A decline in the number of parents hiring car seats from Plunket for their newborns has prompted the child welfare charity to start phasing out the service.
Plunket will phase out the rental and retail service over the next 12 to 18 months to focus on the prevention of unintentional injuries more broadly. As part of the changes, Plunket plans to do more to prevent children from being injured in and around the home, where most accidents occur.
Since its beginning in 1981, the number of Plunket car seat sites has declined from 283 at its peak in the 1980s, to 72 today.
Surveys at the time suggested just 20 per cent of children were buckled in.
That number has now jumped to 93 per cent.
"Despite efforts to make the service sustainable, sites across the country have been closing as they can no longer afford to operate,” says Plunket chief executive Andrea McLeod.
“The majority of these sites only operate part time, a few hours a day, several times a week.
"The decline indicates family needs have changed."
Ms McLeod said Plunket focus on preventable injuries among children, such as slips, falls, burns and cuts.
“We are proud of the work we’ve done together with other safety providers and with our funders, to help families get their children in car seats. We advocated successfully for the law change to make car seats for children mandatory, and our programmes have helped families get their children into car seats. Plunket has played its role,” said Ms McLeod.
Despite efforts to make the service sustainable, sites across the country have been closing as they can no longer afford to operate. The majority of these sites only operate part-time, a few hours a day, several times a week.
The change is also driven by data on unintentional injuries. According to the most up to date figures from the Injury Prevention Research Unit at Otago University; fatalities for children 0-4 years average more than 50 per year and hospitalisations average more than 2,500 per year for this age group. Most unintentional injuries happen to children in the home, the very place that should be safest.
Plunket will work across each region to manage the exit from the rental and sale of car seats, and put in place a broader injury prevention plan of which car seat advocacy and education will be a part.