Pools and spas at family daycare centres to be phased out

24 November 2020

The McGowan Government has today announced that it will strengthen regulations for family day care operators, with the aim of improving the safety of children attending residences with swimming pools, spas or water features. The announcement follows an inquest into the drowning death of two-year-old Lachlan Mitchell at a family daycare in Carramar in late 2015.

The new regulations will ban new family daycare services in residences with pools, spas, or water features, while existing services with a pool, spa or water feature will need to meet strict new safety measures including monthly inspections of these residences and additional safety devices on site designed to alert or deter a child from entering the water. All family daycare operators will also be required to have a back-up means of communication in a fixed location, in case of emergency.

Community Services Minister Simone McGurk says the Department of Communities will work with the sector to support it through the transition period. “I am confident phasing out swimming pools and spas, paired with new safety requirements for all residences with gathered water on site, will improve the safety of children at family daycare services. I would like to acknowledge and thank Lachlan’s mother, Melanie Mitchell, for engaging purposefully to help implement meaningful sector changes that will support better child safety outcomes.”

Melanie, who is a Royal Life Saving Keep Watch Parent Amabassador, has welcomed today’s announcement and says although it will honour her son's memory, nothing brings him back. “In the future there will be less and less centres with pools in them because of the way it’s been structured. Lachlan’s death is just something that should never have happened. It’s always going to be raw, there’s always going to be a Lachlan sized hole in our family - he’s missed every day.”

Royal Life Saving WA supports today’s announcement, and CEO Peter Leaversuch says in the lead-up to the summer months it’s a timely reminder. “Drowning is the number one cause of preventable death for children under the age of five. It is vital for all those who care for children - whether parents, friends or day care providers - to follow our Keep Watch principles. These include ensuring active adult supervision at all times, restricting access to water, teaching children vital swimming skills and ensuring you know how to response in emergency by learning CPR.”

“We congratulate the McGowan government for the action being taken on this issue and are willing to assist in the implementation of the new regulations for family daycare providers in any way we can.”

In the past ten years there have been 31 drowning deaths in WA involving toddlers aged 0-4 years, 18 of these deaths (58%) occurred in home pools, while a further two occurred in a home pond. It’s hoped the changes to regulations around family daycare centres will help to reduce the risk of drowning in these daycare environments.