In February 2013, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted a new General Comment 17 on Article 31 (UNCRC). Article 31 of the Convention is a promise made by almost every government to children and young people. It says that children and young people have the right to rest, play and recreation and participate in cultural and artistic activities.
Since May 2013, PlayBoard have supported a group of ten young people aged 8 to 12 years old to become young peer researchers and learn in particular about their ‘right to play’. The researchers’ explored children’s attitudes to play and potential challenges they face in enjoying their ‘right to play’. They developed a questionnaire and carried out research through face to face interviews with other children. A total of 111 children aged 4 to 17 years old across Northern Ireland participated during the summer holidays. The results were discussed by the group with support from an adult researcher and common themes were identified.
Post discussions and questionnaire findings were used to inform the study’s recommendations. The young researchers were invited to present their findings at PlayBoard’s Conference on 8th October 2013. The conference was attended by Junior Ministers Jonathon Bell and Jennifer McCann, whom the young researchers also had the opportunity to pose questions to. In addition, they have developed an easy to understand version of General Comment 17 and poster on the challenges of making the right to play a reality for children in Northern Ireland.
Junior Minister Jennifer McCann attended the conference and said:
“It is important to speak to children and young people, it is very important to hear their views and opinions because it is important to them in their lives”. Junior Minister McCann also said that “We need a much greater awareness on the value of play. It is a vital ingredient in developing children – right through their transition into adulthood”.
Some children commented on what they would change in their area so they can play outside more often:
“Change the waste ground into a big park because it is close to my house”.
“It’s not safe because cars are driving up and down my street and people are parking their cars on the footpath”.
“The councils should close off roads for children to play on the street on different days. They should have more free events for children and parents to play”.
Most children and young people said they did have a safe place to play, but those who didn’t have a safe place to play said it was because of traffic and living close to main roads. Some children said the places to play were too far away or it was too dangerous because of fighting on the streets. Most children said that they would like to see less cars, traffic and safer roads. Some people said that they want:
“A better park, less grumpy people, less rubbish and more youth clubs”.
“I feel sad, angry and upset when I can’t play”.
“Mums and dads should bring us to parks more often and parents take an interest in our activities”.