Thought we might like an update

DOCS accuses Wilbur centres of 44 breaches
3/10/2008 4:00:00 AM

An Illawarra child-care operator has been accused of putting the health and safety of children at risk at six of its centres in the region.

Among the allegations against the Wilbur group of child-care centres are claims of unqualified staff looking after children under two years old, harmful chemicals and live power cords left within reach of children, dangerous play equipment, and dirty, unhygienic rooms.

The Department of Community Services is prosecuting Rebecca Hindson, Hindsons Preschools Pty Ltd and Hindson and Carberry Pty Ltd, which own the centres, for 44 alleged breaches of a children's service licence.

The matter was listed for mention in Wollongong Local Court yesterday.

Ms Hindson, of Woonona, was not in court and no pleas have been entered.

The 36-year-old owns Wilbur child-care centres at Albion Park, Kanahooka, Shellharbour, Gerringong, Warrawong, Unanderra, Lake Heights and Blackbutt.

According to documents before the court, DOCS officers inspected several of the centres last year, uncovering a raft of licence breaches.

In one of the most serious allegations, officers attended the Wilbur Bear centre at Shellharbour on July 16 last year to find that none of the five carers on duty had the approved qualifications to care for the eight children under two years old.

The officers also allegedly found torn nappy changing mats, cracked play equipment, frayed and torn stretcher beds, dirty and unhygienic floors - including a bathroom which had a dead cockroach on the floor - and a dirty baby bath area.

When officers visited the same centre on February 23 last year, they allegedly found five staff members either did not sign on for duty or did not note the times they worked.

According to the documents tendered to the court, DOCS officers who visited Wilbur Kookaburra in Kanahooka on August 27, 2007, found dangerous chemicals within reach of children.

They also found a storeroom open with cleaning products labelled "keep out of reach of children" less than one metre from the ground.

The officers reported that outdoor play equipment at the centre was too close together, creating a potential danger, an electrical cord was left dangling from a computer on a shelf in the playroom and a live cord connecting a fridge to power was accessible to children.

At Wilbur Butterfly in Unanderra, officers said they found a hot water tap accessible to children dispensing hot water at more than the allowable limit of 43.5 degrees.

DOCS said the Albion Park centre had a gate that presented an entrapment danger to children, torn foam toys, outdoor play equipment too close together, and not enough soft-fall surface around outdoor toys.

Wilbur Dolphin at Gerringong was allegedly found to have cleaning chemicals within reach of children.

Officers said Wilbur's Warrawong centre did not have enough soft-fall surface around outdoor play equipment, had torn nappy change mats, a tap dispensing water at 59 degrees, unhygienic carpet, a dirty staff bathroom which was accessible to children, power cords dangling from the TV, CD player and DVD player and a pile of rubbish and debris stored within the fenced area at the side of the building including broken and rusting furniture and toys.

The matter is due back in court on November 27.

The last I had heard about Wilbur centres was that there was a dispute with the workers' pay. This was last year. Guess there's a bit more to it than that.