Complaints up due to 'shift in awareness'

Katrina Casey
Katrina Casey
Complaints about how early childhood education services in Otago and Southland are run have more than doubled in the past three years, Ministry of Education data shows.

There are 377 services across the southern region.

In 2018, 11 complaints were made about 10 of the services, and five of the complaints were upheld by the Ministry of Education following investigations.

In 2017, nine complaints were made two of which were upheld, and in 2016, five complaints were made.

Nationwide, 430 complaints were made about 345 services in 2018.

Of the complaints, 221 were upheld at 176 services, meaning standards had not been met or the investigation found something the service was required to improve.

Complaints upheld included abuse or neglect of children; poor accident management procedures; poor teacher behaviour; poor curriculum quality; insecure premises or lapses in staff supervision; dissatisfaction with complaint procedures; poor employment practices; overcharging and lack of transparency around fees and subsidies; problems with health and safety policies and procedures; poor hygiene levels; high noise levels; and divulging private information.

Ministry sector enablement and support deputy secretary Katrina Casey said the number of nationwide complaints received in 2018 had increased 27% since 2017, but the number of complaints upheld had increased less than 1%.

''It's clear that parents, whanau and caregivers are more aware of the role we play and are more confident about coming to us when they have a concern about their child's education and care, or something doesn't seem right.

''That shift in awareness is most obviously demonstrated by the fact we've had more than twice as many complainants coming to us when they've been unhappy with how a service has managed a complaint.

''We want people to speak up when they're unhappy or unsure of something.

''It's reassuring to see that is happening. Nothing is more important than the safety and wellbeing of our children.''

She said every complaint received was treated seriously.

''We assess each complaint and investigate when required.

''If a service falls short of the regulated standards, we impose conditions for improvement or shut the service down.''

She said the ministry suspended the licences of six services, cancelled the licences of five services and changed a further 34 services' licences to provisional.

For privacy reasons, the ministry could not say whether any of these services were in Otago or Southland.

When a complaint is upheld, the ministry offers advice and guidance to help services review and make improvements to their policies or practice.

In some situations, it provides further support by funding professional learning and development.

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