Duty of Care - Your Legal Responsibilities

[static image] As a caregiver, you have legal responsibilities.

How does that make you feel?

It is important that you understand the main aspects of your legal responsibilities. One of these responsibilities is DUTY OF CARE

[static image] Duty of Care is: A duty or responsibility to take care of someone or something.

Many different professions have a duty of care. Here are some examples: Click on the links see the examples.

[ Open flash examples ] [ Open text only examples]


[static image] Sometimes different people involved with the child will have different ideas about what's best for the child.

Remember the diagram about 'Protecting the Child' in the beginning of this Element? You will need to balance all these people's interests with those of the child - as well as considering legislation, ethics, and service policies.

As a childcare worker you are legally required to take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably see would be likely to cause harm to any of the children.

You also have a duty of care towards other people apart from the child. Throughout this Unit, we will be discussing ways in which you can assess your duty of care towards various people, and ensure an ethical and balanced response.

Duty of care is covered by civil law, not criminal law.

A person who breaches duty of care can be sued and may be ordered to pay compensation by a civil court.

That person has NOT committed a criminal offence.

Standards of Care Required

The standard of care that is required in a Child Care Centre depends on what is 'reasonable' in the circumstances.

What is reasonable depends on the people involved and the particular situation.

To determine or decide what a 'reasonable' standard of care may be, we need to consider:

  • Number of adults for supervision
  • Number of children in total
  • Number of children who will take part in specific activities
  • Location of activities
  • Ground or floor surface
  • Weather.

Caregivers have a duty to take all reasonable steps to minimise the risk of injury.

The law does not require you to be perfect, but you must take reasonable steps to minimise the risk of accidents.

[static image] Activity

Duty of Care Outdoors

Read the two scenarios below, and then email your teacher with the name of the scenario you would like to work on. Your teacher will post the names of the students in each scenario group on the Discussion Board one week before the next scheduled Tutorial.

Each Scenario Group should email their response to the teacher two days before the next scheduled tutorial.

We will be discussing appropriate ways for you to exercise your duty of care if you were the child care worker in the scenario assigned at this Tutorial.

Scenario 1 - Two Year Olds

You are responsible for a group of five two-year-olds in the outdoor playground. Two of the activities set up outside are a water trough and swings.

What would you need to do to ensure appropriate duty of care?

Scenario 2 - Older Children

You are responsible for 12 three- to five-year-olds in the outdoor playground. Activities that are set up include swings, sandpit, digging patch, trikes, water trough, and an obstacle course.

What would you need to do to ensure appropriate duty of care?

[static image] Example

Case Study Example

For an example of the sort of matters you will need to consider, go to the Resources Page and read the 'Perfect Scenario' you will find there.

You will see from reading through this scenario that Helen has exercised a high standard of care.

Breach of Duty of Care

[static image] What is a breach of duty of care?

[static image] If someone does not act in a way or provide an appropriate standard of care to someone that they have a duty of care towards, then they have breached their duty of care.

What if you:

  • Left the gate open and a child wandered away?
  • Allowed children outside without sunscreen and hats, and they got sunburnt?
  • Left children unattended near a water trough and one slipped on the wet floor surface?
  • Did not move an electrical cord hanging from a kettle, which a child then pulled onto themself?
Duty of care in these situations has been breached.

But if you:

  • Ensured that you latched the gate securely.
  • Applied sunscreen to all the children, ensured that they wore hats and played in the shade.
  • Supervised the children constantly at the water trough.
  • Noticed and removed the electrical cord so that it was behind the kettle in a safe position.

Then you have met your duty of care, even if an accident does occur.


If the required standard of care is not exercised and duty of care is breached causing damage, then the person who has been negligent can be sued.

The parents of a child might sue either the person or the service if an injury occurs through a breach of duty of care.

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