3 shocking moments from RTÉ Investigates – Creches, Behind Closed Doors
It was harrowing to watch.
Tonight, the nation tuned into RTÉ Investigates – Creches, Behind Closed Doors.
The RTÉ Investigates team went undercover to look at standards of care in Hyde and Seek, a creche chain in Dublin.
The chain is owned and run by Anne and Peter Davy along with their daughter Siobhan. The company has four creches across Dublin City, catering for children from 3 months up to 12 years of age. One of these creches, in Glasnevin, was not registered with Tusla – the State body with responsibility for child protection – for a period of 14 months, RTÉ found. Hyde & Seek pleaded guilty to the non-registration at the Dublin District Court earlier this year.
But that was just the tip of the iceberg. As we saw from tonight's documentary, the standards of care at Hyde and Seek fell far below recommended guidelines. From issues with food and fire safety to rough treatment, as a viewer it difficult to watch children being treated as they were.
These were three of the most chilling and shocking moments to come from tonight's programme:
In a clip that was filmed by an undercover RTÉ researcher, we saw her being told to dilute the milk that was being given to the children to drink.
Within a few days of working in the Shaw Street branch, she reported that she was told repeatedly to water it down. "Half water, half milk."
While Hyde & Seek stated in the documentary that the diluted milk was only given on one occasion, the undercover researcher claimed that she "saw multiple children have diluted milk."
Later on in the documentary we saw that the creche had nutritious meal plans for every day of the week. Instead of following the meal plans, the children were fed easy alternatives.
In one unsettling scene, kids were given Tesco Instant Noodles, which retail for just 12c a pack.
Another disturbing element highlighted in the documentary was how squashed the Sleep Room was. In both the Shaw Street branch and the Glasnevin branch, cots were squeezed in, leaving children and staff alike no space to move around. We saw a Sleep Room that was also used as storage, squeezing in boxes and spare furniture, as well as a clothes rack with wet garments hanging off it.
We also saw that fire exits in the Wobbler Room in Glasnevin were constantly blocked, especially during lunch periods.
Even though Hyde and Seek stated that fire drills are carried out once a month, the researcher who worked there claimed that no staff training was carried out and no fire drills took place.
Chartered Building Surveyor Kevin Hollingsworth, who was interviewed for the documentary, commented: "It's just beggars belief to be honest, it's straight forward common sense to not put a sleeping child directly across a fire exit.
"There is no possible way that one person could safely evacuate all those children."
As we saw at the end of part one, the Shaw Street branch of the Hyde and Seek chain is registered as a business name to Anne Davy. The Glasnevin branch is owned by Anne and her daughter Siobhan, while the Tolka Road branch is owned by Anne and her husband Peter Davy.
In 2004, Anne was convicted after staff left behind a three-year-old boy behind in a local playground.
In tonight's documentary, we saw that Anne managed the Tolka Road branch on a daily basis, and scenes from this location were probably the most shocking to watch.
At the beginning of part three, we listened to Anne shouting at children. The voice-over then explained: "The poor practices we witnessed at this creche were not performed by care staff but by Anne Davy herself."
We first saw Anne become annoyed at the children because a room was messy. We then heard her shout at them: "Don't do that! Give me that back. I'm very annoyed. Jesus."
When one of the children tried to get up from the ground, Anne was shown pushing them back down.
When the researcher was trying to put children asleep, Anne barked at her: "No! No! You have to be out in ten minutes... this is a business, not babysitting!"
When a baby cried and a worker tried to console them, Anne told her: "Please can you leave him out of your arms!"
We saw Anne putting children to sleep on their stomachs, even though it's recommended that they sleep on their backs.
We saw her push a child's head down time and time again even though they were sobbing.
We saw her cover a child's eyes so they couldn't look up at her.
We saw her roughly handling numerous children.
We saw her telling staff to lie in the required daily journals. "Pretend, " she said. "Make it up."
However, probably the most shocking revelation of the entire documentary was learning that Anne has acquired a 5th creche property in Dublin City Centre.
As RTÉ reported before the documentary was aired, Anne Davy is to step down from frontline childcare provision.