Council bans parents from play areas

Score one for Britain in its contest with the United States to create the stupidest fear-based society. The Watford Borough Council took the lead by banning parents from supervising their own kids in public playgrounds, "because they have not undergone criminal record checks."

The only adults allowed to monitor the kids are idiocracy-vetted "play rangers." The children's parents must "watch from outside a perimeter fence."

A council notice to parents explains that: "Safeguarding the children and young people who use the site is one of our top priorities.

"Due to Ofsted regulations we have a responsibility to ensure that every authorised adult who enters our site is properly vetted and given a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check by Watford Borough Council."

Council Mayor Dorothy Thornhill argued they are merely enforcing government policy at the play areas, in Vicarage Road and Leggatts Way.

She said: "Sadly, in today's climate, you can't have adults walking around unchecked in a children's playground and the adventure playground is not a meeting place for adults.

Right pillocks at Watford Borough Council ban parents from hanging out with kids at park (Thanks, Fee!)

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  1. The city council may have a point: statistically those kids are much more likely to be abused by their family members than some playground boogeyman. The “stranger with candy kidnapping children” scenario we’ve all been conditioned to fear is practically nonexistent in real life.

    1. Yeah so based on what you said we should just take a child away from their parents at birth. This way they have no contact with any family members and will never be abused. Oh wait… I know I’m over exaggerating your post but it should not be in the governments hands to ban a parent from watching over their children. Makes them more a target for those that are strangers and take children because criminals always find a way through the system.

  2. Just what is “today’s climate”. I guess it is a climate of paranoia, irrational fears and Nancy Grace. Or is it a climate in which we need to protect against “something happening” in case someone sues our ass.

    FFS. This $h!+ has to stop. Outrage!

    1. A charitable interpretation would be to assume that the “climate” refers to the ridiculous amount of laws surrounding child care in the UK. Admittably, that’s unlikely to be what she meant.

  3. I’ll tell you what is disgraceful, letting unsupervised parents take their own kids home at night. Lord knows what they might do to the poor tots when no one is there to watch.

    Criminal records checks should be mandatory for anyone wanting to be a parent. Those who do not pass the check should either be sterilized, or should give up their children to the state.

    My god people, think of the children!

  4. Uh, yes, sure, except what kind of abuse-prone parent brings their kid to a playground to do the crime?

    I wonder what ‘in today’s climate means’. Are there more pedophiles and kidnappers around these days, or are we just more paranoid about them? I think it’s the latter. Personally the only reason I think kids are less safe today than in days of yore is because there are more cars. But counter that with the fact that in days of yore you had no cell phones or even phone booths and when you sent your kid out the door, you wouldn’t know if they were safe until they came back…the danger levels kind of balance out.

  5. First off I have a HUGE issue with kids and cell phones, but that’s another thread….

    I can not logically process the rational behind this. Lets not have the biological/guardian parent watch their own child, lets have a total stranger that has passed our background check do it? Like if something dangerous was going to happen that stranger is going to give a crap about your kid? People have a tendency to watch out for their own, much more so than having a tendency to hurt them. (Again fear mongering/paranoia?) I’d trust my wife most with our children, and least with people I didn’t know (credentials or not).

    Why is it I see the world marching one step closer to the new hybrid order of socialism/communism/totalitarianism?

    1. Bcsizemo, I meant to say that whether they have a phone or not, it’s much easier for a kid in trouble to contact a grown-up they trust today than it would have been when I was younger. :)

      Good point from demidan up there, is this like a day-care centre thing? If the kids are supervised and the parents aren’t allowed to step inside the playground, then they should be able to just leave them there :D This policy could be a blessing for tired parents, come to think of it!

  6. City councilpeople who vote for this sort of nonsense should be forced to read, in its entirety, the comments thread on FARK when the news item reporting their stupidity inevitably appears there. Aloud. On the news.

  7. Two words: leashed collars. No doubt then as to whose kid is whom, plus those shifty men (& women) trying to chat up and hook up hot divorcees will be easily spotted, too. Double plus good!

  8. “the adventure playground is not a meeting place for adults.”

