5 June 2014
The Ministry of Education has released this week a summary of data on the number and type of complaints made against early childhood education services in 2013.
ChildForum chief executive Dr Sarah Alexander says this gives an important message to parents, early childhood services and the public that the Ministry of Education publicly acknowledges its responsibility and is willing to handle complaints.
The move comes after sustained pressure from ChildForum, which has been campaigning for information about complaints to be more readily available. Last year, ChildForum was given details of complaints received in 2012, but a similar request in February this year for data from 2013 was denied as the Ministry promised the information would be released publicly in May.
This information has now been published on the Ministry of Education’s website. However, details of the complaints including the organisations against which they were made have not been revealed.
The Ministry says it received 246 complaints in 2013. It investigated 174 of the complaints and 79 were upheld. The most common course of action was a review of the service’s policies and procedures.
Most of the complaints were regarding fees or how the service was managed. However, there were 26 allegations of physical or verbal abuse against a child of which three were upheld and 25 allegations of poor accident management, including children suffering accidents, or incidents not being properly reported, of which three were upheld. There were seven reports of children leaving a centre unattended due to insecure premises or lack of supervision, of which five were upheld.
Dr Sarah Alexander says the release is a step in the right direction and greater transparency was vital.
“While it is good that the Ministry has made a commitment to publish this data annually, the general nature of the report does not really make the complaints process more transparent,” she says.
“Parents have the right to know whether a service they are considering for their child has been the subject of a complaint and what was done about it.
“How can parents truly know that an early childhood service is safe for their child if they do not know if there have been any major problems, and if so what consequences the service has faced and what improvements have been made?”
Dr Alexander says the current situation also often led to rumours about which services were good or bad.