19 Oct 2005

Children’s Commissioner says play and leisure are too important to ignore

Children and young people need Government to act now to develop a comprehensive play strategy, the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, Nigel Williams said today.

Speaking at the PlayBoard conference, the Commissioner said there needed to be urgency in developing such a strategy as today’s toddlers will be into their teens before tangible results will be seen unless action was taken now.

“Too often we talk about children and young people in an abstract way,” said Mr Williams. “We need to move out of that way of thinking; we need to realise that children and young people’s needs for play are today, not tomorrow.

Mr Williams warmly welcomed the recent Ministerial announcements which had secured the future of after schools clubs, and the promise of more ring-fenced money for children’s services, but warned that this was just the first step in meeting children’s needs.

Mr Williams said Government had already pledged to work towards a play strategy, but there could be no delay.

“We need to all work together to make sure that the development of a play strategy does not become a long drawn out process.”

NICCY’s research into Children’s Rights showed there was a huge demand from children and young people to have play and leisure provision developed, but then the Commissioner urged everyone to remember how important play was to children and young people.

“Play is fundamental to a rounded enjoyable life,” he said. “We need play because it helps us rest and relax. We need play because it teaches us new skills and helps us to learn. We need play because it makes us healthier.”

Mr Williams said play was a right in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which the Government is a signatory.

“From the Government department to the school teacher, from the education board official to the local council’s summer scheme staff, we need to remember that children need play,” he said.