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to take that responsibility seriously. I don’t have a difficulty saying that.” Te report included suggestions for

practical action, such as a new generation of children and family centres to be established across Scotland, which Deacon said could be created through joint ventures between local communities and private, public and not-for- profit organisations. However, she also called for a “bias for action” across early years policy and practice and pressed the “urgency and the financial and moral imperative” of placing a renewed focus on improving children’s early years. Following the publication of the report,

Children’s Minister Adam Ingram announced an Early Years Early Action Fund – a new £6.8m fund designed to help improve children’s lives, which national voluntary organisations will be invited to bid for a share of. Deacon welcomes the fund as “a step”, and

also the warm reception her report received from across the political spectrum. However, she is adamant that early years must be embedded “firmly” in the narrative and decisions of the next Parliament if it is to be at all meaningful.

“When I first started this, I would talk about how this is an area that there is cross- party commitment on, so we have to ask about why we’ve not made more progress, etc. And people very quickly pulled me up on that and I stopped saying it because what they would say is, ‘How often do we

“One of the most useful

and helpful things I could do was say these things

aloud and I was confident in the knowledge that people wanted them to be said”

hear these kind of issues being talked about at First Minister’s Questions?’ Do we hear a consistent referencing back to the importance of early life and early years’ experience when we are talking about criminal justice issues, for example. And of course, we don’t. “I have, because I am an anorak, tracked things like the budget debate and if we really

A Statutory Duty for Play

WHY? – to ensure that Local Authorities are committed to providing sufficient and

satisfying play opportunities for children of all ages and abilities.

HOW? – a Universal Play Fund to support play services could remove the barriers to access and increase quality play opportunities throughout all of Scotland.

Play Scotland are calling on all politicians to continue to make Play a Priority in Scotland, by pledging to promote:

Play Scotland Midlothian Innovation Centre, Pentlandfield, Roslin EH25 9RE

Tel: 0131 440 9070 Fax: 0131 440 9071 Email: Web:

Company Number: 017885 Scottish Charity Number: SC029167 Registered at the above address

Scotland delivers “Improved children’s outcomes and quality of life through play” (Early Years Framework 2008)

The Inclusion of Children and Young People in the Planning and Provision of Play Space

WHY? – children have the right to play and participate. (Article 31 and Article 12, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child).

HOW? – by giving children a role in Community Planning and School Playground

usage and design appropriate to their ages and stages of development.

Scotland creates “well designed, sustainable places where we are able to access the amenities and services we need”

(National Outcomes 2008)

are going to be serious about this then it has to be more up there in lights - and that is not just about spending shed loads more money. It is not that simple. But it is about embedding this in the narrative.” As the parties tussle over who the Scottish public should hand the reins to in May, Deacon calls on them to make room for children and families in the debate and make a genuine commitment to prioritising early years. “One of my biggest gripes ever since the

day I left the Parliament, for example, our last election campaign, the 2007 campaign was utterly the leaders’ debates. Every time the question of community came up, the debate was utterly dominated by the question of police numbers and the way things are standing, it looks as if it is going to be much the same again. And yet we all know, and our politicians know and believe this to be true as well, that we stand a better chance of making big improvements in our society on a more ongoing basis if they get it right in the early years in life - in the home and in the community, with children and families. So there is an issue there about making that commitment real.”

The Creation of Child-Friendly Communities

WHY? – to deliver the Child’s Right to Play, increase physical activity and improve children’s health and well being. - child-friendly spaces promote social interaction and strengthen community spirit between children and adults, while making areas more desirable places to live.

HOW? – designate all public space a potential play space (unless otherwise categorised)

Scotland builds “strong, resilient and supportive communities where people take responsibility for their own actions and how they affect others.” (National Outcomes 2008)

A Highly Skilled Play Workforce

WHY? – play is essential for children’s development and an integral part of a good childhood. This requires skilled adults trained in the Playwork Principles (available through Play Scotland/SkillsActive)

HOW? – by working with Sector Skills Councils, in particular SkillsActive, and accredited trainers to develop a proficient workforce.

Scotland’s Children deserve “Quality at the heart of service delivery” (Early Years Framework 2008)

Play Scotland is working to ensure that our children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed.

28 March 2011 Holyrood 43

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