Amy Maas is Chief Reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Ministry launches probe on daycare

Toddler found with rubber bands around her neck

Addison Gwatkin's face was turning red when her grandmother arrived.
Addison Gwatkin's face was turning red when her grandmother arrived.

A complaint against a daycare centre is being investigated after a 2-year-old managed to wrap five rubber bands around her neck.

Addison Gwatkin's grandmother said she was horrified to find the tot turning red and struggling to breathe when she arrived to pick her up from Top Kids Motutaiko in Taupo on Monday.

"I just opened the door and she was about 6ft (2m) away and looking at me with her eyes large, relieved, and was holding her hands up to her neck," Margaret Gwatkin said.

"I thought she was choking so I started hitting her on the back and then we saw she had something around her neck and I thought it was string."

Gwatkin said she frantically pulled the bands from the child's neck, picked her up and took her home.

"I broke down and cried, not knowing what would have happened if I didn't get there when I did," she said.

She claimed a teacher was beside Addison and didn't notice.

Addison had been in hospital two weeks before the incident after an asthma attack. Gwatkin laid a complaint with the Ministry of Education about the daycare, which is owned by national chain Kidicorp.

Kidicorp chief executive Fiona Hughes said an internal investigation found Addison had been playing with a board game in which rubber bands were wrapped around pegs. A staff member had changed her nappy five minutes before Gwatkin arrived.

In that time, she had wrapped the rubber bands around her neck.

"We were satisfied that the child wasn't having difficulty breathing, wasn't distressed. However, it's not ideal to have a game where there is potential for harm," said Hughes.

"[Gwatkin] was assuming that this could have caused some problems, and it certainly could have, but the rubber bands are quite large and there are no indentations on the child's neck."

Hughes told the Herald on Sunday yesterday the Education Ministry was "satisfied" with the internal investigation.

But, Katrina Casey, head of sector enablement and support, said the ministry was still investigating.

"We are always concerned when we hear claims that a child's safety has been put at risk," she said.

"If a complaint has been made to us we will investigate ... to establish the facts and ensure processes are in place that will minimise the risk of similar incidents happening again."

- Herald on Sunday

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