Coroner wants ban on family daycare centre pools

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A WA coroner has urged the State Government to ban swimming pools and spas at new family daycare centres in the wake of the tragic drowning of toddler Lachlan Mitchell.

Lachlan was just two days shy of his third birthday when he was found face down in the swimming pool by childcare worker Karla Zablah at her Carramar family daycare centre on November 9, 2015.

The toddler was left unsupervised for up to seven minutes while Ms Zablah settled a crying baby.

His death was subject to a two-day coronial inquest last year which focused on the inherent risks presented by swimming pools at family daycare centres.

In her findings published this afternoon, Coroner Sarah Linton said family daycare services often involved one educator supervising several children who were close in age and who were unfamiliar with their environment.

Ms Linton said in those circumstances, having a swimming pool on the premises created an “unacceptable level of risk”.

Ms Linton urged the WA Government to change the relevant legislation to exclude homes with a swimming pool, outdoor spa or jacuzzi being used as a family daycare for children aged under five, saying new laws should come into effect “immediately … given the high level risk of drowning”.

“I am satisfied that the proper approach is for family daycare educators who choose to enrol children under the age of five years to be prohibited from having a swimming pool or other large fixed water hazard on their premises,” she said.

Ms Linton said homes with a pool or spa already used as a family daycare service should be inspected monthly.

Investigations into exactly how Lachlan entered the pool were inconclusive but she said it was possible he climbed a pot plant to either open the gate or climb the fence.

Ms Linton said Lachlan’s death was “tragic and entirely preventable”.

Since Lachlan’s death, his parents Melanie and Luke have advocated for swimming pools to be banned from family daycare centres.

“Lachlan’s family want to ensure that no other family suffers such a loss when their child is meant to be safely being cared for at family daycare,” Ms Linton said.

Ms Zablah was fined $6500 in 2016 for failing to ensure Lachlan was adequately supervised.

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