Win for ECE providers as Ministry of Education confirms common sense building WoF approach
The Early Childhood Council welcomes the Ministry of Education’s clarification they won’t automatically remove early learning centre licences if their building loses its warrant of fitness under new MBIE guidelines, after an ECC investigation.
“This is a relief for ECC members and all centres. Knowing your licence could still be removed anytime is still a risk, but at least it won’t be because of this Building Warrant of Fitness issue any more. It’s heartening to see some common sense being applied by the Ministry here, well done” said ECC CEO Simon Laube.
In a statement, the MoE confirmed: “We have no plans to close early learning services without warning if they don’t have a building warrant of fitness.”
“We review services on a case-by-case basis, assessing whether a service is safe in the context in which it operates, even though it may be technically non-compliant. Any enforcement action we take is related directly to the risk the non-compliance has on the health and safety of children.”
The Ministry confirmed the regulatory framework gave providers a reasonable opportunity to demonstrate compliance before cancelling a license. This discretion has been used with one provider already, who was able to keep operating while the issues were addressed.
However, the ECC considers the Ministry’s wide discretionary powers and lack of accountability systems a major ongoing risk. ECE providers’ only option for challenging decisions is triggering time-consuming Ombudsman investigations - ECC and its members currently have a number underway.
“No-one wants centres in unsafe buildings, but this confirms capacity for providers to address minor issues while staying open even if the building is non-compliant, which wasn’t clear before ECC became involved.”
“MBIE needs to do better and appreciate they don’t necessarily know best. We recommend consulting with local authorities and any other Ministry that regulates industries with buildings before tinkering with building regulations. This situation should have been avoided altogether, but we’re pleased with where things are at now,” said Simon Laube.
- In the Ministry of Education response they also revealed that one centre had been checked and found its BWOF was non-compliant – they allowed it to continue operating because the service was safe.