As an independent statutory regulator, it is vital that Tusla exercises its regulatory powers in a proportionate manner, firstly to drive improvement and secondly to respond to continuous and serious breaches of regulations within its remit, while balancing the rights of providers to fair procedures and natural justice.
A “critical” level status implies a high and intensive level of scrutiny by Tusla. It does not imply that children attending these services are at risk or should be removed from the services. Nor does it necessarily warrant the withdrawal of funding by Government which could result in closure of the service and significant loss for children and parents.
It is essential to note that where there is evidence of a serious risk to children, Tusla brings this to the attention of Social Work services, in which instance parents are informed. This is a requirement under the Children First Act.
A service at a critical level is a service that has been escalated to the Early Years Inspectorate’s National Registration and Enforcement Panel either because of concerns about the level of non-compliance with regulations, or because an unregistered service has refused to close and Tusla is advancing to a prosecution of the service.
It is usual practice that the majority of early learning and care services categorised as “critical” by Tusla’s Early Years Inspectorate make the necessary improvements and are then de-escalated from this level of concern. The number of services at “critical” status is continually changing as some services come off the list and others come on to it.
Tusla does not inform my Department of the identity of services on the critical list unless / until a decision has been made to de-register the service.