    I take offence to this. I’ve been a SAHM for 5 years and I can say with some authority that the playground is very much a meeting place for adults. At the playground you get to meet the parents of your children’s friends. It is a place to go with your friends and their kids, so everyone can have a good time. A good public playscape is a place where both children and their parents can socialize. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t be a little concerned if someone was hanging around there without kids. But if they really want to have “play rangers” let them supervise the entrance into the playground to make sure that a) every adult is there with a child and b) every child is being supervised by some adult.

    1. Agree with Heartfruit. My wife and I can’t remember the last time our infant took the initiative to arrange a play-date with other infants and asked us to stay away so we don’t bruise his infant “street cred.”

  9. They aren’t taking them from the parents at birth and raising them in special walled compounds? I thought they do that in England. God knows they’re doing everything else 1984-style these days.

  10. It’s true what you say Brainspore. The logical conclusion we should reach is that children need to be removed from their parents at birth and raised in a controlled, sterile, safe environment by robots programmed to give children only proper, controlled, thoroughly vetted and approved stimuli. It’s the only way!

  11. Another example of life imitating South Park. They addressed this back in 2000 with the episode “Child Abduction is Not Funny”. It gets to the point that the parents have the Chinese restaurant owner build a great wall around the town to protect their children from themselves. Eventually Mongolians take the kids in and come to South Park to attack the Great Wall.

    http://www.southparkstudios.com/

    Season 6 Episode 11

    1. I followed your link to South Park Studios to watch episode 611, Child Abduction is Not Funny, but got “Due to pre-existing contractual obligations, we are unable to show this episode at this time.”!

  12. So, are the kids playing junior spies yet? “Turn in mum or da for big big prizes!”
    -Brought to you by Orwell snack biscuits “They’re Foooooood!”

  13. But the other children are not checked. They could be juvenile offenders. How would anyone know? Each child needs his own area.

  14. C’mon Boingers, where’s your skepticism? I expect this is a subversive act of passive aggressive civil (dis)obedience designed to make local parents kick up a fuss.

  15. Hey, a thought for lazy passive aggressive parents,,,just drop ’em off by the F-ing truck load. Let’s see the city hire enough “Play Bastards” when 500 children are dropped off for an entire day. Then sue the city’s ass off as soon as something happens to little Sally or William.

  16. Only way to fix it is to remove all children from all adult contact especially their parents. They should all be raised by background approved robots.

  17. I’m not familiar with the area, so I can’t be sure, but this sounds like it is a decision by a council in one borough regarding two parks. It’s an asinine decision, I’ll grant you. But I think it’s a bit hyperbolic to start screaming “1984!” because some idiots decided to enforce a stupid policy at two “adventure” parks. It’s not as if neighborhood parks are being patrolled by goose-stepping play-rangers and England’s teeter-totters are in lock-down. Be outraged, sure. But let’s try not to spin it out of proportion.

    Deep breaths, people.

  18. Am I the only one who think that this is more Brave New World than Nineteen-Eighty-Four?

    Now force those kids to play centrifugal bumblepuppy!!!

  19. The Response from the council in question required two readings from me to get how they “aren’t banning parents”

    Statement about Harwoods and Harebreaks Adventure Playground

    PARAGRAPH ONE: WE ARE NOT BANNING PARENTS
    Contrary to reports in the media, Watford Borough Council has not banned parents from public parks and playgrounds in the town!

    PARAGRAPH TWO, CONTRARY TO PARAGRAPH ONE, WE ARE BANNING PARENTS! SHA SHHA SHAAAAAWWW RUSTY SHACKLFORD FTW

    We have simply reiterated that the fully supervised play sessions we run at our adventure playgrounds – Harebreaks and Harwoods – are for children aged 5 -15 years old, and that parents/carers of children and young people who visit these play sessions are not able to stay on site with their children during play sessions. This reduces any potential risks to children and ensures they are able to play freely.

    PARAGRPAH THREE ON WE JUSTIFY THIS BY SAYING THE OTHER KIDS DO IT TOO

    The adventure playground play sessions are fully supervised and we employ CRB checked staff to run the facilities in the best way they see fit.

