´National Play and Recreation Plan To Bring A Hop, Skip and Jump´
Minister for Children, Mary Hanafin, T.D., has today (May 4th, 2001) highlighted the Government´s innovative Play and Recreation Plan for young people, a central part of the National Children’s Strategy.
In developing this National Play and Recreation Plan, the National Children’s Office is determining:
- what play facilities are currently available for children;
- what the needs are, as determined by young people; and
- how issues such as planning and insurance can be addressed.
Addressing a National Children’s Strategy local forum in Cork this morning, the Minister said:
“Few things are more important to young people than play and recreation. The Government has been listening closely to children throughout the formulation of the National Children´s Strategy. It has prioritised the fact that children want more leisure facilities in their neighbourhoods. I´m delighted that dedicated Government funding for this specific purpose is being provided.”
“An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern T.D., has promised a dedicated fund in order to fully implement this Play and Recreation initiative, which is being developed this year. This is clear evidence of the commitment and desire at the highest level to provide a better childhood for our young people,” the Minister added.
“The Play and Recreation policy will involve developing plans at a local level to ensure that every child can have access to decent playgrounds, sports fields and other facilities. The vast majority of the adults who contributed to the Strategy focused on providing for children´s future, which of course is crucial. However, having consulted with thousands of children from around the country, the feedback I´ve received is that they just want to enjoy being children as much as possible. The Play and Recreation Plan will directly address this,” Minister Hanafin said.
“From what I have already seen in the Munster area, there are evidently some excellent playgrounds for children in Skibbereen, Clonakilty and elsewhere. However, the single biggest issue identified by young people up and down the country is that we haven´t enough play facilities in our towns, villages and cities. There aren´t enough alternatives to the pub, street corner or amusement arcade,” added the Minister.
Children from local schools, parents, politicians, voluntary groups and statutory bodies attended today´s seminar to discuss how best to implement the Strategy at local level.
“Giving children a voice is only part of the process. County planners, politicians, parents, community workers and others need also to listen to what they are saying,” she said.
Minister Hanafin said that the National Play and Recreation Plan would have many positive effects, not only for young people, but also on society as a whole:
“The benefits of a successful Play and Recreation Plan will be obvious, not only for children, but for local communities. Extra recreational facilities for children will encourage participation in sport and promote a more healthy lifestyle. This Government fund will help provide ´a hop, skip and jump´ impetus for healthy bodies and minds. This, in turn, should have positive implications for teenage drinking, drug abuse and anti-social behaviour among young people,” added the Minister.
“With the National Children´s Strategy, the Government is drawing together and co-ordinating all the activities for children currently taking place. We now have a clear direction for the future,” she said.
The Minister pointed out that children’s ideas would now be taken into account in the development of county plans by local authorities. She said that consideration would be given to the impact of planning decisions, traffic and environmental issues on young people.
“Successful implementation needs good partnership between local statutory, voluntary and community interests working with families and children. With all the key players on board, it should be possible to develop our communities and achieve better outcomes for children,” the Minister said.
One of the main themes running through the National Children´s Strategy is building children’s participation and citizenship – encouraging them to get involved and contributing to a sense of community.
“Children played a large role in the formulation of the Government´s Children Strategy. As such, this Strategy is as much a plan by you, as for you,” the Minister told the young people present this morning.
In conclusion, Minister Hanafin said “Today’s children are tomorrow’s communities” you will be the ones leading and contributing to the economic, social and cultural development at both local and national level. We will support you today to build for better futures tomorrow. But equally as important, we are now implementing an innovative Play and Recreation Plan to ensure that you and all other children enjoy a fulfilling childhood and realise your potential.”