrettable situation described.
While I appreciate the considerable inconvenience that you reference, the safety and welfare of children is my foremost priority. Services must abide by the legislation that is in place to protect our children.
Tusla continues to engage with the registered provider to resolve this matter as expeditiously as possible.
30 City and Childcare Committees across the country are available to support parents and providers with issues relating to early learning and care and school age childcare. In this instance, Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Childcare Committee is available to support parents who need assistance with sourcing alternative service provision and they have been working with local providers to ascertain availability of places, and with new services in the area who intend to create additional places.