London Play is one of a coalition of children’s charities calling on the government to urgently put children at the heart of its agenda, following a critical United Nations report on children’s rights in the UK.
The report of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child notes some areas of progress from their 2016 report, including action to outlaw child marriage, the independent review of children’s social care and the commitment to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.
But it also highlights a wide range of issues that are detrimentally impacting children, including high numbers of children living in poverty, long waiting lists for children seeking mental health services, and the high prevalence of domestic abuse, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violence against children.
In relation to play, the committee made four recommendations to ensure that children in the UK can exercise their right and need to play, enshrined in Article 31 of the UNCRC. Chief among these was that the UK government should implement a strategy, with sufficient resources, aimed at ensuring children’s right to rest, leisure and recreation, including free outdoor play.
The committee also recommended that children’s right to play should be integrated into school curricula; and that children should have “sufficient time to engage in play and recreational activities that are inclusive and age-appropriate.” This reflects concerns raised by London Play and 96 other charities in a report submitted to the committee in advance of the review, which highlighted the increasingly restrictive school curriculum limiting play opportunities for children; as well as shrinking playtimes and the widespread practice of withdrawing play as punishment in schools.
The four recommendations on play are in full:
Rest, leisure, recreation and cultural and artistic activities
48. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Develop a strategy, with sufficient resources, aimed at ensuring children’s right to rest, leisure and recreation, including free outdoor play;
(b) Integrate children’s right to play into school curricula and ensure that children have sufficient time to engage in play and recreational activities that are inclusive and age-appropriate;
(c) Strengthen measures to ensure that all children, including children with disabilities, young children, children in rural areas and children with disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, have access to accessible and safe public outdoor play spaces;
(d) Involve children in decisions regarding urban-planning processes, including public transportation, and in the development of spaces for children to play.
The full report of the UNCRC Committee is here.