Enforcement actions released for WA reveal disturbing trend
In the latest enforcement actions released by the Western Australia Department of Communities, nine early childhood education and care (ECEC) services receiving financial penalties for breaching the National Law when children have been found in a location other than the service.
Western Australian services received financial penalties, ranging from $1,500-10,500 as well as contributions to the legal costs of the Department, for the breaches, which included the following situations:
- Two incidences where children accessing before and after school care services were left behind on buses. On one of those occasions, a seven year old child was not dropped off at school, and was subsequently found at the property of the bus driver who had returned the vehicle to their home. In the second instance, a four year old child was left on a bus which was taking children from school to after school care, and was subsequently found in the bus depot.
- One instance where a family day care (FDC) provider received a penalty for leaving a two year old locked in the residence while the educator attended an appointment
- Six incidences where children absconded from their ECEC service, ranging in age from one year and eleven months to nine years and six months. In five of the six incidences, the children were under three years of age. The older child has autism spectrum disorder, and walked to their home, where their mother then notified the service.
The enforcement actions published also revealed two instances where educators falsely reported qualifications as early childhood teachers (ECTs), when this was not the case, and had their certified supervisor status withdrawn as a result.
A further incident involved three educators, all of whom held certified supervisor status at the ECEC service, who were involved in an incident where one of the supervisors held an autistic six year old and watched while another supervisor put soap in the mouth of the child as a form of punishment, being aware that the supervisor administering the soap had earlier smacked the child. The third supervisor was aware of these incidences and took no action. Neither the smacking nor the incident with the soap were reported to the child’s parent, the approved provider, or the regulatory authority.
The most substantial fine outlined in the release was the $210,000 fine issued to Camp Australia, in relation to failing to ensure no more than the licenced number of children attended the service at any one time. The Department described the breach as deliberate, pointing to the manual attendance records kept by Camp Australia for any children who would have placed the centre in breach of the condition.
The Department of Communities makes decisions about when to investigate non-compliance, and which enforcement action is appropriate, according to the Compliance Enforcement Framework.
Details about the following enforcement actions for serious non-compliance are published, and remain on the departments website for 24 months. These actions include:
- Suspension or cancellation of provider approvals, service approvals and of supervisor certificates.
- Issue of compliance notices.
- Imposition of conditions on approvals or certificates for purposes of enforcement.
- Acceptance by Department of Local Government and Communities of enforceable undertakings.
- Details of prosecutions or applications to the State Administrative Tribunal.
All references within the enforcement actions are to sections of the schedule to the Education and Care Services National Law (WA) Act 2012 (the National Law) and regulations of the Education and Care Services National Regulations 2012 (the National Regulations) unless otherwise specified.