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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 November 2007, 17:54 GMT
Safety rules 'harming' youngsters
Teenagers on bikes - generic
Ms Marshall said some safety restrictions were sensible
Some young people are being "harmed" by excessive safety restrictions placed on them, Scotland's children's commissioner has claimed.

Kathleen Marshall said they were impeding child development in areas such as sport and meeting friends.

However, the authorities argued that taking precautions was common sense.

Ms Marshall told BBC Scotland that operators did not have to fear litigation as long as they took "sensible" steps.

The commissioner's comments came ahead of a new report to be issued by her office, based on research by the Scottish Institute for Residential Childcare.

Ms Marshall told BBC Scotland's Politics Show that some safety restrictions, such as the use of cycling helmets, were very sensible.

But she added: "What we've discovered in this research is that people in residential establishments are very often being very risk adverse and are basing their practice on rules that they think are written down somewhere, but it's a kind of distortion of old rules."

I don't think that's a draconian measure, I think that's just common sense
Ralph Riley
Institute of Sport

Giving examples, the commissioner said: "A young person had to sign a risk assessment each time they wanted to go on the bike, just down to the shop or something.

"One of them said they had to be accompanied by a member of staff carrying a bicycle repair kit and a first aid kit.

"All of this arises from the fact that they were looking back to guidance that was given out in the 1990s for organised trips, not for just going out from what's basically your house."

Ms Marshall, who said a common way forward now needed to be agreed, claimed: "These excessive restrictions on the lives of children and young people actually breach their rights.

"They breach their rights to healthy development, to associate with friends, to engage in sports and activities.

"I think we have to say this isn't just that we're protecting them, what we're doing is actually impeding their development. We're actually harming them in many ways."

'Proper supervision'

The research group Generation Youth Issues has launched a campaign against "irrational" safe swimming policies which it claimed were in force at baths across Scotland.

In North Lanarkshire children under the age of eight must be accompanied at swimming pools by an adult, while children under four must be accompanied on a one-to-one basis, and children aged between four and seven must be accompanied on a maximum of a two-to-one basis.

"This policy is designed to ensure that young children are properly supervised during their visit to a swimming pool, and is in line with the standards set out by the Institute of Sport and Leisure Management," said Blane Dodds, chief executive of North Lanarkshire Leisure Ltd.

The institute's chief executive, Ralph Riley, told BBC Scotland that operators had to take reasonable precautions, adding: "I don't think that's a draconian measure, I think that's just common sense."

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