In June 2010 Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that he wanted to see “spaces where children can play, where they can feel completely free, where they can safely push at the boundaries, learning and experimenting. Places where different generations can meet, binding the community together.” In 2008 – in a report on childhood launched by David Cameron himself – the Tories declared, “We must allow our children to be seen and heard.”
The proposed legislation to criminalise children for “causing nuisance and annoyance” is a betrayal of these words and actions, and a shameful move by the Coalition government. It is a slap in the face to children – who let’s remember, are not so much couch potatoes as couch prisoners, and already have to overcome safety fears, traffic danger, and official hostility in order to enjoy that most basic of childhood pleasures, playing outside. It pulls the rug out from under parents who are trying to give their children a little more freedom. And it is (irony of ironies) profoundly anti-social, since it is likely to deprive children of the very kind of everyday experiences that help them learn how to become responsible citizens. Please do what you can to support Play England – and what I suspect will be a growing list of other concerned people – in fighting it.
So when you were 10, 12, 15, could you be ‘annoying’? Could you be a ‘nuisance’?
I interviewed my grandmother recently about what she did as a young girl.
She is now nearly 90 and has led, I think it’s fair to say, an almost blameless life. Yet as a young girl her and her group of friends would run up to houses, knock on the doors and run away…
Well if the new Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill 2013-14 gets passed, behaviour that my grandmother got up to could conceivably land her with a criminal record.
I’m no expert on this sort of issue – I’m an ex-teacher, done some community development, and spent the last five years promoting and leading programmes and campaigning to get kids more freedom to play. But my colleagues at the Standing Commitee on Youth Justice are. As are the Association of Chief…
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Yes, I think that we have become really intolerant of children’s need to experiment and play. These proposals are inconsistent with the need to tackle a growing problem of obesity and freedom for children to play in shared and public spaces.