Information for Operators of Licensed Children’s Services
The Government is providing for minimum quality standards across all childhood settings. The bulk of the changes are to the Children’s Services Act 1996, which will:
- Bring family day care services and outside school hours care services into the regulatory framework
- Alter the licensing process for children’s services
- Enhance the enforcement powers of the regulator
- Improve the clarity and efficiency of the Act.
The Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 is also amended to include the principle that all children in Victoria should be able to enrol in a kindergarten program. It is a priority of the Victorian Government to make kindergarten accessible to all four-year-olds.
Hazards and harm
Section 26 of the Act has been amended to require proprietors and staff members of services to take every reasonable precaution to protect children not only from any hazard likely to cause injury, but also from harm. The addition of ‘harm’ is new. Harm to a child may include, but is not limited to, serious incidents which could lead to trauma, injury requiring the attention of a medical practitioner, or death. Taking precautions to protect children from harm in this context includes taking precautions against harm arising in educational and care settings from physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse and neglect. Harm may also arise from inappropriate discipline of the child, or a child leaving the service unsupervised or unauthorised. The penalty for failure to take every reasonable precaution to protect a child from hazards, including harm, has been increased to 120 penalty units.
A new section 42A has been inserted into the Act giving the Secretary of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development the power to obtain information, documents and evidence relating to a contravention of a serious offence from any person who is or has been a licensee, nominee or a staff member of a children’s service.
- Evidence may be required to be given on oath or affirmation.
- It is an offence to refuse or fail to comply with a notice under this section to the extent the person is capable of complying with it, or to knowingly provide false or misleading information or evidence, or to obstruct or hinder the Secretary in exercising a power under this section.
- A person is not excused from answering a question, providing information or producing or permitting the inspection of a document on the grounds of self‑incrimination. However, in the case of a natural person, the information is not admissible in evidence against that person in any criminal proceedings other than proceedings under this section, or in the case of a body corporate, in criminal proceedings other than proceedings under the Act.
- A person may be prosecuted for refusal to comply with the new section and be liable for a penalty of up to 120 penalty units.
A new section 43A has been inserted into the Act, allowing the Secretary to issue a notice to take
emergency action if satisfied that a children’s service is operating in a manner that poses a risk to the health, welfare or safety of a child being cared for or educated by the service. A proprietor must comply with a direction made under this section. The penalty for a breach is up to 120 penalty units.
Penalties have increased across the Act. The new maximum penalties for offences range between 60 and 240 penalty units:
- Carrying on an unlicensed children’s service, 240 penalty units;
- Advertising an unlicensed children’s service, 120 penalty units;
- Failure to protect children from hazards and harm, 120 penalty units;
- Inadequate supervision of children, 120 penalty units;
- Inappropriate discipline of children, 120 penalty units;
- Failure to keep premises clean and in good repair, 120 penalty units;
- Contravention of a licence condition or restriction, 120 penalty units;
- Failure to notify a change of directors, 60 penalty units;
- Failure to notify a licence variation, 60 penalty units;
- Failure to notify licence cancellation, 60 penalty units;
- Contravention of Secretary’s order to non-complying services, 120 penalty units.
- The value of a penalty unit in the 2007/08 financial year is $110.12. This will increase to $113.42 in the 2008/09 financial year.
Changes that will affect services include:
- Licensing of children’s services
- Changes to provisions regarding child-staff ratios, programming, administration of medication, and serious incident notification
- Publication of information about children’s services
The legislation allows existing licences to operate for their full term. These amendments will not impact on your current licence.
Key features of the new licensing system
The key features of the new licensing system, which will only affect licences that are granted or renewed after the 25 May 2009:
- Replacement of the approval in principle step with a new approval of premises step
- Updating of the fit and proper person assessment process
- Allowing for licences to be cancelled at the request of the licensee, or if the licensee is no longer operating the service
- Removal of the ability to transfer a licence
- Allowing for the recess of a licence
- Allowing for new licence types
- Licences under the new system will operate for five years rather than three years. This will assist to reduce the regulatory burden on licensees.
Are the Regulations changing too?
The Children’s Services Regulations 1998 will not apply after 25 May 2009. New regulations are to replace the current ones from that date. The elevation of specific staffing, programming, and health and welfare provisions from the Regulations to the Act reflects the Government’s commitment to improving the quality of early childhood services, and recognises that they are critical elements in the quality of the care and education provided to children.
Find Out More
The Departmental website:
http://www.office-for-children.vic.gov.au/earlychildhood contains a range of information resources.
Further information or any questions can be answered by contacting:
Licensed Children’s Services Enquiry line
1300 307 415
or a Children’s Services Adviser at any of the following regional offices of the Department:
Barwon-South West Region
Telephone: 5226 4540
Eastern Metropolitan Region
Telephone: 9843 6000
Telephone: 5177 2500
Telephone: 5333 6530
Telephone: 5832 1500
Loddon Mallee Region
Telephone: 5434 5555
Northern Metropolitan Region
Telephone: 9412 5333
Western Metropolitan Region
Telephone: 9275 7000
Southern Metropolitan Region
Telephone: 9213 2111
Information sourced from: Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria