An influential group of MPs and Members of the House of Lords has today called for a new national play strategy for England.
The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on A Fit and Healthy Childhood, chaired by Baroness (Floella) Benjamin, has issued the proposal to Ministers as part of its report of a review of public health issues for children, Healthy Patterns for Healthy Families: Removing the Hurdles to a Healthy Family.
The headline recommendation of the report is for the return of a Cabinet Minister for Children, ‘to drive the policy and co-ordinate a strategy to promote child health and fitness across all Departments’.
In the section of the report on proposed new policy for play, the APPG asks the Government ‘to follow the lead of the Welsh Government by introducing a “play duty” as part of a new national Play Strategy … that should also include ‘guidance to Local Authorities to include strategies for safer, child-friendly streets in residential areas, including new housing developments, within their Local Development plans … training and guidance in the enablement of free play for all professionals with responsibility for children, including Ofsted … and a new legal duty on public health bodies to work with schools and local government to ensure that all children have access to suitable play opportunities within close proximity to their home and at school’.
Commenting on the report, Baroness Benjamin said “it is now widely acknowledged that the nation is in the grip of a child obesity epidemic. This report will help families and the professionals who support them to turn the tide and establish new and healthy patterns of living for all our children”.
The former Labour MP Helen Clark, Chair of the Working Group and author of ‘Healthy Patterns for Healthy Families’ added: “Some of our findings are extremely disappointing, but families are trying to do their best in a climate that is not properly supportive of their needs”.
The full report of the APPG will be published next week.