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Discoveries Educare Legal Battle with the Ministry to Keep Centres Open

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July 9, 2020.

parents and children left upset after sudden closure of childcare centre

The Discoveries Educare Lincoln Road Henderson centre is the latest in the Auckland childcare chain to be closed by the Ministry of Education.  

Confidential sources from within the Ministry of Education have revealed that taking licensing action against Discoveries Educare has been difficult due to opposition by the service provider and pending legal action.

Discoveries Educare Ltd is part of the Early Childhood Council (ECC). It was held up as a model for other ECC centre owners in being invited by the ECC’s chief executive to present a workshop with him on health and safety at the ECC’s May 2018 Conference. 

Parents at the Lincoln Road centre say this week they were left in the dark regarding compliance failures and did not know that the centre had been put on notice by the ministry.

In 2016 a tree at the Gillies Ave Newmarket centre fell on children, seriously injuring them. In 2019 WorkSafe successfully prosecuted Discoveries Educare Limited and its owners Rippan Sandhu and Ajit Singh for failure to ensure the health and safety of children and of workers supervising children in the rear play area, and that failure exposed them to a risk of serious injury or death, namely crushing by a collapsing tree. Discoveries Educare Ltd was fined $172,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $46,200 ($3,500 of which had already been paid), as well as $3,490 in consequential loss.

Discoveries Educare Mt Wellington centre closed last Friday (3 July) because of failures to comply with regulatory requirements on its provisional licence.

Discoveries Educare Gillies Ave centre, Discoveries Educare Oteha Valley centre and Discoveries Target Road centre licences were cancelled because of failures to comply with regulatory requirements on their provisional licence, these cancellations took effect on Tuesday 30 June 2020.

Discoveries Educare Gadsby Road’s licence was cancelled in July 2019 due to the service choosing to permanently cease operation after receiving a notice of intention to cancel the licence because of non-compliance with regulatory requirements on its provisional licence.

The Lincoln Road licence was cancelled because of failures to comply with regulatory requirements on its provisional licence and the cancellation took effect at 5pm, Tuesday 7 July 2020.

The Discoveries Educare website still listed the Lincoln Road centre on 7th July and said of it:

“Our conveniently located centre is current [sic] licensed for 50 children. We are a warm, approachable team who understand that the success of an early childhood centre lies in building and maintaining genuine reciprocal relationships with our children, families, teaching team and community.”

But a parent spoken with said: “We have no idea why the centre is being closed or what the exact breaches were. We did not know until now that the centre was even under a temporary licence”.

Dr Sarah Alexander believes this could have been better managed.

“Families have been left in a desperate position. Finding alternative childcare is not something that can always be done easily and it takes time to settle a child into a new service. Parents need to be at work to put food on the table, pay the electricity bill, meet mortgage and household loan payment requirements, and they need to be at work to help NZ’s post-Covid economy recovery.”

Parents are upset to see the bonds their child has with teachers broken, through no fault of the teachers.

A parent who wishes to remain anonymous said: “It was heart-breaking to see my child cry when I told her it was closing and she would not be able to go anymore. She has a strong attachment with a lovely teacher, and she’s really going to miss her.”

Services must prominently display their licence. However, Dr Alexander believes the legal requirement is problematic since there is no onus on the service provider to ensure that parents and visitors are directed to check the licence, and have the conditions placed on the licence explained to them. 

When an early childhood service is put on notice by being placed on a provisional licence, she would like to see the Ministry of Education establish a new practice of providing families with a written letter containing full details of licence breaches. Dr Alexander argues that services should be obligated to be transparent and honest and inform parents what any recent or current licence breaches are and discuss with parents exactly what they are doing to fix the breaches. 

The Discoveries Lincoln Road centre has a history of non-compliance. In 2017 it was put on notice for 2 months for breaches in standards relating to management and administration. On 1 March 2019 it was placed on notice for breaching regulations concerning health and safety, premises and facilities, management, and administration. The centre was not required to inform parents that it was on a provisional licence and the nature of the deficiencies and possible risks to children. 

See lists of services that have been put on notice for licence breaches or closed by the Ministry of Education.

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