Some Wales childcare complaints ‘not fully’ looked into
Concerns have been raised after it emerged complaints against childcare providers in parts of south Wales were not fully investigated by a regulator.
The Conservatives said the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) was guilty of some “fundamental failures.”
The CSSIW said immediate action was taken when the issue was identified.
The Welsh Assembly Government said it had confidence in its ability to inspect and monitor child care.
Some inspectors working in the south west area, which includes Swansea and Bridgend, did not file reports into complaints for at least a one year period, the BBC Politics Show Wales discovered.
The failings came to light after a series of Freedom of Information requests from the programme revealed a number of investigation reports were missing.
These included one case in which a childminder’s husband, who was not a registered child carer, was found to be looking after children.
Inspectors are obliged to investigate complaints against childcare providers and make their reports publicly available.
Conservative social affairs spokesperson, Andrew RT Davies AM, said he would be calling on the assembly government to intervene.
“We must make sure that people have confidence in childcare – that they can put their children in safe custody and ultimately have a safe environment to live and to learn,” he said.
“Clearly this is failing in this instance and we need action.”
Deputy Social Services Minister Gwenda Thomas AM said CSSIW inspectors work extremely hard to ensure children are protected.
“I am confident in CSSIW’s abilities in registering, inspecting and monitoring care and social services in Wales and I believe it has the tools required to achieve this,” she said.
The CSSIW said the matter had now been remedied.
The Politics Show Wales also requested copies of all CSSIW investigations into childcare providers for 2008-9 initiated in response to complaints from the public.
One nursery in north Wales was found not to be complying with the legal ratios of staff to children. In one room, a member of staff was looking after eight children, including five under three years old.
The legal maximum is six children under eight, half of which can be under three.
The same nursery also faced a complaint that lunchtime food portions were too small and that there was mould on the ceiling in the baby room.
Another nursery, also in north Wales, was asked to retrain staff after allegations a toddler room supervisor bullied, shouted at and was rough with children.
The CSSIW also investigated an allegation that a member of staff at a nursery was under the influence of cocaine while looking after children.
The manager was asked to interview the person in question on her return to work and inform CSSIW of its outcome.
The CSSIW said they received a report from the provider detailing the action they had taken to address the issues raised.
Mr Davies said the CSSIW’s response to the complaints was insufficient.
“These reports, and they are widespread reports, indicate a complete breakdown in the ability to enforce sanction on people who have broken various protocols which should be there to safeguard children,” he said.
“Frankly a lot of the recommendations I see here are self-assessment recommendations.”
In a statement, the CSSIW defended its enforcement policies.
“Where action was required, CSSIW issued compliance notifications requiring prompt action to be taken by the service provider to take remedial actions to ensure improvement,” it said.
“There have also been two prosecutions brought against childminders as a result of the investigations made by CSSIW staff in 2008 and 2009.”
However, CSSIW said they intended to change the way it regulates childcare provision in future.
“We are working on a review of regulation that will result in more citizen focussed, proportionate, consistent, modern and compliant system,” it said.
Ms Thomas said care providers, councils and the CSSIW must take appropriate action.
“I have been briefed fully by the chief inspector in relation to issues raised about the number of complaints last year and the action taken to investigate them,” she said.