Local government minister Alan Whitehead said:
'By explaining to organisations in detail what they have to do under existing legislation and how best to fulfil these duties, we can help ensure that disabled children can enjoy local play areas in the same way as all other children.
'The government has always supported the aim of Adrian Sanders' Private Members Bill: it identifies some key concerns in the proper provision of play facilities for disabled children. He is to be congratulated for highlighting them.'
Play facilities for disabled children are important because they provide opportunities for interaction with other children, from which everyone benefits in terms of breaking down any misconceptions. They also provide a very welcome opportunity for carers to have some time to themselves.
Considerable rights are already enshrined in legislation under the Disability Discrimination Act, with the provisions of Part III covering discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities, services and premises being introduced in stages. The remaining provisions will come into effect in Autumn 2004. However, the statutory Code of Practice has already been revised to take account of the 2004 duties. This was laid before Parliament on 26 November 2001, and the Disability Rights Commission hopes to publish it in February .
A key feature of this duty is to make reasonable adjustments in the provision of services and facilities and that it is anticipatory. Providers cannot simply wait until a disabled child arrives - the approach must be to think ahead, to always have the rights of disabled children on the agenda.
The new commitment is to issue authoritative 'Good Practice Guidance' specifically for play areas as an effective way of helping organisations understand how the DDA affects this particular area and giving practical advice on the provision of play opportunities for disabled children. We will work on this in partnership with a range of organisations and use their expertise and access to networks to support the preparation of comprehensive advice and its dissemination.
The Disability Rights Commission has agreed to support the government with this project.