02:26am Sunday 20 August 2017

Private rentals often unsafe for toddlers

Evaluating interviews with the parents of almost 7,000 children under two years old, the study found that 28 percent of privately owned rentals didn’t have working smoke alarms, 43 percent failed to provide fully fenced or separated driveways, and 28 percent didn’t offer a fenced play area for young children.

Growing Up in New Zealand (GUINZ) is a longitudinal study tracking the development of about 7,000 children from before birth until they are young adults. The study group, based at the University of Auckland, has collected detailed multidisciplinary information about children’s early development and reflects the ethnic diversity of today’s pre-school children. 

Unintentional injury is a leading cause of death for children in New Zealand. In 2007, the country was ranked worst out of 24 OECD nations for rates of death from injury for those under 20 years of age.

In addition to fatal injuries, many more non-fatal injuries occur which require costly hospitalisation or other forms of medical attention. These injuries cause an important and sometimes long-lasting burden on children and their families.

“By the age of two years, 28 percent of the GUINZ children had sustained an injury that required a doctor or hospital visit, with 69 percent of these injuries occurring in the child’s own home,” says senior research fellow, Sarah Berry. “Home is where children spend most of their time during their early years, so it is a good place to focus our attention if we want to create safe environments for children to grow up in.”

Of the injuries that occurred at home, the most common injury type was a knock to the head without losing consciousness (38 percent), followed by cuts needing stitches or glue (10 percent), broken or fractured bones (10 percent), injuries to the mouth or teeth (10 percent), and burns or scalds (9 percent).

Many families in the study were aware of measures to keep their children safe. Encouragingly, nearly all families (98 percent) reported using a car seat for their two-year-old all the time, the majority (85 percent) knew what to do if their child ate or drank something poisonous, and around 80 percent kept matches out of reach. The families accessed a variety of safety information sources, most commonly healthcare resources (38 percent) such as Well Child or Plunket Books, and family or friends (35 percent).

Despite these encouraging numbers, less than half of families reported having their hot water adjusted to a safe temperature, just 32 percent had doors or gates on stairs to prevent falls, and only 22 percent used electrical socket covers. Of 21 percent of houses that had no working smoke alarms, almost one quarter did not have a fenced outdoor play area, and 40 percent did not have a fully fenced driveway.

“These figures, along with the high number of tragic driveway accidents that occurred last year, show that there is still significant room for improvement in the home safety environment for New Zealand children, especially for those living in private rental homes,” says Ms Berry.

“It is likely that the number of families who rent, rather than own their home, will continue to increase,” she says. “A Warrant of Fitness scheme for rental homes could be one way to encourage property owners to become more aware of household safety needs for young children, particularly with regard to driveway safety and fenced play areas.”

“Providing safe, affordable and secure housing for all New Zealand families must become a priority.”

The results in brief:

 

•             By the age of two years, 28 percent of the GUINZ study children had sustained an injury that required a doctor, health centre or hospital visit.

 

•             The most common place for an injury to occur before the age of two years (in 69 percent of cases) was the children’s own home.

 

•             Of the injuries that occurred at home, the most common injury type was a knock to the head without losing consciousness (38 percent), followed by cuts needing stitches or glue (10 percent), broken or fractured bones (10 percent), injuries to the mouth or teeth (10 percent), and burns or scalds (9 percent).

 

•             Nearly all families (98 percent) reported using a car seat for their two year old all the time, the majority (85 percent) knew what to do if their child ate or drank something poisonous, and around 80 percent kept matches out of reach.

 

•             Less than half of families reported having their hot-water adjusted to a safe temperature, just 32 percent had doors or gates on stairs to prevent falls, and only 22 percent use electrical socket covers. Of 21 percent of houses had no working smoke alarms, almost one quarter did not have a fenced outdoor play area, and 40 percent did not have a fully fenced driveway.

 

•             Families who lived in private rental homes were less likely to have a working smoke alarm (28 percent without smoke alarm) than those who lived in their own home (14 percent), or in public or social rental accommodation (9 percent). In addition, families who lived in the most deprived areas (NZDep deciles 8-10) were less likely to have a working smoke alarm than those who lived in the least deprived areas (NZDep deciles 1-3).

 

•             Private rental properties were the least likely to have fully fenced outdoor play areas (28 percent without fencing) or a fenced driveway (43 percent without fencing), compared to public rentals (23 percent and 38 percent) and homes in family ownership (20 percent and 37percent).

 

•             The families accessed a variety of safety information sources, most commonly healthcare resources (38 percent) such as Well Child or Plunket Books, and family or friends (35 percent). Those parents who identified as Māori were most likely to receive advice on household safety from family or friends while those identifying as European, Pacific, and Asian used safety information from healthcare providers most often. Pacific families were less likely to use the Well Child book but more likely to use information provided by their General Practitioner.

Download the full policy brief from the GUINZ website.

Growing Up in New Zealand is University of Auckland-led research and funded by multiple government agencies. The government contract for the study is managed by the Social Policy and Evaluation Research Unit (Superu).

For media enquiries email s.phillips@auckland.ac.nz


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