The importance of the right to play is widely acknowledged by the international community, but it often fails to gain the prominence that it deserves. One of the things that I hear about most often from disabled children and young people and their families and carers is the lack of access to social, leisure and recreational opportunities and the negative impact that this has on their daily lives. This report echoes those experiences and in it we hear about the effects of social exclusion on disabled and disadvantaged children and young people leading to feelings of loneliness or alienation.
This review is a significant step towards both identifying where the barriers are to accessing play and beginning to address them in a meaningful way. It highlights the value of "low-key, every day actions" that make a difference. At a time when financial pressures are high it is important to ensure that the conversation to improve access to inclusive play does not solely focus on resources-although we must also work to properly resource the delivery of services-but that we look at small changes in order to make a larger impact.
It gives clear recommendations to help Scottish Government, local authorities and those involved in community planning rise to the challenge of ensuring equal access to inclusive play services across Scotland. We must continue the work to raise awareness of the way in which play and recreation is essential to the overall health and wellbeing of children to promote the development of creativity, imagination, self-confidence, self-efficacy and physical, social, cognitive and emotional strength and skills.
Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) clearly sets out the right of all children to be able to freely to take part in leisure and play, cultural life and the arts and to rest and relaxation.
And we must not forget that it is our duty under Article 12 of the UNCRC, to listen to what children and young people tell us about matters that affect them, and to take their views into account. Children and young people are telling us they are serious about play and we need to get serious along with them.
We must ensure that play opportunities are of the quality that this reports talks of, by building confidence and raising awareness around the value of play and giving practitioners the time they need to develop their skills; whilst ensuring that there is that crucial equality in play opportunities that are accessible to all children and young people.
Tam Baillie, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People
Email: Deborah Gallagher