After school care services failing Queensland kids

 

Exclusive: Australia is in the grip of an after school care crisis.

Tens of thousands of children are enrolled in services that have been ruled substandard, while others are on waiting lists unable to access care because schools can't make space available.

A News Corp investigation has found 1313 of the 4800 before and after school care providers that have been rated do not meet the government's quality standards.

And one of the worst offenders is Australia's largest provider US private equity owned Camp Australia which has one in four (176) of its 665 services not meeting quality standards.

Camp Australia services have had 27 fines, penalties, compliance orders and other regulatory action applied for breaches. These relate to children leaving the centres without staff noticing, overcrowding, and services keeping two sets of books to deceive regulators.

One in ten services run by the second largest provider Junior Adventures Group don't meet quality standards and hundreds of services run by the YMCA and P and C bodies and others are also not meeting standards.

Find out if your child's after school care centre is not meeting quality standards here.

 

 

 

In addition to so many centres falling short of the quality ratings many centres have been fined or had other regulatory action taken for rule breaches which include:

*A child who became motionless and unresponsive when their scarf became entangled on a flying fox.

*multiple children becoming distressed after being forgotten and accidentally locked in buses that transported them to their after school care services.

*At one centre a child was locked in a darkened room as punishment and another had chips and drinks thrown at them by staff

*A six year old autistic child was smacked and had soap put in his mouth while another childcare worker was said to have held him during the ordeal.

*A child with Down syndrome wandered away from a service without staff noticing.

*A child was collected from service by an unapproved person;

 

 

 

 

 

Taxpayers spent over $740 million on subsidies for outside school hours care in the 2018-2019 year but are not getting value for that money because of poor standards.

Childcare providers said the federal government's decision to axe its $20 million financial contribution towards enforcing childcare quality standards in the 2018 budget exacerbated the problem and has resulted in fewer quality inspections.

In many cases the failure to meet quality standards is repeated year after year with no action taken by authorities.

Regulators are not meeting timelines to recheck centres rated as working towards within 12 months.

Our investigation found some centres have operated for five years between checks and were still not meeting the quality standards at their second check up.

"Our governments are completely under resourced to keep adequate track or be responsive when quality is not there," said Kylie Brannelly the spokeswoman for the National Outside School Hours Services Alliance.

"The federal government needs to reinvest in the system and as a peak body we also want the Australian Government to invest in planning for outside school hours care," she said.

A spokesperson for Camp Australia said: "We have learnt from these issues; we have taken action to address them and they are not an accurate reflection of our services today.

"Over the past 24 months Camp Australia has invested millions of dollars to improve the quality and consistency of services".

This included setting up a team of 24 new specialists staff who regularly visit services, identifying areas for improvement, and implementing change, the spokesman said.

He also said parents should be aware that a rating of 'working towards' did not indicate the service was in any way unsafe.

 

Children have been let down across the country. Picture: iStock
Children have been let down across the country. Picture: iStock

 

A spokesperson for Camp Australia said: "We have learnt from these issues; we have taken action to address them and they are not an accurate reflection of our services today.

"Over the past 24 months Camp Australia has invested millions of dollars to improve the quality and consistency of services".

This included setting up a team of 24 new specialists staff who regularly visit services, identifying areas for improvement, and implementing change, the spokesman said.

He also said parents should be aware that a rating of 'working towards' did not indicate the service was in any way unsafe.

A spokesperson for the federal Education Department said State and Territory Governments are responsible for the regulation of approved child care services.

"The provision of services is a business decision for each provider. The provision of after school care facilities as part of new school construction is a matter for state and territory governments that are responsible for the construction of government school facilities or non-government school providers."

Camp Australia is also facing court action by the state regulator for multiple breaches at centres on the Gold Coast.

From October 2015, Camp Australia faces 48 charges over its services in Park Lake State School, Coomera Spring State School, Emmanuel College, Tallebudgera State School, Tamborine Mountain State School, Varsity College and Currumbin State School on the Gold Coast including alleged understaffing and inadequate records. The matter was mentioned in the Southport Magistrates Court earlier this year.

It is alleged up to 38 children were left alone with one staffer when national regulations require at least one educator for every 15 children over preschool age.

· At Park Lake State State School OSHC in April and December of 2017 it is alleged 46 children left with two staff members.

The department also alleged sign in documents at the Pacific Pines facility were not accurate.

· It is alleged there were three staffing ratio breaches in March and April 2017 at the Coomera Springs State School OSHC run by Camp Australia.The most extreme was when one educator was allegedly left with up to 25 children for a period of three hours.

· Three instances of understaffing at the Emmanuel College OSHC service in January 2017.

· Five similar cases at the Tallebudgera State School Camp Australia Program in 2017.

· Tamborine Mountain State School had five separate allegations of understaffing and two recording issues where staff allegedly failed to record the presence of a child.

· An operation at Varsity College recorded eleven alleged offences related to staffing arrangements.In one instance in April 2017, 112 children were allegedly under the care of six educators - a ratio of 18.6 to one.

· The Currumbin State School facility recorded six alleged cases of staffing ratio offences.

The Queensland Department of Education said a 'Working Towards' quality rating "is not a fail, and does not indicate a risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of children".

"Over the last two years, we have increased the number of services assessed and rated per year by 18 per cent, and each service in Queensland was visited on average twice in 2018-19," the department said.

"Our ratings data shows that Queensland services are of a higher quality than the national average (84 per cent of Queensland services rated Meeting or above, compared with the national average of 79 per cent).

"The department is not in a position to comment further on matters relating to Camp Australia as it is presently subject to ongoing legal proceedings."

 

Ascot State School’s after school care does not meet standards in Queensland. Picture: Facebook
Ascot State School’s after school care does not meet standards in Queensland. Picture: Facebook


Helen Gibbons, Executive Director for early education at the United Workers Union said in relation to Camp Australia that "any service provider that has so many of their services failing to meet quality guidelines is shocking"

"A key indicator of a quality service is a stable staff team. Children and parents need a reliable friendly face that they know and trust," she said.

Opposition childcare spokeswoman Amanda Rishworth said the government's cuts to the childcare quality system were having repercussions on centre quality and safety.

"The government has made it clear that it does not consider ensuring child care quality to be a priority," she said.

"Families need to know their children are getting the best possible care."



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