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Playday gets Labour backing

A showcase project appears at odds with proposals to impose curfews on children. Clare Dean reports

Government plans to sweep the streets of children in an attempt to curb juvenile crime fit awkwardly with its support for the right for youngsters to play.

But this week the sports minister, Tony Banks, gave his backing to a showcase Playday, which saw more than 200,000 children taking part in hundreds of events across the country.

In Cardiff children buried a play-time capsule with the help of Win Griffiths, minister for children in Wales; in Bognor Regis there was a futuristic quiz; and in Bolton it was hopscotch and tiddly-winks.

Responsibility for children's play rests with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport - hence Mr Banks's involvement in Playday.

The White Paper on the so-called "People's Lottery" stresses the importance of funding play. Anna Lubelska, director of the Children's Play Council and Playday co-ordinator, welcomed the Government's commitment. She believes, however, that curfews on the under-10s, as mooted by Home Secretary Jack Straw, are wrong. Instead, Labour should make it safer for children to play outside.

Mr Straw has suggested local authority by-laws to impose curfews on children under 10 found roaming the streets late at night.

But the proposals might be in breach of Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which says that every child has the right to engage in play and recreational activities.

Miss Lubelska said resources should be redirected from security cameras to neighbourhood playworkers, and that play policies should include developing local services and safe areas.

"We are very anti curfew," she said, "although we recognise that children playing outside can cause the classic conflict between older residents and younger people."

Research has shown that children who are cooped up at home and deprived of play suffered developmental problems, she said.

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