    This is no different to other fully supervised facilities, like schools, playgroups or nurseries – where adults are not allowed to stay.

    Parents and carers are, of course, welcome to bring their children safely into the sites and settle them in, but only aged children aged 5 – 15 year olds are permitted to stay for the sessions .

    We are aware that there may be circumstances where there is a need for a parent/carer to stay on site, if this is the case please feel free to contact us to discuss so we can consider your needs before making a final decision.

    FINAL PARAGRAPH, IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT STFU AND GTFY

    If parents aren’t happy leaving their children – there are lots of other options open to them. In the town, there are 4 community centres, 5 children’s centres, over 40 areas of park and playgrounds, as well as a museum, two libraries… These are also free to attend and open to everyone.

  20. The real story here is how the Watford Borough Council Rules put all parents in knip by default. Canny play, Ms. Thornhill!

  21. So I am assuming that these “play rangers” are fully certified in first aid and child cpr? I would also expect that these monitors are trained in some early education units so that they understand their charges? After all, if they have decided their “play rangers” are better equipped than parents to monitor children shouldn’t those monitors be trained properly?

  22. This is outrageous. As well as some of the comments, I can’t believe everyone is just willing to think of what parents do to their kids at home due to ‘statistics’.
    What a stupid society we live in if we can’t let parents be with their children and not think of them suspiciously.
    Britain is obsessed with pedophiles. I am sure the obsession FAR outweighs any real cases.

  23. Wouldn’t it be simpler to just put all the kids in isolation until they are 16? Then their sacred purity will be safe from dirty Uncle Fred. Once they are legally adults and no longer cute then they can be subject to the death penalty and all that good stuff.

    Funny how even with all these hysterical child laws in the UK they still grow up to become binge drinking maniacs.

  24. What I can’t understand is how we’ve let parents get away with raising children for so long.

  25. I always assumed that the British nanny state meme was just an internet filler. Now though, I have seen too many of these and realize that it’s true.

  26. The mayor’s response on her blog is interesting. She just can’t understand why the parents are so upset. And she says that the program is intended so that parents can drop off their children and then leave. http://dorothythornhill.mycouncillor.org.uk/categories/Council%20news/

    This is only a part-time program, so it sounds like the only time that parents can’t hang out at the parks is when the Play Rangers are present. All three of them. To supervise a group of children ranging in age from 5 to 15. Yet the big worry is all of those parents lurking on the sidelines.

  27. I’m not sure what many of you are outraged about. How is this different from dropping kids off at day care? No one would want parents hanging around their kids at day care for the same reasons the council doesn’t want parents hanging around the play area.

    1. To #40: Obviously, you have no children or you are a poor parent. The difference is a parent is paying a trusted daycare to watch their child while the parent is at work and if that provider doesn’t want me around then my child is NOT going there.

      If I want to go to a playground on a Sunday afternoon, you better believe I’m sticking close to my kid. I don’t need some state approved minder to do my job.

      1. To #44: I’m still not getting the outrage. If I’m dropping kids off at a trusted daycare with state approved minders and need to go to work then I won’t be hanging around at the daycare. If I tried to hang around the daycare instead of going to work then I’m sure the daycare employees wouldn’t be too happy. They’d probably recommend I take my kids home.

        If I don’t want to drop my kids off at a trusted play area with state approved minders and want to spend the time with them instead, then all I have to do is go to a non-state-approved-minder play area or come back at a different time.

  28. There’s something ominous about the term “Play Ranger.” I wonder how long it will take for a pedophile (or someone who’s just abusive) to get the job.

  29. Next, they’ll be mandating removal of all children from their parents at birth, and raising them in communal child-care facilities. If only there was some literature-related descriptive term for this type of insanity. . . .

    1. Actually, the Nazi did this in the name of eugenics. Check out ‘Lebensborn’, the program name. Children considered ideal Aryans were kidnapped from occupied countries to be sent to live in orphanages/institutions. The results were not great.

  30. I didn’t read the entire thing but this sounds like one of those ideas people get angry about but which haven’t actually been implemented in any way and probably never will be.

