Services struggling to meet new safe sleep rules
The Sector > Quality > Compliance > 3 areas continue to challenge services as new sleep and rest requirements roll out

3 areas continue to challenge services as new sleep and rest requirements roll out

by Freya Lucas

October 26, 2023

Under the Education and Care Services National Regulations, approved providers must ensure that policies and procedures are in place for sleep and rest for children. 


The sleep and rest requirements under the National Law and Regulations aim to protect children in early childhood education and care ECEC settings from risks associated with sleep and rest. 


Additional sleep and rest requirements came into effect 1 October 2023. The changes are based on the findings of the 2019 National Quality Framework (NQF) Review and aim to minimise risks associated with Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) and reduce infant deaths in (ECEC) settings. 


The changes build on the important practices services already have in place to keep children safe during sleep and rest times. Regulation 81 has been replaced by regulation 84A.  


Recent regulatory data from New South Wales indicates three key areas continue to be challenging for services, including safe sleep environments, supervision and effective risk assessment, policy and procedures.


Bassinets prohibited from services


From 1 October 2023, bassinets are prohibited from ECEC premises (including centre-based and family day care services), at any time during which children are being educated and cared for (regulation 84D).


Bassinets are unsafe for use in ECEC settings and can lead to serious incidents. The prohibition of bassinets in ECEC services is expected to reduce risks and ensure that children are kept safe during periods of sleep and rest.


New sleep and rest requirements    


Updated policy and procedure requirements


From 1 October, sleep and rest policies and procedures must address the matters set out in regulation 84B, including:


  • how children will be protected from any risks identified in a risk assessment conducted under regulation 84C
  • how the sleep and rest needs of children are met, including how the ages, development stages and the sleep and rest needs of individual children are considered
  • how adequate supervision and monitoring during sleep and rest periods will be ensured, including the method and frequency of checking the safety, health and wellbeing of children during sleep and rest periods and the documentation of sleep and rest periods.


As each service has its own unique context, it is important that providers customise their policies and procedures to suit their service environment. Collaborative and regular reviews of these policies and procedures are necessary to ensure they align with current evidence-based guidelines from recognised authorities.


Red Nose Australia is the nationally recognised authority for safe sleeping. Red Nose recommendations and advice should inform service policies, along with guidance materials from ACECQA and the NSW Regulatory Authority.


It is also a requirement to inform families of any changes or updates made to the service’s safe sleep policies, procedures and practices.


Risk assessments now required


Approved providers must conduct risk assessments related to sleep and rest as part of the process for preparing sleep and rest policies and procedures (regulation 84C). The risk assessments should occur at least once every 12 months and promptly whenever circumstances arise that may affect the safety, health or wellbeing of children during sleep and rest. They must identify and evaluate sleep and rest-related risks, and detail how these risks will be managed and minimised.


Approved providers are responsible for updating policies and procedures to reflect their current risk assessment and maintain a record of these assessments (regulations 84C(3) and 84C(4)).


Further information and resources


Download the sleep and rest risk assessment template and policy and procedure guidelines from ACECQA.


Visit the NSW Department of Education Safe sleep and rest page for guidance and resources, or access the Red Nose Australia advice hub, which offers a wide range of resources for families and services.

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