Making a Complaint Against an Early Childhood Service

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Information for Parents, Staff, and Members of the Public on How to Make a Complaint.

What Parents Need to Know

Every licensed service must display a complaints policy or procedure for parents and visitors to check and read. If you have not seen this, ask to see a copy.

You may find it helpful to informally chat with other parents about their experience and confirm if your concerns are valid or if perhaps there may be some other explanation.

Complaints should be made in writing to the service manager.  

> View and print a copy of the parent complaint form and/or the child complaint form (or check if your service has copies)

Sometimes a service meets all regulations, but it might not be suitable or good for your child. In this case, it pays to revisit your childcare options.

Support for Teachers, Educators and Staff

Most employers and service operators want to be kept informed by their staff of any problems that may lead to or create a licence breach so that the problems can be remedied immediately.

However, should your employer be one that allows a licence breaches or breaches to occur then this must be reported to the appropriate authorities. Report any breach in the education regulations and licensing criteria directly to the Ministry of Education (see contact details below). Breaches for example, may concern insufficient adults for the number and ages of children, not allowing parents in the service with their child, not enabling children to access outdoor play, unsafe food, abusing and rough-handling children, recording absent children as present to claim funding for them, etc.

Are you worried about losing your job or being sued by your employer if you report your service?

  • Check if your employment contract states that you will keep information about the service confidential or extend the Employer’s business interests and reputation and not do anything to its detriment.

Any employee who does not feel safe to either bring matters up with their employer or to make a report to the Ministry of Education due to their employment contract or for any other reason, can call the Ombudsman for advice on making a protected disclosure. Call 0800 802 602.

If your worry is about keeping your name secret, the My ECE parents’ website provides an option to submit a complaint against an early childhood education service anonymously online.

The roles of different agencies

The Ministry of Education is responsible for licensing early childhood centres, playgroups, hospital based services, and home-based care arrangements. It also administers government funding to services. The Ministry of Education says they are not responsible for the day to day running and management of early childhood services, so if you have a complaint the Ministry may not respond unless the complaint relates to compliance with legal requirements for the operation of an early childhood service or if there is a misuse of funding.

The Education Review Office reviews early childhood services and can make recommendations to services on a broad range of curriculum, health and safety, management, and staffing matters. You may or may not get a chance to talk with a Reviewer when they visit your service as Reviewers do not talk with all parents/families. Reviews are generally only conducted by ERO once every three or four years and are not usually done in response to a parent’s complaint.

The Privacy Commissioner is the person to contact or send a written complaint to if it is a matter of your confidential information being used in a way you have not given permission for (e.g. your child’s portfolio with confidential family information has been shown to other parents or visitors).

Contact the Police if you notice a child being abused, neglected, or put at risk in other ways such as a staff member or home educator taking rude or sexual images of children, or drinking alcohol or being drunk in the presence of children. If the service is not properly restraining children in vehicles with appropriate car seat restraints or is putting children in physical danger contact the Police.  

If you notice another parent or caregiver putting their child at risk, for example they might be arriving at the centre drunk, or may not be using a car seat restraint for their child, then tell the person in charge at your early childhood service. It is better for the person in charge at your centre to deal with this in the first instance by talking with parent and then following it up with the Police or Child Youth and Family if appropriate.  However, if you notice that the parent’s or caregiver’s behaviour doesn’t change and the child continues to be at risk – do immediately contact the police or Child Youth and Family Services and report. We must all share responsibility for child safety.

If you are told that your child can no longer attend the service for a reason that you find unacceptable contact the Human Rights Commission (if discrimination) or the Children’s Commissioner who provides an advocacy service and may help with some quick legal advice so you know what to do. For example, your early childhood service may have a policy that they can exclude a child with disabilities or it might tell you off for breastfeeding on the premises.  

Address and Contact Details for Making a Complaint

Children’s Commissioner
Office of the Children’s Commissioner, PO Box 5610, Lambton Quay, Wellington 6145. Ph 0800 224 453 

NZ Police
Report to your nearest Police Station.  You may phone your local police station and ask a question in confidence to ask if it is a criminal matter before deciding to make details known.  Phone 111 in an emergency.

Privacy Commissioner
Privacy Commissioner, PO Box 466, Shortland Street, Auckland 1140.  In Auckland Ph 302 8655. Outside of Auckland Ph 0800 803 909 

Human Rights Commission
Human Rights Commission, PO Box 12411, Thorndon, Wellington 6144. Ph 0800 496 877

Education Review Office
ERO puts complaints on file until the ECE service’s next review which may be up to 3 – 4 years away.  Nevertheless let ERO know if there is a problem with the quality of education or management at a service.  Contact your area Education Review Office (under Government Depts in the white pages of the telephone book).  Or write to the head office – Education Review Office,  PO Box 2799, Wellington 6140.  Ph 04 499-2489.

Ministry of Education Regional Offices

  • Whangarei office: PO Box 911, Whangarei 0140. Northland. Ph (09) 436 8900
  • Auckland office: Private Bag 92644, Symonds Street, Auckland. Ph (09) 632 9400
  • Hamilton office: Private Bag 3011, Hamilton. Ph (07) 858 7130
  • Rotorua office: PO Box 1749, Rotorua. Ph (07) 349 7399
  • Napier office: PO Box 147, Napier.  Ph (06) 833 6730
  • Lower Hutt office: PO Box 30177, Lower Hutt. Ph (04) 463 8699
  • Wanganui office: Private Bag 3012, Whanganui. Ph (06) 349 6300
  • Nelson office: 19 Haven Road, Nelson 7010. Ph (03) 546 3470
  • Christchurch office: PO Box 2522, Christchurch 8140. Ph (03) 378 7300
  • Dunedin office: Private Bag 1971, Dunedin 9054. Ph (03) 471 5200
  • Invercargill office: Private Bag 90-122, Invercargill. Ph (03) 211 3610

Or protect your identity from the Ministry of Education by submitting a complaint online via the My ECE parents’ website confidential complaints support service.

Should you not be happy with how your local Ministry of Education Office has responded to your complaint, inform the Ombudsman, Freephone: 0800 802 602. Email: info@ombudsman.parliament.nz Also, let the Ministry’s national office know: Ministry of Education, PO Box 1666, Thorndon, Wellington 601. Ph (04) 463 8000. 

Is your ECE service wonderful?

Let other parents and families know if the service you are using is wonderful or if there is a problem with it  

Go to the online National Register of early childhood centres and home-based services, look up the name of your service and rate it.  

If any of the details here have become outdated or if you have additional information that would be useful to share to assist parents and families please let us know

Has this been useful?  Give us your feedback.

You are welcome to add a link to this page on your website. Copyright belongs to the OECE so please do not copy any content without our written permission.

Information provided is of a general nature. It is provided ‘as is’, and we accept no liability for its accuracy or completeness. See our Terms and Conditions.

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