(source:The Daily Telegraph)
DOZENS of breaches of childcare law — including some that put children at risk of harm — have been uncovered by investigators so far this year.
One centre has been served with a suspension order and three individuals had their credentials cancelled due to not being “fit and proper persons” under new laws over the past three years.
Officials — who have hired two extra investigators —, say the overall number of breaches is “unacceptable”, but they are optimistic that education is also helping improve standards.
Up to August 24 this year, there had been 51 breaches of laws and 33 breaches of regulations, affecting 42 providers in South Australia.
The numbers are an improvement on 2014 when there were 156 breaches of the law and 74 breaches of regulations affecting 88 providers. However, Education and Early Childhood Services Registration and Standards Board of SA presiding member Dr Neville Highett said more needed to be done.
“This is not acceptable,” he said. “However, it is very important to note the number of services with breaches is less than 7 per cent of the number of services we regulate.
“The purpose of regulating services under the National Quality Framework is to drive the improvement of services and we want to see this proportion decline.”
South Australia has 1153 approved education and care services regulated under the Education and Care Services National Law 2010. These include long day care, family day care, preschool and outside school hours care providers.
Breaches are recorded as a consequence of an investigation. Action then is decided according to whether there is an ongoing risk to children and the level of risk, a service’s compliance history as well as factors such as the public interest.
Investigations over the past three years have resulted in 17 cases of legal action.
Dr Highett said there is a growing awareness of requirements now the National Quality Framework has been in place for more than three years. “The number of investigations appears to be stable over 2014 and 2015,” he said.
“In part this can be attributed to people — parents, staff, other organisations — becoming familiar with the Board and its role. The Board began operating in 2012 when the National Quality Framework for education and care services was introduced.
“The majority of investigations are the outcome of complaints made to the Board, whether by parents, service staff or members of the public and also notifications made to the Board by providers of services.”
Dr Highett noted if a visit indicates a potential risk, investigators adjust their visit schedule accordingly.
As well as educating providers to clear up confusion over compliance, the board is prepared to cancel providers’ approvals, he said. “Our action must be proportionate but our first concern is the safety, wellbeing and development of children,” Dr Highett said.
The Board has a six member Complaints and Investigations Team and also employs 19 staff to assess, monitor and approve services.