Category Archives: Public policy

On public policy

Building the case for play: help me fill the gaps

First, I would like to thank everyone who has responded so far to my appeal last month for evidence to build the policy case for play. The material I have received has almost without exception fitted my brief. But there are gaps, so I am putting out one last call for help.

Playday, Bristol City Council

Playday, Bristol City Council

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Help build the policy case for play

kids playing on big letters spelling play

Playday, Bristol City Council

This post asks for your help in building the case for play. I am writing a report – aimed at Government – that gathers together evidence for the difference that play facilities and initiatives can make to children, families and communities. And I need your help in pulling together this evidence. I hope you agree this is an important and urgent task, given the scale of recent cuts to play facilities.

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Play services decimated by cuts

Gate locked with chain Public play facilities have suffered huge cuts in the last 3 years. New data shows that spending by English local authorities fell by nearly 40 per cent between 2010 and 2013. Revenue spending has been even more badly hit, falling by over 60 per cent. As a result, almost one in three councils have closed at least one play facility.

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Child-on-child sexual violence: are the media – and the Children’s Commissioner – guilty of scaremongering?

Screengrab of Daily Telegraph websiteYesterday’s Daily Telegraph ran a story with a headline that was disturbing by any measure. It read “‘Chilling’ levels of child-on-child rape in Middle England.” The story takes its cue from the launch of three reports from the Children’s Commissioner for England, published yesterday as part of the agency’s wider inquiry into child sexual exploitation in gangs and groups.

It is hard to imagine a more disturbing crime than the sexual exploitation of children by other children. Moreover, it is plausible to argue – as the reports do – that the problem is at risk of being overshadowed by concerns about other forms of child sexual abuse. Nonetheless, the claim that such crimes are widespread is striking.

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Chief Medical Officer prescribes play and risk as well as pills

Sally DaviesThe call by Professor Dame Sally Davies, the Government’s top health advisor, for children to be given vitamin pills has kick-started another lively debate about the health of our nation’s children (this morning I switched on my radio to hear film-maker David ‘Project Wild Thing’ Bond flying the flag for nature, not pills, on BBC Five Live with Nicky Campbell). But that was just one media-friendly recommendation taken from 15 chapters and appendices of material. A closer look at the report shows a more thoughtful set of prescriptions, with some significant and positive messages about the value of outdoor play and the need for a balanced approach to risk. This post is a public service. Its aim is to relay some of the CMO’s messages, so that advocates for play and the outdoors can quickly find and make use of them.

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Think the Scandinavians have succeeded in reconnecting children with nature? Think again

Tower in Valbyparken, CopenhagenEarlier this month I went to Denmark to give a speech at the Nordic Adventure conference, whose theme was reconnecting children with nature. It was not my first visit to the region. I can clearly remember that trip: a study tour in 2003 during my secondment to Whitehall to lead the first UK Government review of children’s play. Back then, I came home inspired by what I had seen – like the nature park at Valbyparken, which had just been built, and which is now one of the city’s most popular parks.

Many of the international delegates to this conference also came looking for inspiration. But this time, I had a different goal. I wanted to get behind the success stories – the beautiful spaces, the switched-on educators, the generously funded programmes – and find out whether it really is so easy for the Nordic nations to make nature a meaningful part of children’s everyday lives. I wanted to hear about the problems, the barriers and the challenges.

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