The provision of an appropriate ratio of leaders for participants would make it difficult for a participant to be left behind at a program. Unfortunately there have been a number of cases where this has occurred and it has not been realised until the participants are returned to their caregiver/parent. This situation creates a great amount of stress for everyone concerned, particularly the participant.
It is important for the leaders to check and double check that their group is on the bus both when travelling to a camp or activity site or from a site. The Coordinator also has the responsibility to check that all participants are accounted for during the activity i.e. after a lunch break. There is no excuse for participants being left unattended.
Where a participant is left behind and is harmed in any way, physically or emotionally, during this time of being unattended, the organisation is liable and a claim for damages can be made against the organisation.
Although it sounds difficult to do, experience shows that it is easy to leave a participant behind. Leaders need to be extremely diligent in this area of their responsibility.
Some participants have the propensity to wander away from groups and leaders. This can be in an isolated bush setting, in a busy shopping mall or even in the middle of the night. Coordinators and parents/caregivers will usually alert the leader if their person is inclined to wander off.
If a participant is not accounted for and assumed to have wandered off, communicate with other leaders and the coordinator immediately and develop a strategy for searching for the participant. Ensure that all participants are adequately supervised before leaders are allocated to assist in the search. Often the participant is not far away and is readily located.
In cases where a participant is not located within five minutes of a search it is important to implement an emergency action and secure assistance from appropriate services to assist and notify relevant authorities. It is important to be particularly diligent in areas with hazards such as water or heavy traffic.
In allowing for the need for independence of the participant, a leader may arrange for the participant to participate in activities at which the leader may not be present. It is important not to assume that the participant is going to be safe. Arrangements need to be made with other leaders to ensure that the participant is supervised at all times. A leader must be aware of this participant’s whereabouts and activities at all time. Do not assume that another leader will automatically be providing supervision, it is important to request for this supervision to occur.