Shadecloth investigation

CHOICE has uncovered an alarming gap between the level of protection stated on a typical shadecloth and the reality once it is installed.
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03.Childcare directors are key to providing adequate shade

In order to implement an effective sun protection policy in NSW, childcare centre operators must rely on correctly interpreting Cancer Council NSW guidelines, including proper shade installation. Putting faith in shadecloth suppliers and installers to get it right is fraught with risk.

Given there are about 65 DoCS officers charged with overseeing regulation and compliance throughout the state’s 3419 licensed children's services, childcare centres that play a proactive role in ensuring SunSmart practices will make a difference in providing adequate shade. Juliet Ranieri, director of KU Wahroonga Preschool told CHOICE she contacted five different shadecloth installers and was quoted between $19,000 and $30,000 for the job.

“One shadecloth installer came for just five minutes, gave me their quote and left,” she says. “Another tried to convince me I needed multicoloured shadecloths. Another told me he could put the new shadecloth over the old poles, which I was later told caused the sag in the old shade sail. Another took out two business cards; he was both a shadecloth installer and an electrician."

On the end, Ms Ranieri chose the installer who offered the most detailed explanation of what the school’s $24,000 was being spent on. He explained the properties of the shadecloth material, claiming it had a 94% UVR block, and his credentials included references from past jobs.

Ranieri then applied for KU to be a SunSmart school once the shadecloth was put up and certified. She has not had a professional shade audit done but stuck very closely to the recommendations of Cancer Council NSW.

CHOICE set up a preliminary shade audit of KU with auditor John Greenwood. The preschool scored 9.5 out of a possible 10 for having the right shade materials and shade projected in the right areas.

"Ms. Ranieri understood the shade needs of her site. She knew what material the shadecloth was made of and what protection it offered,” says Greenwood. “This is rare as many people we have done shade audits for do not know where shade is really needed or what UV protection is required.“Her efforts in getting the right installer have also had a tremendous effect in achieving a successful shade outcome," he added.

CHOICE asked DoCS and the Cancer Council for possible solutions they may have considered in ensuring what “adequate shade” is in practice, but no one seems to want to take responsibility for solving the problem.

A Cancer Council spokesperson says that the Cancer Council is non-government organisation, not an enforcement agency and cannot regulate for shade in early childhood services.

A spokesperson from Department of Community Services (DoCS) told CHOICE: “DoCS supports moves to improve the quality of equipment used in children's services. However, the installation of equipment in children's services, whether it be shadecloths, playground equipment, or kitchen facilities is managed by the individual children's service. DoCS does not have a mandate to regulate the shadecloth industry.”

However the licence conditions that adequate shade must be provided as part of a childcare services facilities and equipment requirement falls under DoCS’ jurisdiction.

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