Shocking complaints emerge in new childcare report

A new report reveals some of the shocking complaints made about early childcare centres.
A new report reveals some of the shocking complaints made about early childcare centres. Photo credit: Getty

A new Ministry of Education report reveals some of the shocking complaints made about early childcare centres.

The 'Early Childhood Education Complaints and Incidents Notifications Received by the Ministry of Education in 2016' report was released on Thursday.

The annual report has been published since 2014 to "give parents confidence that we take all complaints seriously and act upon them", says deputy secretary sector enablement and support Katrina Casey.

The Ministry received 331 complaints about early learning services in 2016, 245 of which were investigated. A total of 163 of the investigated complaints were upheld, meaning the Ministry found that the service had failed to meet acceptable standards and were required to make changes.

The issue of child neglect by staff surfaced multiple times in the list of upheld complaints. In one instance, a child fell from the monkey bars and broke their leg but was given no medical attention until their parent arrived to pick them up, by which point the child was very distressed.

In another, staff reportedly found a child unresponsive and failed to call an ambulance. Instead they waited 45 minutes before contacting the child's parent, who took the child to hospital themselves. As a result, the centre manager left the service and the Ministry ordered the establishment to conduct a full review into their emergency procedures.

In one case, a child told their teacher they were being sexually abused. The teacher did not inform the child's parent and the abuse continued for months afterwards until the child told their parent of their own volition. Following a review of their child protection policy and procedures, the childcare service acknowledged that the child's disclosure should have been acted on. The child received counselling and the perpetrator of the alleged abuse was arrested.

One complainant alleged that a teacher had eaten a child's lunch and asked them personal questions about their family situation.

Another accused a teacher of encouraging children to physically abuse another child, who subsequently became withdrawn and afraid to return to the premises. Police investigated the incident but didn't take any action, and the incident was referred to Child, Youth and Family  Services (CYFS).

One complainant alleged that a childcare centre staff member bullied a parent and withheld information about their child until fees were paid. The staff member also visited the parent's home without being invited. While the Ministry didn't find evidence of a regulatory breach, they did identify that the centre's procedures needed updating.

There were multiple complaints of staff members mishandling or physically abusing children, some of which resulted in firings while others required the childcare service to update their procedures.

Four children were hospitalised when a tree fell on a playground. The offending tree was removed and WorkSafe prosecuted the service.

The most serious incident in the report was the death of a child after an accident on a playground slide. Neither WorkSafe nor the Police pressed charges, but a staff member did leave the service.

Other complaints included dangerous bunk beds, water that was too hot and a child escaping the premises due to a faulty gate lock.

The 2017 complaints report is expected to be published by the end of June.