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Printed: 19/05/2024
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Practice note: Family group conferences, community work and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

Community work hours are often used in youth justice family group conference plans as an appropriate penalty for te tamaiti in relation to their offending.

Community work as part of a family group conference plan can take different forms. It should not, however, include activities that are unsuitable for the age, maturity and ability of te tamaiti, or that place te tamaiti at risk.

By law, tamariki under 15 years are prohibited from being involved in the following activities:

  • the manufacture or preparation of goods for trade or sale
  • construction work
  • logging or tree-felling
  • the manufacture, use or generation of hazardous substances
  • working with machinery, driving a vehicle, riding on a vehicle that is pulling or attached to an implement, or riding on an implement
  • any other activity (including lifting a weight) that is likely to cause harm to the health and safety of tamariki under 15 years.

Also, tamariki under 16 years are not allowed to carry out night work between 10.00pm and 6.00am.

Family group conference participants must be clear what would constitute appropriate community work for te tamaiti and discuss and agree basic safety measures in relation to the chosen community work. This information could be provided by the coordinator as part of their obligation under s255 to ensure that relevant information and advice is made available to the family group conference.

The type of community work should be agreed at the family group conference and clearly recorded in the plan. Avoid decisions such as “the social worker will arrange community work for te tamaiti” or “the whānau will seek their own options for community work” as these give little opportunity to take account of health and safety considerations.

This approach will require more preparation by the coordinator during convening if community work is being considered as a potential outcome for te tamaiti because suitable options should be identified and presented to the conference. It would be important to talk with the whānau and the victims about what might be appropriate and available as a consequence for the offending behaviour.

It is a priority to ensure that the community work is a meaningful and useful experience, and linked to the offending – for example, completing work for or on behalf of victims or having family members involved in providing and/or supervising the work for te tamaiti.