The UK is a signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of The Child, whose articles include The Right to Play:
States Parties recognize the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
- States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity.
It is the world’s most signed-to Treaty, however it does not form part of UK domestic law, though both Wales and Scotland have moved in that direction.
What does A31 require of the UK, and all its public authorities? As read, it would appear to both require and encourage participation and opportunity based on age-appropriateness and equality.
It will be seen that there is a requirement of sufficiency, and cases taken to Appeal have resulted in Local Education Authorities being told they have to consult young people, and look especially at provision via the voluntary sector.
Guess what? That simply has not happened, kids have NOT been consulted meaningfully or even at all as budgets for youth and play provision have been slashed mercilessly in recent years.
The figures are telling, with voluntary sector play provision being walloped locally and, the first austerity cut of all by the Coalition Government was the annual grant to our colleagues at Play England.
How has this affected local, on-the-ground provision? Take Youth Clubs in West Sussex, where I live, many of them voluntary, running traditional activities for the 13+ age range. There were 58 projects supported financially and with staff five years ago or so, now down to 16, most of the victims in the voluntary sector, years of work trashed.
I was involved with the Number 18 Project in Bognor, adding advice, counselling and sexual health services to the leisure side, we lost support, no consultation of kids at all, breaching agreements, misleading scrutiny panel councillors, and instigating a project which duplicated some of the work we did for over 20 years.
There were five youth clubs in Bognor, providing 12 sessions weekly. Now there are two providing two weekly sessions with no County support. This picture is repeated across the country, a gross betrayal of kids and of our A31 obligations.
Report Card: Govt could do much better on children’s right to play
Jan Cosgrove is National Secretary of Fair Play for Children