  31. let me get this straight, i can just dump my kids at the park on the taxpayer’s pence while i go to the pub? that is genius.

    but seriously, i wonder what recreation areas they will ban adults from next: the pool? the roller rink? anglodisney? the great outdoors? will parents be required to remain within 4 decametres of the playground perimeter as defined in borough code MC.149092766.2.r.ii.0076? in a secure, video monitored double-fenced waiting pen, perhaps? will they be allowed to inspect the safety of the playground equipment? respond to their child’s cries? what if all the children gang up and attack the play ranger, can adults intervene? et cetera

  32. It’s really, REALLY time you overthrow these city councils and strip them of their power…before you completely outlaw common sense.

    Seriously, do the city councils have their damn brains intentionally damaged when they’re elected??

  33. There seems to be a lot of uproar around children and the proper ways to raise and protect them. They’re in the minority when it comes to the child / adult ratio on the planet yet so much more energy is spent on them. Why? Seems like a big inconvenience to me. Perhaps people should stop having kids? That’d make life a lot easier for all of us. Or, we start licensing people to have children. Background checks, lifestyle checks, financial checks; make sure that parents are suitable to be parents and then we wouldn’t have to worry about all these ridiculous rules.

  34. When my son and I go to the playground, we play TOGETHER… It’s one of the hiughlights of my life. Seriously!

    So here would be my solution:
    Step 1: Take my kid to the playground
    Step 2: Play as usual. To heck with them!

    I’d like to see any court convict me of playing on the playground with my kid.

  35. I remember there was a time when I considered myself something of an Anglophile and thought very seriously of one day moving to England to live.
    Then I subscribed to Boing Boing.

  36. Oh the ire that can be created by an incomplete news article!

    The following link goes to the Watford Borough Council with an explanation of the actions they have taken. Actually, it makes sense:

    http://www.watford.gov.uk/ccm/content/strategic-services/home-page-content/statement-about-harwoods-and-harebreaks-adventure-playground.en

    Information on the “Adventure Playgrounds”:

    http://www.watford.gov.uk/ccm/navigation/education-and-learning/extra-curricular-activities/young-people-s-drop-in-activities/

    To attend either of the Adventure Playgrounds, parents must first fill out a registration form that includes contact numbers, photography release, offsite activities release, doctor contacts, medical consent, etc. Although this is open to the public, it is not a public park. This looks similar to the Boys & Girls Clubs in the U.S.

    From the first site above:
    “If parents aren’t happy leaving their children – there are lots of other options open to them. In the town, there are 4 community centres, 5 children’s centres, over 40 areas of park and playgrounds, as well as a museum, two libraries… These are also free to attend and open to everyone.”

  37. Of course, it’s taken a couple days for the true story to come out, and everybody rushed to press with this daft-sounding tale that turns out to be a complete invention of a tabloid newspaper. Yes: it’s a lie.

    http://dorothythornhill.mycouncillor.org.uk/2009/10/29/adventure-playgrounds/

    What has happened is that at Harwoods a handful of parents have been staying on, not just dropping their kids off. After a number of incidents, staff that run the facility felt that the presence of these parents was hampering their ability to supervise the kids properly – who remember are engaging in risky play and do need to be given full attention.

    This is not about parents bothering the children. This is not about parents being creepy or anybody feeling that the children are threatened. This is about arsehole parents who stand around and chatter to the play supervisors, distracting them from doing what they are supposed to be doing.

    What the council have done is to say: “this is like a school, parents have to leave so that we can get on with what we do”. There is nothing remotely unreasonable about this.

  38. This world needs to end and a new species needs to take over, pronto. This crap has become the norm and will only continue in the future, because once you go wack, you can’t go back. People will expect more paranoia-based responses to occurrences and when they don’t happen, there will be a backlash.

    Please, let the 2012 myth be true…

  39. Growing up, I’d always heard of the Watford Gap, but little did I realise that it lay between people’s ears.

  40. Whoa – hold up the truck here.

    #54 has the situation pegged: there’s nothing sinister *at all* going on here… except, perhaps, a case of really, really sloppy reporting by the Telegraph.

