Camp Australia hit with second six figure penalty for law breaches
Australia’s largest commercial provider of before and after school care services, the Bain Capital owned Camp Australia, has been penalised $210,000 for deliberately failing to ensure that no more than 30 children were in attendance at their services at any one time on 14 separate occasions prior to May 2018.
Camp Australia was found to have contravened Section 51(8) of the National Laws and Regulations, resulting in the penalty, as well as being ordered to make a contribution of $2,000 towards the Department of Communities legal costs in a judgement handed down by the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) on 22 October 2018.
In an application to SAT for disciplinary action filed 14 August 2018, The Department of Communities stated that the breach was deliberate, in that Camp Australia management attempted to devise a way around the requirements to have only 30 children in attendance by keeping manual handwritten attendance rolls, separate from the online booking system, for all children whose attendance would have put Camp Australia in breach of the law.
Alarmingly, the Department noted that this was the eighth time that they had made an application with SAT in relation to Camp Australia breaching laws and regulations in Western Australia.
This is not the first financial penalty for Camp Australia in Western Australia this year – on 23 February SAT ordered Camp Australia to pay a penalty of $35,000 for breaches of Section 167(1), 174(2), and 5 breaches of Section 162(1) of the National Law, as well as $3,000 towards the Department’s legal costs, in relation to incidents in 2016, where Camp Australia failed to ensure that every reasonable precaution was taken to protect children from harm and hazard, failed to notify the regulatory authority of a serious incident, and failed to ensure a responsible person was present at all times.
In a hearing held on the same day (23 February 2018) regarding a different service, Camp Australia was fined $100,000 for breaches of Section 162(1), 169(1) and 175(1) of the National Law, and an additional $3,000 towards the Departments legal costs, in relation to failure to ensure a responsible person was present at all times, failure to ensure sufficient educators were present to educate and care for the children present, and failing to keep prescribed documents available for inspection.
Camp Australia has long received attention from SAT in Western Australia with judgements being reported for violations over the past eight years, as well as a high profile incident involving the provider in 2015, in which a non-verbal seven year old boy with Down Syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder was reportedly found in the yard of a neighbouring property, for which the provider received a fine of $30,000.
At the time of the February 2018 judgements, the Western Australian media circulated an apology, said to have been provided by Camp Australia CEO Adam Pease, apologising to the two school communities affected by the judgement.
Mr Pease reportedly said that the issues affect the reputation of every Camp Australia service, and that the company was taking a national approach to ensuring they were delivering consistently high quality care.
Unfortunately for Camp Australia, regulatory attention is not confined to Western Australia, with service approval restrictions and compliance notices being issued against the provider in Victoria, police investigations in Queensland, and media attention drawn by parents to the company in New South Wales.
New South Wales had banned Camp Australia and other providers with a history of regulatory breaches from tendering for the running of Outside School Hours Care services for a period of time, under a pre-qualification scheme which was introduced in NSW in November 2016. The ABC reports that on October 27 2017 a notice was posted on the NSW governments eTendering website, announcing the scheme was being discontinued.
Camp Australia have also been subject to an enforceable undertaking from the Fair Work Commission in relation to $2.6 million in unpaid staff wages in 2013, with the company being ordered to rectify underpayments and provide evidence to the Fair Work Ombudsman, issue an apology to staff,and provide training to staff regarding managing human resources, recruitment and payroll functions.
A proposed merger between Camp Australia, and Junior Adventures Group was halted by the two providers last year, after Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) raised concerns about the proposal to merge the largest and second largest commercial providers of before and after school care.
“The ACCC’s primary concern is that the loss of competition between Camp Australia and JAG for the supply of before and after school care could result in higher prices for parents and lower quality care for students in some states,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.