The second Annual Report of the Tusla Early Years Inspectorate 2016 was released last week and some of the key findings are detailed below.
Developments in the Early Years Inspectorate in 2016
The most significant change to the Early Years Inspectorate (EYI) in recent years was the implementation of revised regulations in June 2016. This included the requirement for all services to register with Tusla prior to opening. To facilitate these changes, the EYI developed extensive structures, processes and systems some of which are listed below as key achievements of the EYI in 2016:
- Established a Central Early Years Registration Department.
- Commenced a national registration system.
- Introduced a ‘Fit for purpose Inspections’ of all new services.
- Implemented new processes and inspection systems.
- Undertook a survey of the experience of service providers of inspections.
- Ran nationwide seminars on regulatory changes for service providers.
- Introduced the first phase of an ICT system to support inspections.
- Development of the Quality and Regulatory Framework (QRF).
Survey of Early Years Providers
In 2015, a survey was conducted with providers to discover their experience of the inspection process. Of the 1,399 respondents, almost three quarters (72%) indicated they were either satisfied or very satisfied with the inspection process and around 80% either agreed or strongly agreed that the inspection process is rigorous and robust and focuses on the correct areas.
However, a minority of respondents indicated they were not satisfied with a few areas such as the complaints process, inspection consistency and the lack of awareness among inspectors of the cost of resolving areas of non-compliance. The report explains these areas are being addressed by the Inspectorate in several ways, such as ongoing professional development and developing the Quality and Regulatory Framework (QRF).
Outcomes from Early Years Inspections 2016
Changes to regulations have led to alterations to the model of inspection in 2016 and a revised early years inspection process including a supplementary inspection tool and inspection report was developed.
The revised inspection process includes several different steps and gives opportunities to providers to review draft reports and submit evidence of corrective and preventative actions to address non-compliance found during inspections before final review by the Registration Panel.
The Annual Report provides an analysis of 288 inspection reports that occurred between the implementation of revised regulations in June 2016 and December 2016. This differed from the previous EYI Annual Report which analysed the outcomes of 500 randomly selected inspection reports.
The analysis highlights areas of good practice such as insurance and first aid but also notes areas where services are non-compliant such as ensuring all staff are have been Garda vetted. More detailed findings can be found in the Appendix of the report such as examples of non-compliance with individual regulations and improvements made by providers in response to non-compliance discovered in inspections.
- Compliance with regulations increased since the previous year as 78% of regulations (2,036 regulations) were assessed as compliant. This is an improvement on the 2015 compliance levels when 72% of regulations were assessed as compliant.
- 34% of services assessed were found to be compliant across all regulations included in the inspection and 30% were assessed as having 3 or fewer non-compliant regulations. Only 6% of inspected services were assessed as having more than 5 non-compliant regulations.
- The individual regulation most likely to be assessed as compliant was Regulation 28 (Insurance) of which 99% of services analysed were complaint; followed by Regulation 11 (Staffing Levels) with 96% services compliant and Regulation 25 (First Aid) of which 93% of services were compliant.
- Regulation 16 (Records in relation to the pre-school service) was found to be non-compliant in almost half of all services (46%); followed by Regulation 23 (Safeguarding health, safety and welfare of the child) non-compliant in 39% of services and Regulation 9 (Management and recruitment) assessed as non-compliant in 37% of services.
- The number of complaints received about early years services was lower in 2016 (207 complaints about 186 services) than in 2015 (258 complaints). The highest proportion of complaints (35%) are in relation to governance, followed by the health, welfare and development of a child (29%).
The report highlights that the inspection of early years services resulted in positive changes within almost all services. At the time of publication of the report, the Inspectorate was satisfied that sufficient changes had been made in respect of 87.5% of non-compliant regulations to deem the service compliant in that area. The inspectors accepted that 11.5% of regulations (64 breaches) had been addressed but would not be verified until the next inspection. Only 5 regulations remained non-compliant at the time of publication.
ECI receives a significant number of calls and emails from members about inspections. We encourage all of our members to engage in the consultation on the QRF which is online until 15 January 2018.
ECI also continuously uses our participation in policy forums and elsewhere to highlight members’ issues with inspections. We are also seeking a high-level meeting with Tusla to discuss these and other regulation issues, early in 2018.