Child centre complaints published

Last updated 16:42 05/06/2014

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The Ministry of Education today began publishing data on complaints about early-childhood services.

It was reported last October that 247 complaints were made against centres in 2012, including incidents where children were locked in sheds and rooms, suffered bites and bruises, and left behind at the end of the day.

The ministry has begun publishing on its website a summary of complaints received, which ministry early-learning deputy secretary Rawiri Brell said was "due to the high level of media and public interest".

Information would be published yearly to prove complaints were followed up and appropriate action taken.

The number of complaints made about early-childhood services to the ministry had remained "largely unchanged" over the past four years despite thousands more children being enrolled.

Of 246 complaints made in 2013, 79 were upheld.

Most complaints were fee-related, but of the 26 complaints involving an allegation of verbal or physical abuse or neglect, three were upheld.

Five complaints of children leaving centres because of insecure premises or lack of supervision were also upheld.

No services had their licences revoked as a result of complaints or investigations last year.

Brell said releasing the information was intended to give parents greater assurance about the way complaints were managed.

"The ministry takes every complaint seriously, particularly when it involves the wellbeing of a child," he said.

Action taken if complaints were upheld ranged from monitoring a service to suspending a licence and, in rare circumstances, withdrawing a licence.

Since a report about a baby being left behind in a Porirua early-childhood centre in February last year, ChildForum chief executive Sarah Farquhar has been campaigning to make the complaints process more transparent.

After receiving information on 2012 complaints through the Official Information Act, she pushed for more information to be made public, including for centres to be named.

The ministry refused for "commercial and privacy reasons".

Parents could not "go in with their eyes wide open", and other centres "were tarnished with the same brush" if individual services were not named, Farquhar said.

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