North Mandurah OSHC provider issued penalty for leaving autistic child unsupervised
A West Australian outside school hours care (OSHC) provider has been issued with a $9,000 fine and ordered to contribute to the legal costs of the Department of Communities after a six-year-old child with autism was left behind at a service while educators drove children to various schools in the area.
Two educators on duty left the child behind, and he was not found to be missing for approximately 25 minutes, after which time he was discovered by a cleaner and a teacher at the school “in a distressed state” and unable to leave the room in which the OSHC service is provided.
The Service was unaware that he had been left alone and unsupervised, and the outcome “should serve as a warning to providers,” Karen Harfield, Assistant Director General, Integrity, Intelligence and Professional Standards said.
“Being approved to operate a childcare service in Western Australia carries with it significant responsibilities and obligations to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children enrolled at the service. Supervision policies and procedures must be robust and include frequent headcounts and premises checks, especially during transition times, to ensure all children are accounted for,” she added.
During an investigation into the incident, the Department of Communities found that the service had transport policies and procedures, but these did not require the Service’s educators to conduct headcounts and/or roll-calls as children got onto and/or got off the Service’s vehicles.
Further, the educators who were involved in transporting the children did not have a written list of the children they were to transport and of schools to which they were to be taken. Instead, the procedure directed the educator planning the transport to send a text message to educators on the bus run with the names of the schools of the children at each school to be collected, but this was only in place for after school care.
At the time of the incident this procedure was not used for the before school session bus runs.
The provider admitted the contravention and has shown genuine remorse and contrition for the incident, the Department said. Following the incident, the leaders at the service have reviewed all policies and procedures and revised its policies and procedures for transportation, arrival and departure, and supervision.
In outlining contributing factors which led to the incident, the provider noted both the late arrival of the child at the service, without a prior booking, which then required a last-minute revision of the buses running plan to accommodate that child’s school drop off.
The Service has reminded educators and parents that its policy is not to accept a child without a prior booking into care after 7:50am.
To prevent similar incidents in the future, the provider has agreed that the responsible person on the day will arrange the bus runs and routes accordingly and these will be sent out by text to each individual educator. (Each educator will also receive their own hard copy bus list for children in their care).
Before departing for school drop offs, a roll call will be conducted and all children gathered in one space. (Additional support to be given for children with special needs). The responsible person will call each individual child’s name and place them with an educator to begin their bus run.
Educators on the Service buses will now be supplied with a list of the names of all children travelling on the particular bus and will conduct a roll call at each pick up and drop-off point on the journey.
Once inside (or on location) the children are signed out on the educator’s paper copy bus list or relevant app. If an educator chooses to sign off on a paper copy bus list, they must transfer the information to the electronic program on returning to the Service, which will provide an additional attendance check to confirm all children are accounted for.
The service has also updated its staff orientation process and has organised further training for educators and Coordinator at the Service.
To access further information in relation to this incident, please see here.