Page last updated at 00:54 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Children's outdoor play access 'a political issue'

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News

Playground
From playhouse to the House of Commons - a manifesto for play

Children's access to safe places to play should be treated as a serious political issue, say campaigners promoting the right to play.

Play England has issued a manifesto - including demands for a 20mph (32km/h) speed limit in residential areas.

A survey for the charity says 83% of adults want the government to promote policies to help children have more opportunities for outdoor play.

Charity director Adrian Voce says play is a "serious issue for voters".

The group's campaign follows concerns that too many children are denied the opportunity for independent outside play.

Playing out

Fears over children's safety and worries about traffic have caused "play deprivation", with children stuck inside and ferried between activities, according to campaigners.

They quote a survey finding that "71% of adults used to play near their home every day when they were a child compared to only 21% of children today".

And there have been concerns about the loss of play areas, with the number of adventure playgrounds in London having halved since the 1980s.

Play England, part of the National Children's Bureau and funded by the lottery, wants the availability of safe play areas for children to be recognised as an important aspect of children's well-being.

"There is a tendency to think of children's play as something that isn't a matter for government, but the modern world has erected many barriers to something that used be taken for granted, with growing consequences for children's health and development," said Mr Voce.

"Government policy on planning, housing, transport and public health - as well as education and childcare - can have a big impact.

"Communities where children can play in freedom and safety are happy, healthy communities. We want to know what each of the parties will do for children's play if they are elected," he said.

Child-friendly

Play England has called for three pledges from political parties at the forthcoming election.

It wants "to make all residential neighbourhoods child-friendly places where children can play outside".

This would include the introduction of 20mph speed limits in residential streets. And it would mean designing public spaces in a way that allows them to be used for play, including safe access routes for children.

The second pledge is: "To give all children the time and opportunity to play throughout childhood."

This would mean encouraging schools to maintain time for play and to protect outdoor play spaces.

The third pledge is: "To give all children somewhere to play - in freedom and safety - after school and in the holidays."

The charity says that this is a call for children to be provided with staffed outdoor play areas, including at after-school clubs and in school holidays.



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