Many of our happiest childhood memories will probably involve a birthday party. From receiving a mountain of presents from our classmates to blowing out the candles on the cake – they are a heady mix of celebration and fun for family and friends.
But the days of having a simple birthday tea at home with a few games like pass the parcel are fast disappearing. Now the popularity of activity-based parties such as paintball, rock climbing, petting zoos and inflatable obstacle courses is rising.
And while youngsters will no doubt say that these kind of parties are more fun, they do bring with them a higher level of risk.
So it’s good for parents to know where they stand when holding an event like this. What happens if things go wrong and someone is injured at a party? Are parents and guardians legally responsible for making sure the venue is safe? And if another parent leaves their child at a party alone, are the hosts accountable for their safety?
Sarah Garner, solicitor at DAS Law, says the responsibility of ensuring a child’s safety at a party lies with the host.
“This could be yourself if you are holding a child’s party in your own home, as you owe a duty of care to visitors at your home.
“If you are holding a party at a venue such as a sports hall or church hall for example, then the owner of the venue will have an obligation to ensure that they remove any potential risks that could cause a child to become injured.
“Failure to do this could result in a personal injury claim being pursued against them,” she explains.
So who is responsible for ensuring the safety of children using the entertainment facilities such as a bouncy castle, giant slides and animals at the mobile petting zoo?
“In many cases, the operator is likely to be responsible for accidents sustained as a result of use of entertainment facilities. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires controllers or operators of equipment such as bouncy castles to carry out risk assessments to determine measures to avoid risk or reduce risk to acceptable levels.
“Also the Provision of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) requires inflatable devices to be inspected at suitable intervals to ensure that the equipment is safe, and that any deterioration is detected and that any repairs to or replacement of the equipment can be made.
“You could however be liable if you have hired equipment and failed to ensure that children are adequately supervised in using this equipment,” says Sarah.
When you are hosting a party there are steps you can take to reduce any risks. “If you are hosting a children’s party you should ensure that you carry out a risk assessment to identify any hazards that could result in an injury.
“In order to be liable for a personal injury claim, the guest would have to evidence that you have been negligent and that any injury was reasonably foreseeable.
“Even where parents are present you still have a duty of care to all persons visiting your property. If children are injured under the supervision of their parents then this is likely to be an argument that you can raise in defence or mitigation but ultimately if the injury was due to a risk not removed on your property you would be liable,” says Sarah.
It’s recommended that when hiring party/entertainment facilities you ask the supplier to show you the necessary safety or insurance documents. “If hiring a party or entertainment facility, you should ask to see a copy of their public liability insurance and should be very careful of booking any supplier who refuses to provide it or confirms that they do not have insurance,” says Sarah.
Parents should also be aware that they may have additional responsibilities to ensure the safety of children who may attend the party without their parents. “Occasions may arise where a parent does not stay at the party to accompany their child. This is generally in the cases where a child is older. Your level of responsibility will depend on where the party is being held. If the venue is your home then you have a duty of care to ensure the safety of that child whilst in your care.
“If the party is being held at an alternative location, then your level of responsibility will depend on whether the venue has appointed someone to supervise the activity,” explains Sarah.
Another way to mitigate the risks is to contact your home insurance policy provider ahead of the party. “Your home insurance may provide protection in the event that someone tries to pursue a claim against you.”
So if you’re planning a party it’s good to know where you stand and what precautions and safety checks you need to put in place.
A REAL PARTY PIECE: HOW TO PLAN A THEMED DAY FULL OF FUN FOR YOUR LITTLE ONE
Many parents have become tired of pass the parcel and musical chairs and want something more exciting and memorable for their little one’s birthday. If you are looking to plan a party with a difference, here are 10 ideas to give you food for thought:
Trampoline – If you child loves to bounce this might be the perfect fit. There are lots of trampoline parks across the region offering the chance to book a party. They give children the time to jump to their heart’s content as well as food and other activities.
Detective – This one can be done at home, so there is no need to hire a venue. If you are feeling creative, you can write your own mystery for them to solve, or look online for ideas. Youngsters will enjoy interviewing suspects – rope in a few older family members or friends for this – and hunting for clues.
Science – If they love to mix potions and see how stuff work then they will love this idea. You can find instructions for easy science experiments that you can do with the birthday boy or girl and their guests online.
Climbing wall – Older children seeking an adventure will love the challenge of getting to the top and the thrill of getting down. Climbing centres usually have a mix of different walls for different abilities so everyone can have a go.
Football – Many of our local football clubs offer ways to celebrate their young fans’ birthdays. For example Wolves let youngsters hold a party at Molineux which includes games, a mini-tour of the stadium, meet the mascot and a birthday gift.
Go-karting – If you son or daughter is a petrolhead in the making then go-karting will be right up their street. While go-karting they can get behind the wheel and race each other to see who climbs to pole position.
Bowling – It’s been a family favourite for decades and a bowling party always guarantees lots of fun for children of all ages. Some venues offer birthday packages which will include a few games along with food and drinks.
Tree climbing – Youngsters can celebrate with a treetop adventure at sites such as Go Ape! in Wyre Forest and Cannock. From zip wires to super-springy trampoline nets in the tree, there will be plenty to keep them entertained.
Animal encounters – An oldie but a goodie – head to the nearest zoo or wildlife park to get up close to animals. Many attractions offer party packages for young animal lovers which promise to be an education too, giving youngsters an insight into how the animals are cared for and handled.
Sleepover – Another much-loved favourite with children of all ages – you can tailor the activities to their interests. For younger children you could consider a half-sleepover party where they can do all of the usual activities including watching a movie in their PJs without spending the night.