Release date: 11 March 2020

Child care provider Helping Hands Network Pty Ltd was ordered to pay a penalty of $15,000 and $2000 costs by the State Administrative Tribunal following an investigation of an incident at its Inglewood child care service.

The investigation carried out by the Department of Communities found that a five-and-a-half year old girl was left alone and unsupervised in a locked bus for approximately 10-15 minutes.

The bus had been used by Helping Hands to transport children from a couple of pre-primary and kindergarten sites to its service at Inglewood Primary School.

A parent from the school saw the girl in the bus and attempted to open the doors of the vehicle, however all doors were locked. The parent then rang another parent to ask her to inform the service that there was a child locked on the bus, and an educator from the service opened the bus and took the child to the service’s premises.

The incident occurred in May 2019.

In applying to the State Administrative Tribunal, the Department of Communities alleged that Helping Hands Network Pty Ltd failed to ensure that all children being educated and cared for by the service were adequately supervised at all times, in contravention of section 165(1) of the Education and Care Services National Law (Western Australia).

The Tribunal found that Helping Hands Network Pty Ltd had contravened the National Law.

This is the seventh incident in WA involving a child being left on a bus that the Department has taken to SAT since 2016. The recent death of a child left on a bus in Queensland is a clear reminder of the extreme risk these incidents present to children.

Quotes from Assistant Director General, Commissioning and Sector Engagement, Brad Jolly:

“When parents place their children in the care of a child care service, they expect the safety of their children to be the priority for that service.

“The Department of Communities investigates every allegation or complaint of the safety of children not being met. And, as it has in this case, may apply to the State Administrative Tribunal to impose one or more sanctions against an approved provider, licensee or managerial officer for contraventions of the relevant Act or regulations.”

“All providers should review their practices around children in their care being properly accounted for at all times, especially ensuring that no children are left in vehicles, and make sure staff are familiar with and follow procedures correctly.

Media contact: Nick Butterly (08) 6217 4077