Catherine Gaffaney is a general reporter based in Auckland.

Beware the school holiday toll

In the past four years, more than 260,000 new claims have been lodged with ACC for school children in school holiday periods. Photo / iStock
In the past four years, more than 260,000 new claims have been lodged with ACC for school children in school holiday periods. Photo / iStock

Twisted ankles, broken bones and other school holiday mishaps cost millions of dollars each year.

In the past four years, more than 260,000 new claims have been lodged with ACC for school children in school holiday periods.

The claims have cost ACC more than $78 million and although some insist children shouldn't be wrapped in cotton wool, other holiday programme providers are reining in their activities to avoid accidents - particularly in the face of tough new health and safety laws.

Carol Plewinski, director of KidsK'Nection in West Auckland, said they would not take children near water because there was too much risk.

"It's an accident waiting to happen. It's hard to keep an eye on a group of kids at the swimming pool or beach, while you're helping some get changed, others can run off."

KidsK'Nection instead looked into new activities each holiday.

ACC figures show the most common cause of injury was children falling over, followed by being struck by a person or animal.

Nasty bruises, sprains and strains were by far the most common injuries and most children hurt knees, faces or ankles. More than 280 of the claims since April 2012 referenced a holiday programme.

This year, programme directors have the added headache of the new Health and Safety at Work Act, introduced this month.

Dundas Street specialist employment lawyer Chloe Luscombe said holiday programmes would be affected the same way as businesses.

"There will be higher penalties and more emphasis on how duties relate to other organisations.

"For example, if a programme is being held at a school and the school hasn't communicated the risk associated with something to the programme director, the school could also be liable."

Out of School Care Network manager John Kennedy said concerned parents should check their chosen holiday programme operated under Ministry of Social Development approved standards.

"Ninety per cent of programmes operate under those standards."

Paula Kearns, chief executive of Youthtown, which runs holiday programmes throughout the country, said it is always cautious about its health and safety obligations.

"Accidents do happen but it's about being able to respond appropriately to them when they do."

Kearns said there were no particular activities it wouldn't do because of health and safety concerns.

"We want to keep challenging young people and improving their skills and resilience."

SafeKids Aotearoa director Ann Weaver said it was important parents still kept an eye on children over the holidays.

"Let kids run around and have fun, but it's a good idea to have at least one designated adult keeping an eye on what the kids are up to."

Holiday activities

• Minecraft Gaming Day, NorthTec Interactive Learning Centre, Whangarei: $50

• Meet New Zealand's only elephant sharks, Kelly Tarlton's, Auckland: Kids $19, adults $35, family discounts available

• Ninja Warrior Obstacle Course, Epsom Normal School, Auckland: $75 for day

• Make your own lollipop, The Old Lolly Shop, Hurstmere Rd, Auckland: $4

• Decorate and fly a kite at Out and About Kite Day, Cockle Bay Reserve, Auckland: Free

• Inaugural Hamilton Brick Show featuring Lego models, Hamilton Boys' High: $5

• Solve mysteries at NZ Police Museum, Porirua: Free

• Try the Shakespearean Insult Generator and other activities at Wellington Central Library: Free

• Learn how to be a royal at Princess Training School, Abberly Park Hall, Christchurch: $15

- Herald on Sunday

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