Upheld complaints about NZ ECEC services focus on health and safety, behaviour

Upheld complaints about NZ ECEC services focus on health and safety, behaviour

by Freya Lucas

June 27, 2019

New Zealand’s Ministry of Education has this week released a comprehensive report in relation to complaints and incidents arising in 2018, showing that health and safety is the number one issue found in early childhood education and care (ECEC) services when following up on complaints received. Other major issues prompting people to seek investigation of services by the Ministry are behaviour management and supervision. 

 

In 2018, the report noted, 430 complaints regarding 345 early learning services and certified playgroups were received by the Ministry from people who were unhappy, concerned or not satisfied with a situation, process or decision. 

 

Complaints were received from a range of people, including parents, whānau, early learning staff and members of the community. Of these complaints, 56 per cent (221 complaints) were upheld, and it was determined by the Ministry that regulated standards have not been met by the service or the Ministry considered improvement was required in a particular area related to the complaint. 

 

These 221 upheld complaints related to 176 early learning services, or 3.2 per cent of all services operating in 2018. Complaints most commonly upheld in 2018 were related to:

 

  • health and safety (17 per cent of all complaints received);
  • behaviour management (10 per cent of all complaints received); and,
  • supervision (9 per cent of all complaints received)

 

A further 170 complaints were identified as ‘not upheld’ following investigation. A complaint is determined as ‘not upheld’ when:

 

  • the complainants concerns were unable to be substantiated throughout the investigation process; and/or,
  • there was no evidence of non-compliance occurring at the service in relation to the complaint.

 

The Ministry noted that while investigations may find that a complaint is ‘not upheld’, many services choose to further strengthen areas of practice to exceed regulated standards. For example, a service may choose to undertake an internal review of relevant policies and procedures, participate in professional learning and development or work with the complainant directly to strengthen relationships.

 

The report also noted that whilst complaints had increased, comparative to 2017, this increase may be partly attributed to increased awareness and confidence among parents, whānau, early learning staff and members of the community regarding the roles and responsibilities of early learning services and the Ministry of Education.

 

Compared to 2017, the number of complaints in relation to health and safety has decreased, which the Ministry says may demonstrate increasing understanding among services working with the new health and safety requirements introduced in 2015.

 

Complaints relating to employment practices increased in 2018, which the Ministry says may be attributed in part to work undertaken with stakeholder groups to increase confidence in raising concerns with the Ministry about issues that impact on the quality of the teaching and learning environment.

 

Interestingly, complaints received in relation to ECEC service’s complaints procedures rose in 2018. 

 

“This means that in 2018 we heard from more complainants who were unhappy with how a service managed their initial concerns at a service or service provider level. This suggests further work may be needed to assist some service providers to understand their roles and responsibilities in managing and responding effectively to complainants,” a spokesperson said. 

 

To progress the findings of the report, the Ministry said it will “continue to monitor emerging trends, and note that the draft Strategic Plan for Early Learning has also made a number of recommendations to lift regulated standards across the early learning sector.”

 

The draft plan is expected to be finalised later this year at which point approved recommendations will be incorporated into the Ministry’s work programme, a spokesperson said.

 

To access the report in full, please see here

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