Information for all parties about when an incident notification is received from an early learning service.
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How to notify the Ministry of an incident at a service, and the procedure that we follow.
What is an incident
An incident is an event that caused or may have caused harm to a child, while in care of the service.
Notifying the Ministry of an incident
Incident notifications can come from services, parents and whānau, members of public or another statutory agency.
Where a service has had to notify a specified agency of an incident, the service must also notify the Ministry. Agencies may include but is not limited to:
- the New Zealand Police;
- the Ministry of Health;
- Oranga Tamariki;
- WorkSafe New Zealand;
- the Teaching Council, and
- Office of the Privacy Commissioner.
To notify the Ministry of an incident, contact your local Ministry office
What to expect when notifying Ministry of an incident
We investigate all incidents to determine whether the service could be in breach of regulated standards. We will engage with the service provider contact person when an incident notification has been received.
An investigation into an incident can involve one or a combination of the following:
- a review of relevant policies and procedures and records to ensure the service has followed their procedures, as well as compliance with regulatory requirements,
- a visit to the service to inspect the premises and observe teaching practice. We may also ask staff members for information to help inform our observations.
- participating in a multi-agency investigation.
Our visits to services
Under section 626 of the Education and Training Act 2020(external link), authorised Ministry officials can enter and inspect licensed or certified premises to ensure regulated standards are being met by the service provider.
Our visits may be announced or unannounced.
The majority of visits we undertake when following up an incident are planned and arranged via the service provider contact person.
An unannounced visit to an early learning service may be necessary as part of an investigation into an incident.
We are likely to conduct an unannounced visit when the incident raises serious concerns about children’s health and safety. All unannounced visits are approved by a delegated Ministry manager.
When an unannounced visit takes place, we will:
- introduce themselves to the person responsible and explain why they are there and,
- provide evidence of their authorisation to enter the premises – this is located on the back of each official’s ID card.
Following any visit, we will engage directly with the service provider contact person in writing to communicate next steps and outline any requirements the service provider needs to meet.
Reclassifying a service’s licence as provisional while they are investigating an incident
In some circumstances, we may require a service to conduct their own investigation if they haven’t already. When this happens, the service’s licence may be reclassified as a provisional licence. The service provider must demonstrate to the Ministry that a satisfactory investigation has occurred into the incident.
Reasons a licence may be reclassified as provisional may include (but not limited to):
- a child has suffered an injury or trauma.
- a person employed or engaged in the service has or is alleged to have ill-treated a child or committed a crime against children.
- a child leaves the centre without an authorised person.
- a child is mistakenly locked in or locked out of the early childhood service’s premises.
Services may use our report template to support their investigation. It is optional. Services may already have their own processes in place for investigating incidents.
There may be times when another agency, such as the New Zealand Police or the Teaching Council, needs to conduct their own investigation in relation to an incident. This is because each agency has separate legislation they are responsible for enforcing.
When a multi-agency investigation is required, Ministry of Education staff will inform the complainant and clarify with the early learning service:
- the purpose of their investigation and area of responsibility;
- how information will be shared between agencies and complainant privacy protected; and
- any agreed actions decided between all agencies involved.
Outcome of a Ministry incident investigation
After an investigation we Ministry of Education will determine whether:
- regulated standards have been met or not met and/or
- improvement is required in any area related to the incident.
If it is identified that a service is failing to meet one or more regulatory requirements, the service may be required to complete an action plan or be placed on a provisional licence. In more serious cases, this may result in the service having their licence suspended or cancelled.
An investigation will be closed when we are satisfied that:
- areas of non-compliance related to the incident have been rectified; or
- the investigation finds no evidence of regulatory non-compliance.
In the case of a multi-agency investigation, we may need to first await the outcome of another agency’s investigation before the incident can be closed. We will provide further information about this process as required.
We will inform the service provider contact person of the investigation outcome.
When other issues are identified during an investigation
We may identify additional areas of non-compliance during an investigation into an incident.
We are obligated to follow up on all regulatory breaches identified during an investigation, not just those associated with the incident itself. It is the responsibility of every licensed early learning service to comply with all regulated standards to obtain and maintain a licence.
If we identify additional areas of non-compliance while investigating an incident, the service may be:
- placed on a provisional licence and required to rectify areas of non-compliance within a specified timeframe; or
- have their licence suspended or cancelled in serious cases of non-compliance.
For more information about changes to a service’s licence status, refer to the below page on our website:
Reviewing the outcome of a Ministry investigation
If an early learning service is not happy with how an incident or visit to their service has been managed, the service can raise their concerns with the Education Manager at their local Ministry of Education office. We will contact the complainant to work through the concerns raised.
If a service continue to be unsatisfied with our response, a formal complaint may be lodged with the Office of the Ombudsman.
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