Compliance focus – new safe sleep requirements

Sleep and rest regulatory changes came into effect 1 October 2023. Do you know and understand your responsibilities under the updated safety requirements?

A close up of a baby laying down on its back sleeping in a crib. A close up of a baby laying down on its back sleeping in a crib.
Image: Approved providers are responsible for ensuring the sleeping environment of a baby or child  is safe and fit for purpose.

Safe sleep is a key part of ensuring young children’s health, safety and wellbeing in early childhood education and care (ECEC) services. The sleep and rest requirements under the National Law and Regulations aim to protect children in ECEC settings from risks associated with sleep and rest.

Our regulatory data indicates three key areas continue to be challenging for services including safe sleep environments, supervision and effective risk assessment, policy and procedures.

Bassinets prohibited from services

From 1 October 2023, bassinets are prohibited from early childhood education and care service premises (including centre-based and family day care services), at any time during which children are being educated and cared for (regulation 84D).

Bassinets are unsafe for use in ECEC settings and can lead to serious incidents. The prohibition of bassinets in ECEC services is expected to reduce risks and ensure that children are kept safe during periods of sleep and rest.

The NSW Regulatory Authority led the amendment to the regulations to implement the coroner's recommendation to explicitly prohibit bassinets following a tragic incident in an NSW ECEC service.

New sleep and rest requirements  

Additional sleep and rest requirements came into effect 1 October 2023. The changes are based on the findings of the 2019 National Quality Framework (NQF) Review and to minimise risks associated with Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy (SUDI) and reduce infant deaths in ECEC settings. The changes build on the important practices services already have in place to keep children safe during sleep and rest times. Regulation 81 has been replaced by regulation 84A.

Updated policy and procedure requirements

From 1 October, sleep and rest policies and procedures must address the matters set out in regulation 84B, including:

  • how children will be protected from any risks identified in a risk assessment conducted under regulation 84C
  • how the sleep and rest needs of children are met, including how the ages, development stages and the sleep and rest needs of individual children are considered
  • how adequate supervision and monitoring during sleep and rest periods will be ensured, including the method and frequency of checking the safety, health and wellbeing of children during sleep and rest periods and the documentation of sleep and rest periods.

As each service has its own unique context, it is important to customise your policies and procedures to suit your service environment. Collaborative and regular reviews of these policies and procedures are necessary to ensure they align with current evidence-based guidelines from recognised authorities.

Red Nose Australia is the nationally recognised authority for safe sleeping. Red Nose recommendations and advice should inform your policies, along with guidance materials (254 KB) from ACECQA and the NSW Regulatory Authority.

It’s also a requirement to inform families of any changes or updates you make to your service’s safe sleep policies, procedures and practices.

Risk assessments now required

Approved providers must conduct risk assessments related to sleep and rest as part of the process for preparing sleep and rest policies and procedures (regulation 84C). The risk assessments should occur at least once every 12 months and promptly whenever circumstances arise that may affect the safety, health or wellbeing of children during sleep and rest. They must identify and evaluate sleep and rest-related risks, and detail how these risks will be managed and minimised.

Approved providers are responsible for updating policies and procedures to reflect their current risk assessment and maintain a record of these assessments (regulations 84C(3) and 84C(4)).

Further information and resources

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