Childcare facilities in recreation centres and shopping malls
What has happened?
The Education Act 1989 has been amended so that child care facilities at which no child attends for more than two hours a day, and where a parent or caregiver is in close proximity and is able to assume responsibility for the child at short notice, are no longer subject to early childhood services regulations. These child care facilities are also known as limited child care centres.
What is a limited child care centre?
Limited child care centres provide short-term casual child care for three or more children under the age of six where:
i. no child attends for more than two hours a day, and
ii. a parent or caregiver is in close proximity; able to be easily contacted and to resume responsibility for their child at short notice.
Who operates those centres?
These centres are most often found in recreation facilities such as swimming pools, gyms and shopping malls.
Why is this change being made to the Education Act 1989?
Under the Education Act 1989 and the Education (Early Childhood Services) Regulations 2008, limited child care centres are classed as early childhood education and care centres. Because of this they have to be licensed and meet the specified minimum standards. Standards include meeting staff ratios, having qualified staff, having suitable premises, having health and safety policies in place and implementing curriculum requirements.
The government has agreed with limited child care centre providers that there is no need to have to meet licensing standards, which can be expensive to comply with, as these kinds of centres primarily provide short-term care rather than education.
The change to the Education Act 1989 is intended to allow operators of recreational facilities such as gyms and shopping malls the flexibility to provide short-term care for small children while their parents or caregivers are taking part in activities.
What does this change mean?
Limited child care centre providers no longer have to comply with education regulations. Limited child care centres are no longer included in the Education Act 1989 as early childhood education and care centres.
There are a number of legislative requirements that will continue to apply to this type of short-term child care. These requirements focus on general health and safety and on building and environment safety. Examples are the Building Act 2004, which regulates the general suitability of all buildings and the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992, which requires that all practicable steps are taken to ensure no action or inaction of any employee while at work harms any other person and that providers obtain a police vet of employees.
Although the majority of these requirements do not specifically relate to children per se, there will still be an onus on limited child care centre providers, via contractual obligations to parents, to ensure they provide an environment suitable for the safety and wellbeing of children in their care.
What is the requirement for Police vetting staff in limited child care centres?
The Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 places a direct responsibility on limited child care centre providers to ensure their staff and other people likely to have unsupervised access to children are Police vetted.
Police vetting is a service administered by the NZ Police. It involves searching the Police database for relevant information held about the person being vetted (in relation to the position they are seeking to hold).
Obtaining Police vets is the direct responsibility of the centre operator. For further information about the Police vetting process, go to the NZ Police website or contact the Police Licensing and Vetting Service on 04 470 7079.
What happens if you have concerns about a limited child care centre?
Any complaints should initially be referred to the provider of the limited child care centre.
The Ministry of Education will investigate complaints relating to limited child care centres being operated outside of the defined conditions.
The Department of Labour will respond to complaints received about limited child care centres not meeting their obligations under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, and can be contacted on 0800 20 90 20.