Allegations of abuse and neglect are among the hundreds of complaints made against early childhood centres last year.

The Ministry of Education has released its report in to the 339 complaints about early learning services received during 2017.

In one case a child was found unresponsive and hanging by a ribbon around the neck. In another, a teacher “roughly handled” a child, resulting in a dislocated shoulder.

Other incidents reported include a teacher being stood down, and later resigning, after biting a student, and a case where a parent assaulted and then threatened to run over a staff member.

The Ministry investigated 297 of the complaints — upholding 166 of them. Over the year, nine services had their licences cancelled, while a further 37 were placed on provisional licences or had their licences cancelled.

Ministry deputy secretary of sector enablement and support Katrina Casey said more than 200,000 children attended early learning services last year.

“It’s important that parents and caregivers can have confidence that their children are learning in a safe, well-run early childhood service. An effective complaints and incidents process is part of this.”

There had been an increase in complaints about health and safety, abuse, and neglect.

These could be partly attributed to an increased awareness of legal responsibilities, Casey said.

The ministry involved Oranga Tamariki in 37 cases, the police in 28, and referred 16 to the Education Council. It referred five cases to Worksafe New Zealand.

Casey said of the complaints, 137 were made by early learning services — a mix of mandatory and voluntary notifications from the services.

“Every complaint we receive is treated seriously. We assess each complaint, and if a service falls short of the standards we impose conditions for improvement or shut the service down.”

She said the ministry would continue to look at ways to improve the management of complaints and to use the insights from investigations to improve services.

“Nothing is more important than the safety and wellbeing of our children.”


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