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PRIVATE MEMBERS' BILL TRIUMPH FOR DISABLED CHILDREN

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Special play facilities will be integrated across England and Wales, giving children with special needs access to p...
Special play facilities will be integrated across England and Wales, giving children with special needs access to play equipment that they can use, the government has promised a Liberal Democrat MP.

Adrian Sanders' Bill, The Children with Disabilities (Play Areas) Bill, sought to require local authorities to consider the needs of disabled children when upgrading or creating new play areas. The Bill, which was supported by Mencap, the charity for people with learning disabilities, called for the provision of play spaces that would accommodate all children, enabling children with special needs to play with their peers in an inclusive environment.

According to Mr Sanders:

'This is a huge victory for thousands of children with disabilities who will now have increased opportunity for non-segregated play. Play is extremely important to a child's development, and I am thrilled at the government's response to this important legislation, as it has gone further even then the Bill intended.'

Local government minister Alan Whitehead said:

'The government has always been supportive of the purpose of this Bill: it identifies some key areas of concern in the proper provision of play facilities for disabled children and Adrian Sanders is to be congratulated for highlighting them.

'By explaining existing legislation, the government believes it can address two of the concerns set out, and we are committed to do so.

'We will also introduce, as a result of our discussion with Adrian Sanders, new specific best practice guidance which will set out in clear terms our expectations of the considerations local authorities and other bodies should take into account when making or improving provisions. I will be ensuring that Adrian Sanders, as the author of this Bill, will play a full part in the process of producing this guidance.

'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 other children,' Mr Whitehead concluded.

On Friday, Mr Sanders withdrew the Bill after confirmation that the government would enact its measures, and even extend them to include all play areas, not just those under construction or renovation. This means that by 2004 all local authorities must have assessed their local play areas in consultation with organisations that work with disabled children. The results of these assessments will determine specifically what provision must be made to accommodate disabled children.

* see LGCnetfor 'NEW GUIDANCE FOR MAKING PLAY AREAS ACCESSIBLE TO DISABLED CHILDREN'

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