Warning for approved providers as child absconds from excursion and is found on road
A large approved provider with services across Australia has been fined $15,000 plus $1,000 costs over an incident where a two-year-old child was nearly hit by a vehicle after he left his group during an excursion and wandered onto a laneway.
The provider was found to have breached Section 165(1) of the National Law for an offence involving inadequate supervision in relation to the April 2021 incident, which took place when children were visiting a local reserve.
The child left the site “unnoticed and unsupervised,” the Tribunal found, later being located in the middle of a bitumen lane that runs behind a group of shops, parallel to the park, after he was almost hit by a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Up until that point, both staff members were unaware that the child had left the group.
Staff were only alerted to the fact that the child was missing after the driver of the vehicle called out to a staff member to alert them to the child’s presence on the roadway.
At the time of the incident there were two educators with a total of 14 children, including the child, present at the excursion. The service’s own risk assessment for the excursion required a minimum of three educators. The staff were positioned at opposite ends of the reserve about 30m apart with children playing at either end of the reserve.
“It has long been recognised that excursions to locations without walls, even to familiar places, may require a higher ratio of educators to children to guarantee adequate supervision,” said Catherine Stoddart, Deputy Director General – Governance, Intelligence and Reform, Department of Communities.
Ms Stoddart reminded all approved providers that excursion practices should ensure the educator-to-child ratios are appropriate for the needs of each excursion and “don’t just meet the minimum standard”.
When planning for excursions, the risk assessment practices should consider the location, age and individual needs of all children in attendance.
“Childcare providers should also consider staff capabilities and provide additional support, if required, when planning an excursion,” she added. Providers are also responsible for ensuring that their service’s practices are appropriate and robust, so that staff know them and follow them at all times.
“Having policies for supervision and excursions is a start, and ongoing reviews should be conducted to ensure maintenance of these practices and – where applicable – improvements made,” she emphasised.
“Risk assessments need to be robust, and all staff must be trained in these processes prior to participating in an excursion so they can understand and implement them.”
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