With the move into Alert Level 3 on Tuesday 28 April 2020, a lot of parents are wondering how this is going to impact upon care arrangements for their children.
The key thin got remember is that the health of all New Zealanders remains the Government's priority, balanced against the need to allow the New Zealand economy to recover.
However, the drop to Level 3 still carries forward with it restrictions on New Zealander's movements and contact with others. In that sense, the move into Level 3 is merely a progression and not a rush to normality.
Changes at Level 3 include:
Minor extensions to bubbles
Expansion of the bubble is allowed between two or more households in order to reconnect with family but the bubble should only be as large as is necessary an din line with the care arrangements - meaning that where shared care of children had temporarily stopped due to Level 4 restrictions, this can recommence including where there are day to day (primary) care and contact arrangements. When discussing reinstatement of care arrangements, parents should discuss and ensure that this reinstatement occurs in a safe and practical manner.
However, if your child or children are unwell then they should not travel between homes until well. Contact should also temporarily cease if someone in either home is unwell or someone involved (ie the child or people in the home they have been in or will go to) has been overseas in the last 14 days, OR has been in close contact with someone who is currently being tested for Covid-19 OR has been in close contact with someone who has the virus or is being tested. If your child or children cannot see other key family member sin person, then you should continue to support regular and generous periods of telephone and/or video contact for the child(ren) with these family members.
Partial reopening of education
Early Childhood Centres ("ECE") and Schools will be available up to Year 10 only, but attendance is not compulsory and is only to be considered by those parents or caregivers whose child(ren) does not have online facilities for learning or have no available parent or caregiver at home. For children who are able, distance learning is to continue as is the case for adult workers (just working remotely). Tertiary education will mostly occur through distance learning.
With education being a guardianship issue, parents and/or caregivers are going to have to discuss and decide whether they are going to send their child(ren) to their ECE's or School if needed, or to keep them at home. This of course will need to be discussed and agreed upon. When making this decision parents will need to consider what alternatives are available to them if they do not want to send their child(ren) to their ECE or School just yet - is the other parent able and willing to be more involved in shared care, and is it logistically practical for parents to share the care?
Whilst there is less restriction on the distance of travel under Level 3, now allowing for travel between regions, the general rule remains that travel still needs to be kept to a minimum with parents only undertaking travel where they need to. This is to curtail spread of the virus. It is advised that whenever you travel for changeover purposes you carry a copy of your court order or parenting arrangement (where possible) to help you explain your travel.
In terms of families and caregivers involved with Oranga Tamariki, OT have advised that the challenges Covid-19 brings is certainly 8impacting upon the usual way they interact as they have to ensure the safety of the tamariki, caregivers and whanau involved, and at the same time also ensure the safety of their own social workers and staff so as to ensure the safety of all. To that end, they have been focused on developing new (pragmatic and innovative) practices and guidelines for social workers, to ensure they can still support caregivers and the involved whanau in a safe manner.
To conclude, Rice Craig's advice to all clients and former clients remains that use of the Courts should be a last resort, and to ideally continue to communicate with the other parent as effectively as possible and focus on safe, practical, child focused and kind solutions.
With these uncertain and unpredictable times it is important for parents to remember that their child or children will also be feeling anxious and worried about their day to day life, whether it be about their immediate or extended family, their friends, their schooling, or their personal space. Therefore, where appropriate (usually for school aged children) it is important that you listen to their worries and take this into account before finalising any decisions. Above all, your child or children's health and safety (physical and emotional) is paramount.
We here at Rice Craig wish you and your families a safe transition through this period and welcome any queries you may have.