Speaking our Mind

Fair Play for Children  - for the Child's Right to Play

32 Longford Road, Bognor Regis  PO21 1AG     Tel:  0843-289 2638  :

E-mail:  administration@fairplayforchildren.net        Website: www.fairplayforchildren.org


 2nd June 2011



Dear Member of Parliament

 

VETTING AND BARRING

We'd like to thank those who have clearly taken our views on board about the proposed changes to the Vetting and Barring Scheme in the Protection of Freedoms Bill, in particular Diana Johnson whose use of our arguments at committee stage was indeed gratifying.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmtoday/cmstand/output/pbc146/pb110510a-02.htm

Our views are summarised in a recent article:

FAIR PLAY SAYS PROTECTION OF FREEDOMS BILL UNSAFE 

Fair Play is quite clear on this, though there are some sound things in that part of the Bill, there is a central plank of it which we KNOW is wrong and will place children at risk.  Too much is being made of the need to reduce numbers when the proper question is what is the risk to children?   How else can we interpret a measure in the Bill which will only see offenders placed on the barring list should they apply to work with children?   That is not common sense and is not supported by the public.

On our website is a simple Poll, which posits three scenarios - retain the current system of placing offenders on the list at the time of conviction, or the proposal in the Bill, and for balance, that no one should be placed on the list.

With 459 votes to date, 96% support Fair Play's position, only 3% the Government's - you and I know full well that the public at large would reflect those proportions - and they would be right to expect that those convicted of such offences will be placed on the barring list at the point of conviction.   Whatever arguments have been deployed in the debate aboutwho is to be covered, at no stage was it argued, still less shown, that a change in a legislative procedure that has been in place since the 1933 Children and Young Persons Act needed scaling back.

Fair Play also supports the views of Action for Children :

http://www.cypnow.co.uk/Social_Care/article/1072433/charities-voice-fears-lack-checks-new-vetting-barring-legislation/?DCMP=EMC-CONCYPNow%20Daily

 

LOCAL AUTHORITY PLAY AREA SURVEY

Fair Play for Children currently is engaged in a project examining aspects of the state of children's play in England.  This reflects the priorities we set in our Manifesto in 2010 where we set out a vision for children and communities to retake lost play enviornments and opportunities.

The first stage is a comprehensive survey of principal local authority play areas, these being mainly London Boroughs, Unitaries and District non-Unitaries.  To date out of 326 surveyed we have had a 91% reply rate with just 5% pending and 4% not responding.  We asked about total number of sites maintained, new-build or refurbishment in the last decade, types of play area, number of sites funded under the previous government's strategy, cancellations of such schemes, total acreage of play areas, and any additional play areas known to the authority e.g. run by parish councils, housing associations etc.

The full results by authority to date will be available in due course after we have written to the responding councils to ask them to check their entries and to give approval for use of their specific data.

However, the overall picture is that in England:

  • There are some 16,004 playgrounds maintained by Principal Authorities
  • Some 4,926 were constructed or refurbished in the past decade
  • The authorities report funding under the previous government for 2,250 new playgrounds and that 280 had funding withdrawn with 72 being reprieved through other sources
  • Total acreage is 14,758.   Where an authority has been unable to provide acreage we have used an accepted figure of 400 sqm for each site, so this total figure has to be regarded as the best available data to date.
  • Parish Councils and other providers - the Principal Authorities reveal they know of 5,265 such play areas, and so the total acreage of those using the figures in the previous sub-para is 520.4.  This will be an under-estimate for certain.
  • We have the kind agreement of the National Association of Local Councils to send a questionnaire to them re their stock of play areas and we will add that detail in due course.

What this means is that there are xxxx play areas comprising yyyyy acres serving the needs of around 11.5 million children under 16 in England.   No one has produced this analysis before, we are pleased to lay it before you and grateful to the local authorites whose information has enabled this survey and compilation.   The survey is not yet complete but we felt you would want to know the broad conclusion of our work at this stage.

We will be using this information in the next stage of our programme which will be a publication about the general outdoor play environment of which play areas form but a minority aspect.

 

PLAY STREETS

Recently, we were delighted to see a Minister of Health pondering the value of Play Streets and about their reintroduction.  These are properly known in legislative terms as 'Street Playgrounds' and they were introduced in 1938/39 in an Act of Parliament.  At the heightn of their popularity, there were around 700 and we gather some 70 may still exist.

The legislation exists, albeit transferred into another Act and now the local authority does not have to gain the approval of the Secretary of State to create one.  These streets lost ground as the motorist encroached with demands for parking on-street, but they do, in our view, represent real opportunity, and are entirely in line with our Manifesto where we argue that residents in residential streets should be able petition for certain simple traffic-calming measures and that approval be reasonably certain except in specified exemptions concerning safety, traffic flow etc.

We know the motoring lobby will oppose such moves but you have to ask yourself a serious question - how are we to reverse the catastrophic decline of outdoor play for our children, a fact accepted all round, without looking seriously at such measures?  Fair Play will be demonstrating a very precise measure of that decline, and one of its major factors, in coming weeks.

 

Finally, a small fact about Fair Play's membership which stands around the same level as Play England's.  We represent many small local organisations who are in the front line of provision, child protection, creativity, and children's rights.  They are experiencing devastating cuts, we are about to embark on a survey on this matter and will be reporting to you and the media in due course on our findings.

With good wishes.



Yours sincerely

 
NATIONAL SECRETARY