Esperance Outside School Hours Care was yesterday ordered to pay a penalty of $9,000 for a contravention of section 165(1) of the Education and Care Services National Law (Western Australia) and $1,000 for a contravention of regulation 177(2) of the Education and Care Service National Regulations following the incident in July 2021.
An investigation by the Department of Communities’ Education and Care Regulatory Unit (ECRU) established that on 28 July 2021 a four-year-old girl was picked up from a primary school in Esperance, along with seven other children, and transported to an after-school care session at the service.
All of the other children went into the service, however, the educator was not aware the four-year-old child had been left on the locked bus.
The child was left alone and unsupervised for a period of between four and five minutes before being found by an educator at the service by chance, and not as a result of the service’s policies and procedures.
Since 2016, ECRU has initiated disciplinary action against service providers in the State Administrative Tribunal on 12 occasions where children have been left on buses.
ECRU is responsible for the regulation and quality assurance of most education and care services across the State.
ECRU maintains a system of annual compliance checks to ensure all approved providers, metropolitan and regional, are actively and robustly managing safety.
This includes reviews of policies and procedures setting out the obligations of service providers when children arrive at and depart the service.
Quotes attributable to Phil Payne, Executive Director, Regulation and Quality, Department of Communities:
“It is unacceptable that despite notifications and warnings of the hazards of leaving children in care on vehicles unattended it is still occurring.
“It is also very concerning that in all recent cases, centres did not have sufficient policies, practices or training in place to prevent these occurrences, despite the widespread reporting of these types of incidents in recent years.
“In situations where children are disembarking vehicles, whilst not required by legislation, the Department recommends that two educators are present - one to supervise the children, and one to physically check that all the children have disembarked the vehicle.
“It is the responsibility of approved providers to ensure they have robust practices in place that are regularly audited to ensure that they are being followed by all staff.
“While it is positive that many centres have reviewed their policies and implemented suitable practices, some have still not. These centres are on notice that ECRU compliance officers will be undertaking compliance checks to ensure that their policies and procedures are adequate.
“As we have seen in other states, a child being left unsupervised in a vehicle, even for a short period of time, can have tragic consequences.”
Service providers can contact ECRU on 6277 3889, Free call 1800 199 383 or by email at ECRU@communities.wa.gov.au.
Media contact: Steve Worner 0418 918 299.