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A simple guide to understanding duty of care in childcare centres in NSW

A simple guide to understanding duty of care in childcare centres in NSW

Published on February 5, 2024 by Robert AlgieRobert Algie

Childcare centres in New South Wales (NSW) operate under a legal and ethical framework that places the utmost importance on the duty of care owed to children under their supervision. This duty of care encompasses a range of responsibilities and standards that childcare providers must adhere to, ensuring the safety, well-being, and development of the children in their care. Simultaneously, parents hold certain rights and have responsibilities regarding their child’s care in these facilities. This article looks at the duty of care of a childcare centre and its management, what is ‘duty of care’, what parents’ rights and responsibilities are, and what you should do if your child is injured.

Duty of Care in childcare centres in NSW

1. Legal obligations

i. Safety and adequate supervision – childcare centres are legally obliged to provide a safe environment and appropriate supervision to always ensure children’s safety. This includes maintaining a secure premises, conducting risk assessments, and implementing measures to prevent accidents or injuries. This extends to maintaining adequate staff to child ratios.

ii. Health and hygiene – centres must maintain high standards of hygiene, including regular cleaning, safe food handling, and promoting practices that prevent the spread of illness.

iii. Qualified staff – employing qualified and trained staff is crucial. Properly vetted and skilled professionals ensure children receive adequate care, support, discipline, and educational guidance.

iv. Child protection – childcare providers have a responsibility to protect children from harm, abuse, or neglect. They must be vigilant in recognising signs of distress or abuse and take appropriate action.

        Childcare centres are responsible for handling minor accidents, administering necessary and appropriate first aid, as well as dealing with any accidents that may arise from toileting.

        2. Ethical considerations

        i. Emotional well-being – ensuring children’s emotional well-being is vital. This involves fostering a supportive and nurturing environment, respecting individual differences, and addressing emotional needs.

        ii. Learning and development – childcare centres play a crucial role in a child’s early learning and development. They should offer age-appropriate activities, educational opportunities, and support individual learning needs.

        If a childcare centre falls short of their duty of care, they may be in breach of the law. If so, the childcare centre could be fined, have their licence restricted, revised, revoked, or cancelled, and be prosecuted.

        What are my rights as a parent of a child in care?

        1. Access to information

        i. Communication – parents have the right to open and transparent communication with childcare staff. This includes updates on their child’s daily activities, developmental progress, and any concerns that may arise.

        ii. Policies and procedures – parents should have access to the centre’s policies and procedures, understanding how the centre operates, handles emergencies, and addresses grievances.

        2. Involvement and participation

        i. Participation in decision-making – parents should be involved in decisions regarding their child’s care and education. This involvement can range from participation in parent-teacher meetings to contributing suggestions or feedback.

        ii. Visitation and observation – most childcare centre’s allow parents to visit or observe their child’s activities within the centre premises, promoting transparency and trust.

        What are my parental responsibilities?

        As a parent you are responsible for recording your child’s:

        • enrolment details accurately, which includes who are authorised guardians and emergency contacts;
        • health information, including any special needs, allergies and diagnosed medical conditions;
        • daily attendance, including your child’s time of arrival and departure from the centre.

        As a parent you have a right to feel safe and secure that a childcare centre will not place your child in the hands of a stranger or an unauthorised person.

        What do I do if my child is injured at the centre? 

        If your child’s health, safety, or wellbeing has been impacted, you may wish to raise the issue with the childcare centre. If your grievance is not addressed in a timely manner, you can raise a complaint directly with the NSW Department of Education and Training.

        The Department will gather and assess information relating to your complaint and thereafter decide what action they may take. Action could include increased monitoring, a licence restriction or even prosecution.

        If your child sustained serious injuries while in childcare, you should request:

        1. A copy of the full incident report including details of any actions or steps taken by centre staff.
        2. Obtain medical treatment for your child and keep records of any treatment obtained.
        3. Keep a copy of your receipts for any out-of-pocket medical expenses.
        4. If relevant, take photographs of any equipment or the facility if the injury was caused due to defective, poor, not adequately maintained, areas within the centre.
        5. Obtain legal advice.

        If your child’s childcare injuries are serious and permanent, and it can be proven that the centre failed in its duty of care, you may have a claim. There are time limits that apply, so it is important to obtain advice early.

        Please note that this article does not constitute legal advice. If you are seeking professional advice on any legal matters, you can contact Carroll & O’Dea Lawyers on 1800 059 278 or via our Contact Page and one of our lawyers will be able to assist you.

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