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'Crucial' to regulate playschemes

The Government is to put off a decision about relaxing regulations covering playschemes until after the Dunblane inquiry, but Lothian this week makes clear its fundamental opposition. The region's education committee was told on Wednesday: "It is crucial that the ability to protect children is not diminished or lost."

Under a proposal to relax restrictions in the Children Act governing activities for children under eight, facilities on offer for fewer than 60 days a year would have been exempt from registration and regulation. Providers of holiday playschemes have argued that registration fees and red tape are a disincentive.

Leslie McEwan, Lothian's acting director of social work, warns in a paper for his committee and the education committee that deregulation would not be in the interests of the 23,000 Lothian children attending schemes this year, 650 of whom have special needs. Mr McEwan adds: "Perpetrators of child abuse tend to gravitate towards situations, such as holiday playschemes, where they have access to potentially vulnerable children."

The Government has also proposed that organisers of dancing or gymnastic classes should not have to register as "carers" under the Children Act. Lothian wants a clear statement on activities that do and do not require registration.

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