    If we all take a step back, maybe go ahead and read into the full situation, perhaps visit the BBC’s more level-headed reporting on the incident ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/beds/bucks/herts/8331446.stm ), I think we’d realise that we can’t go jumping to conclusions here. (And just as a plug, here’s my more-indepth blogged response to the BBC article: http://www.danielsaurus.com/2009/10/30/banning-adults-take-two )

    I think the first thing that needs to be reckoned with is the fact that these are NOT your ordinary, run of the mill playgrounds. They’re not public playspaces within nice green parks. These are Adventure Playgrounds, and unless you’ve been to one and really understand the Adventure Playground philosophy and history, it’s hard to get a decent mental picture of them.

    You can read more about them if you like (http://adventureplaygrounds.hampshire.edu/), but in the meantime perhaps this well help: Adventure Playgrounds are dynamic, fluid spaces – typically filled with children’s fort- and den-building, mud and sand pits, ponds or other natural places, and built wooden structures like gangways, towers, and so forth (historically built almost exclusively by the children, but anymore primarily built by adults who are guided by the children). They’re also staffed by trained, experienced adult playworkers – who generally try to maintain a culture of child-centredness and ownership, but within a safe environment, one that’s well stocked with supplies, materials, and such to provide for and encourage free play. Again, it’s hard to get an idea of the cultural context of an Adventure Playground without having been to one. Ultimately, though, these places are meant FOR KIDS THEMSELVES… not for parents.

    2. The two Adventure Playgrounds in question, Harwoods and Harebreaks, are NOT public spaces, but officially operate as council-managed youth services (much like afterschool clubs, etc.). I don’t know the specific details, but as has been quoted from Councilwoman Dorothy Thornhill’s blog, it looks like this was simply a case of parents sticking around a bit too long and requiring too much attention from the playworker staff, distracting them from their real task at hand. (Sure, we’d all love a nice little utopian bubble where parents, kids, and community members can all gel together – but anybody who’s actually worked with groups of children knows the reality is infinitely more chaotic with parents around, especially in tight financial times and not enough staff to manage everybody. Who’s to blame Thornhill and the playwork staff for encouraging parents not to stay on, then?)

    Sure, perhaps the Council spokespeople got a bit out of hand and emphasised the wrong things in defence of the move – citing safety, fear of sexual predators, that sort of thing. At least, sadly, that’s what the Telegraph latched onto and was able to spin it as. So no, it wasn’t the best handling of the situation… but I do think some context is needed to really understand what happened.

    But perhaps more importantly, I think what we really should be concerned with is not so much the parent’s level of access to their child’s play spaces, but the level of openness and access to play spaces CHILDREN themselves are empowered with, to come and go, play and build as they wish. Because Adventure Playgrounds – and, well, regular playgrounds too – are ultimately about and for them, and no one else. I really couldn’t give a damn about anybody else.

    1. Wow. I guess this is one of those cases where the use of unfamiliar jargon leads to wrong conclusions. I had no idea that “adventure playground” was anything more than, well, a playground. I’d assumed a slide, something to climb on and perhaps a few other random bits and bobs, not something quite as astonishingly amazing as you mentioned. I didn’t even realise such places existed. From the descriptions, frankly, I think parents not being allowed on to them is probably a good thing. A safe retreat from their parents where they can let their imagination run wild sounds like a genuinely sweet idea.

  41. *shakes head in disbelief*

    I am very, very glad that I do not live in either the U.K. or the U.S. (where I hear some similar excesses have taken place.) Honestly, it’s getting to the stage where I’m surprised people there still have kids.

    And what does “today’s climate” mean? There aren’t more child abductions or anything than formerly, so… what *does* it mean? I believe it has to be something like, “today’s climate of loony pressure groups trying to bend the whole world to suit their paranoia”.

    Oh well, sounds like the Watford Borough Council will be in for a nasty shock at the next council election.

  42. Has anyone seen V-for Vendeta recently?
    Why is it it seems more and more familiar to me every time i see it?

    Question is…. will he ever appear, and what will our Guy Fawkes look like?

    Greatings for someone who thinks he is blessed with the fact that he does not live in the UK…… but is he?

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