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Maintaining COVID-19 safe and aware practice during Alert Level 1

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Printed: 05/08/2020
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"Home alone" and the supervision of children and young people

What's Important To Us

Children need to be safely supervised and well cared for and wherever they are, they should feel safe and secure. It is important when working with families to support this that we use common sense and good judgement and encourage them to do the same.

Most of us can remember being left on our own at home, or unsupervised somewhere else, like the library or on a bus journey, when we were children. Some of us were expected to 'mind' younger siblings on our own. We may have been proud of the confidence our parents had in us and excited by the independence. However, some of us felt frightened and insecure and some of us 'got up to mischief.'

Our parents might tell us that "things were different then", however parents and caregivers today often face the same pressures and lack of resources or support, as the parents of previous generations. For example supervision of children may be needed when parents are at work or out at nights, before and after school, getting children to and from school or other activities, during school holidays, when children are off school ill, or when playing at the playground or in public places.

Many parents and caregivers are not sure what the law says about leaving children alone and they often have different ideas about what is okay based on their own childhood experiences, cultural expectations and economic or work stresses. 'Home alone' or other supervisory neglect occurs when parents do not supervise their child, or arrange for adequate supervision in their absence. This includes children being left in the care of another child who is not old enough to provide responsible supervision.

In New Zealand, it is against the law to leave children under 14 without making reasonable provision for their care and supervision. What is considered 'reasonable' takes into account the circumstances in which children are left alone and the length of time they are alone. Parents are required to assess all the circumstances and make sure that any child left alone, or in the care of another child or young person is safe and not in danger.

Summary Offences Act 1981