Fitness comes through play
Your editorial on child obesity (leader, March), was spot on: while
diet is important, young people are unfit primarily because they
are inactive. Playing fields are disappearing, school grounds are
inadequate, parks are unsafe and open access playgrounds are being
forced to become registered child care providers.
As long ago as 2001 the British Medical Journal identified the
obesity epidemic in children as young as three and four saying that
the main solution is to “reduce television viewing and promote
playing… opportunities for spontaneous play may be the only
requirement that young children need to increase their physical
Whatever action the government takes must include a national
strategy for children’s play, recreation and freetime; with
mainstream funding to match. Such a strategy was recommended in
2002 by the Children’s Play Council in a government-funded report
to which we are still waiting a response.
Accident decline not the full story
It is very good news indeed that, as reported in last month’s 0-19
(“The accident gap”), there has been a sharp decline in child death
rates. However, while we have become much better at preventing
accidental deaths of children in England and Wales, we have not
made any progress on child killings.
Fatal child abuse is at the same rate as it was 30 years ago. At
least one child per week is killed according to Home Office
figures. The NSPCC is calling on the government to put in place a
co-ordinated strategy to tackle child abuse deaths.
We would like to see multi-agency child death review teams which
could investigate all child deaths as a matter of course. This is
essential if we are to learn lessons. We also hope that child
protection reform and the Children Bill will go some way to
achieving progress on cutting back on deaths.
NSPCC director of policy
Some prisons have fine facilities
While I appreciate that many prisons may have inadequate facilities
for prisoners’ families, and that Lucy Gampell, director of Action
for Prisoners’ Families, has every right to campaign for
improvements there are some prisons which already have very good
facilities (“Who’s guilty?”, 0-19, December).
Bedford Prison has an excellent children’s play area which caters
for the needs of children of all ages from babies right through to
The play area has been open for 11 years and has been fully staffed
by Spurgeon’s Child Care, Ormiston Trust and local
Currently this play area is open four afternoons per week and we
have recruited more staff so that shortly we will be able to open
the play area on a Sunday afternoon. We also offer extended
children’s visits every Wednesday – a two-hour session in which the
children can spend quality time with their fathers in a relaxed and
These facililities have been improved by a recently opened visitors
Wayland Prison in Norfolk also has very good facilities for
prisoners’ families. They have a visitor’s centre which is open
daily and visits that last all afternoon, four times a week.
Wayland also has a children’s play area which caters for the needs
of children of all ages. There are plenty of toys, games and
activities on offer to all children during all visits.
In addition, Wayland Prison offers extended children’s visits every
month and family extended visits which are held every Monday.
There are also many other prisons which have very good facilities
for families and children.
I feel that the efforts of all staff and volunteers are not being
recognised, especially when we read articles in the newspaper and
magazines which only mention the lack of facilities
Spurgeon’s Child Care
Bedford Family Centre