Exceeding rated ECEC service owner facing six charges in relation to 2018 incident
*Readers are warned that this story contains content which may be distressing or upsetting*
A date for a coronial inquest in relation to the death of a 16-month-old child in Sydney’s north western suburbs has been set, with the New South Wales Department of Education laying charges against both the service involved, and its owner, following an internal investigation, the ABC has reported.
The parents of the child involved in the incident spoke to the ABC, concerned about the lack of contact from the service since the time of the incident, and worried that the sleep and rest policy – the wording and implementation of which they believe may have contributed to the incident – remains unchanged.
A date has been set for next year, at which time the NSW coroner will begin an investigation into the passing of the child involved, as well as that of another baby who passed in similar circumstances.
In following up the incident, the NSW Department of Education has laid 10 charges against the service, and six against the owner, relating to breaches of the Education and Care Services National Law and Regulations including failing to adequately supervise the child, and failing to protect her from harm.
Despite the charges, the family spoke with the ABC expressing concern that the service rating was improved from “meeting” to “exceeding” after such a serious incident, which at the time of the exceeding rating was yet to be investigated.
The family shared further concerns in relation to the sleep and rest policy of the service, which requires educators to conduct sleep checks every 10 minutes but which does not require educators to physically enter the room to check on children’s breathing, positioning and skin colour.
At the time of the incident, common practice within the service was to observe children through the monitor, which also had audio capabilities.
On the day of the incident, the child was placed into a cot for a sleep at 9 am. She was left to sleep for 3 hours, before being found unresponsive at approximately 12 midday. A report cited by the ABC allegedly notes that the child was not physically checked at any stage during her sleep, but was instead visually checked using CCTV.
The CCTV footage shows the child’s last movements to have been at 10:17 am, and that between 10:13 am and 10:17 am, the child, who was face down in the cot, had bedding over her face and appeared to be struggling.
The national standards in relation to safe sleep in early childhood education and care (ECEC) services were revised in 2017 – a year before the incident took place – following an inquest into the death of another child in an ECEC service in 2012.
In 2017, ACECQA mandated that staff should always be within sight and hearing distance of sleeping and resting children so that they can assess a child’s breathing and the colour of their skin.
Leading Australian safe sleep authority, Red Nose, is calling for further revisions, to emphasise that all sleep checks must be physical, to prevent another tragedy occurring.
To access the original coverage of this story, which includes statements from NSW Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Learning, Jodie Harrison, and the NSW Department of Education, please see here.