James Arthur Photography

Audit critical of childcare inspection service

An audit commissioned by the Flemish Government has found that there are shortcomings both in the management of the service that carries out inspections of childcare facilities in Flanders and in the inspections themselves. The audit was carried out after a baby died after alleged maltreatment at a crèche in Mariakerke, near Ghent (East Flanders). 

Speaking after the publication of the audit’s findings, the Flemish Health and Welfare Minister Hilde Crevits (Christian democrat, photo above) told journalists that "The processes with regard to filing reports, and the treatment of complaints have been insufficiently followed up". 

Ms. Crevits took over as Health and Welfare Minister in May after her party colleague Wouter Beke resigned. When Mr Beke announced his resignation, he said that he had been deeply affected by the tragedy at the ‘t Sloeberhuisje crèche in. Mariakerke.

On 18 February, a 6-month-old baby died at the crèche after having been violently shaken. The father of the proprietor of the crèche has since been charged. The tragedy put issues regarding childcare facility at the top of the political agenda.

The audit that was carried out by the Flemish government agency Audit Vlaanderen, "highlights important weak points, which I have observed myself in recent weeks", Ms Crevits said.

She has asked civil servants at her department to draw up a "clear and comprehensive plan" to quickly respond to the shortcomings identified in the audit. The plan will be drawn up independently of the Commission of Inquiry set up by the Flemish Parliament that will submit its own final report and recommendations soon. 

Several dozen complaints

The Mariakerke crèche had been the subject of several dozen complaints from parents. The audit was tasked with verifying how complaints about childcare in Flanders are dealt with and followed up. 

The audit found that there is a lack of clarity in the treatment of complaints. Certain processes were also found to be outdated. The IT system used for monitoring cases also needs to be improved. Management was found to be lacking.

As was highlighted during the Commission of Inquiry, a lack of coordination between the Flemish Children’s Agency Kind en Gezin and the Health Care Inspectorate was also found by those that carried out the audit.

 

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