Double trouble for childcare centres
Problems rising: WA childcare centres. Picture: The West Australian

The number of WA childcare services breaking regulations and failing to protect and properly supervise young children has more than doubled over the past year.

Breaches include children leaving centres unsupervised - one as young as two years old and two six-year-olds found roaming on a dual carriageway - and centres being unsafe, dirty and in poor repair.

Inspectors found 151 childcare providers, more than 15 per cent of the 1030 services in WA, recorded one or more breaches of the law and regulations, compared with 61 the year before.

Out of 410 breaches in just less than two years, the most common involving centre owners failing to keep the premises, furniture and equipment safe, clean and in good repair was recorded 86 times.

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The Department of Local Government and Communities, which oversees education and care service compliance in WA, said 16 breaches involved a child leaving a care service.

There were also 20 offences of inadequate supervision of children, 18 offences of operating a childcare service without a responsible person present, 14 breaches of staff-to-child ratios and 16 breaches relating to first-aid kits and qualifications.

In April, Kidz Biz Sport and Recreation in East Butler was fined $6000 by the State Administrative Tribunal and ordered to pay $1500 in court costs after two boys, aged six, left the centre unnoticed in July last year.

A passer-by found the boys on the median strip of a dual carriageway 2km from the centre, where police returned them more than an hour later.

In February, a seven-year-old girl left Bluebird Afterschool and Vacation Care in Busselton on her bicycle, alone and unnoticed.

Her mother found her outside the centre 30 to 40 minutes later after she arrived to collect her daughter and realised she was missing.

This year the State Administrative Tribunal fined the centre's owner Jaliz Enterprises Pty Ltd $7000 and ordered it to pay $1500 in court costs.

The department is taking action against Teddy Bear Corner Child Care Centre in Hamilton Hill over alleged breaches involving broken equipment, an unsafe cubby house, dirty bed linen and educators not having the relevant health and safety qualifications.

Community Services Minister Tony Simpson said the increase in centres recording breaches of regulations was a direct result of more inspection officers over the past year.

"Services needing improvement can expect to be visited more frequently and the department will help them reach the required standards," he said.

After an investigation by The West Australian in 2009 that revealed the public was unable to find out which childcare centres had breached regulations, the State Government decided to name and shame those providers by listing breaches online.

However, the Government has since pulled back on naming all childcare centres that breach regulations.

The West Australian

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