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Creche standards questioned after toddler bruised, bitten and scratched by older boy

Date

Lisa Visentin

"Somebody has failed": Eva Ness, 2, was attacked by an older boy at a Sydney creche.

"Somebody has failed": Eva Ness, 2, was attacked by an older boy at a Sydney creche. Photo: Channel Seven

An attack on a two-year-old girl by an older boy at a creche in Sydney's northern beaches has raised questions about the standard of care required by child care service providers. 

Eva Ness was bitten, scratched and bruised by a four-year-old boy after her mother placed her in the "Club V" creche at the Virgin Active Health Club in Frenchs Forest, as reported by the Daily Mail on Monday. 

The girl's father, Rob Ness, raised the issue of duty of care, telling News Corp: "It's my feeling that somebody at Virgin Active has to be held accountable, obviously somebody has failed in their duty of care." 

Duty of care: Creche standards are being questioned after the attack on Eva.

Duty of care: Creche standards are being questioned after the attack on Eva. Photo: Channel Seven

But in NSW, a distinction is made between creche facilities, where parents remain on-site while their children are supervised, and licensed child care centres, which are governed by national legislation and regulatory standards. 

The distinction is an important one, says Leanne Gibbs, chief executive of the Community Child Co-Operative, as creches operate only in accordance with "voluntary guidelines, whereas a child care centre will be operating by national regulations".

"That's something parents need to be aware of when they are leaving their children in creches," Gibbs says, adding that there are "no laws that actually surround who works with their children and their supervision".

The toddler was bitten, scratched and bruised.

The toddler was bitten, scratched and bruised. Photo: Channel Seven

"Parents may not know they are only under voluntary guidelines. I think it's something that needs to be stated clearly by creches."

When asked whether parents are advised of the care arrangements provided by Club V when leaving their child at the centre, a spokesperson for the Virgin Active Gym at Frenchs Forest said: "Eva's mum signed our standard terms and conditions on joining our club."

The spokesperson confirmed the club's unregulated status as provider of "child-mining services" and "not a day care provider", adding that its "policies and procedures are based on best practice experience from operating hundreds of childcare facilities globally over the past 15 years".

The club has also rejected claims that it provided inadequate supervision or was understaffed when Eva Ness was hurt. 

"Staff ratios at the time of the incident were higher than the relevant guidelines put forward by the Department of Education and Communities but unfortunately the incident occurred outside of the supervisor's direct line of sight," a statement for Virgin Active said. 

A full investigation into the incident is now underway. 

A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Education and Communities, which receives about 100 complaints a month in relation to child care services, confirmed that its regulatory responsibilities do not extend to "creches in recreational or commercial facilities such as sports clubs".

"We have got really great regulations and great quality standards in child care services but these don't exist for creches," Gibbs says.

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