Department of Communities sounds alarm about perimeter safety with $20,000 penalty
An early childhood provider in Mandurah, Western Australia, has been ordered to pay $20,000 in penalties and costs by the State Administrative Tribunal for the contravention of section 165(1) of the Education and Care Service National Law (Western Australia) Act 2012, following the investigation of an incident which took place 31 August 2020.
The Department of Communities investigation found that four children aged four years of age or younger had left the service by climbing through a large gap in a perimeter fence, unnoticed and unsupervised.
Between about 1.00 pm and 1.15 pm, one boy and three girls were found by members of the public on the verge of a four-lane highway and returned to the service. None of the children were harmed during the incident.
The service fence was known to be regularly damaged through vandalism. The gap in the fence had been observed on the morning of the incident and had been inadequately repaired by staff, the Department said.
“Being approved to operate a childcare service in Western Australia carries significant responsibilities and obligations to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children enrolled at the childcare service,” Catherine Stoddart, Deputy Director General – Governance, Intelligence and Reform, Department of Communities said.
“Perimeter barriers should be checked regularly and repairs carried out so as to protect against any child being able to leave the safety of a centre’s grounds.”
Supervision policies and procedures should be robust, and include frequent headcounts and premises checks, especially for those children with known abilities such as climbing fences or tall outdoor or indoor structures, she added.
“Staff should be trained in the service policies and procedures to ensure that they are embedded in their service practices and operators must have systems in place to monitor that the staff follow the policies and procedures.”
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