Media Release, 8 November 2011
The outgoing director of Play England, Adrian Voce OBE, yesterday accused the coalition government of David Cameron and Nick Clegg of betraying a generation of children for abandoning a ten-year strategy to make neighbourhoods, streets and green spaces safer and more suited for children’s healthy outdoor play. He warned that there would be long-term consequences for children’s health and wellbeing.
Speaking after Play England’s annual meeting at a special event to mark his stepping down from the organisation that he established in 2006 under the umbrella of children’s charity NCB, Voce said “the UK government has an obligation under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to ensure that children’s right to play is respected and promoted. Yet this government’s policy on children’s play is that it has none.
“In spite of the Deputy Prime Minister’s promise of a task force to investigate new ways to support community play provision, and the statement before the election of the now Children’s Minister Tim Loughton, that ‘it would be a false economy to cut children’s play services’, every penny of government funding for play provision and play policy has been cut.
Voce was damning in his verdict on the coalition’s lack of response to the issue of children’s declining freedom to play out:
“This puts the UK government in breach of an important international treaty, but worse than that, the government is letting down a generation of children, their families and communities who were promised a ten-year plan to reverse the deeply damaging decline in children’s enjoyment of the outdoor world.
“The irony is that much could be done without much government expenditure. The Playbuilder capital programme (which saw 3000 new play areas from 2008-11) would have been completed this year anyway and the aims for the next phase of the Play Strategy were not to spend more money on playgrounds but to change the culture in planning, traffic, parks and policing so that the built environment and open spaces took greater account of children’s need to play and parents’ need to be confident to let them. The Conservatives’ childhood review in 2008 called for exactly such a change but it will not happen without a government lead. As a result, we must expect the trend towards ever-more sedentary indoor lifestyles for children to continue. The government will argue that the austerity measures to bring down the deficit mean sacrifices have to be made but a 100 per cent cut and the shredding of all national policy on play is not just an austerity measure, it is a betrayal, and one which future generations will pay for in the rising cost of obesity, mental health problems and anti-social behaviour”.
Voce congratulated Play England’s members for adopting his longstanding recommendation that it should become an independent charity. “There is huge pressure on charities at this time and going it alone will not be easy, but England’s children need an independent national champion for their right to play,” he said.
Voce, who was this year awarded an OBE for his services to children, announced at the event, in Islington, North London, the launch of his own new campaign to make the case for government action on play which he is taking on to the European stage as a member of the core group of the European Network of Child Friendly Cities www.childfriendlycities.eu