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one - ‘To play and to dream’ • Restoring play to the heart of the campaign for children’s rights

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 March 2022

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Summary

Of all the human rights specific to children as defined by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), the right to play has become known as ‘the forgotten right’. The UK, in this respect, is not untypical; although it has a reputation internationally for its progressive thinking on play (Hart, p xvii, this volume), only in Wales is there a clear statutory duty on local authorities to make universal provision for it. And it is not only governments that seem to neglect the importance of play relative to other children’s rights; in particular, the dominance of education over play provision as a recognised issue tends to be reflected in the work of children’s rights’ advocacy bodies too.

The Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), for example, in its annual review of government action on the CRC, found that ‘a child’s right to play and recreation suffers from poor recognition of its importance, and a lack of investment by government at national and local level’ (CRAE, 2014). The review refers to the UNCRC’s own report of 2008, which called on the UK government to guarantee Article 31 for all children. The review also found that, across the 32 (of 152) local authorities able to comply with a Freedom of Information request on play budgets, there had been an ‘overall reduction’ of 54% between the years 2008-9 and 2014-15; despite this, in its subsequent recommendations the CRAE report calls for subsidies and quality benchmarks in early years settings and a statutory universal youth offer but has no proposals for play policy (CRAE, 2014)

However, while the right to play may have been largely overlooked not only by the parties of government but also by those who would influence them on behalf of children, it was in fact a central part of the argument of the modern children’s rights movement at its origins early in the last century. The UN’s General Comment No. 17 (2013) notes that an earlier Declaration of the Rights of the Child (UN, 1959) proclaimed that: ‘society and the public authorities shall endeavour to promote the enjoyment of this right [to play]’. In fact, it was in 1913 that the right to play was at the forefront of the changes demanded by the embryonic movement that would lead all the way to the CRC.

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Chapter
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Policy for Play
Responding to Children's Forgotten Right
, pp. 13 - 20
Publisher: Bristol University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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