I would be the first person to acknowledge that some adults carry out terrible acts against children. I also strongly believe that any civilised society should seek to protect the most vulnerable and unable to protect themselves.
However, I am starting to have a problem with a growing tendency to blanket ban single people without first trying more targeted or proportionate measures.
No singles please.
In the United States it isn’t unusual for some parks (or parts of parks) to be restricted as zones where adults can only enter if accompanied by a child.
Whilst I do have a problem with this at an intellectual level, I can accept that a toddlers play area (where that is the only use) could legitimately be restricted in this way. However, I do struggle to accept being excluded from a public area maintained at public expense merely because genetically, through sexual orientation or just luck, I am not the parent or guardian of a child.
In the United Kingdom, the restriction has been relatively limited. Possibly the largest organisation to impose the restriction is the Legoland group of companies. Even here I can accept their business choice (although it isn’t one I would make in the same way myself). With no disrespect to Legoland, I can’t imagine there are many single adults queuing to see the Castaway Camp or ride on the Duplo Viking River splash. In short, the venue is not merely primarily aimed at children but is exclusively designed for their entertainment.
However, recently, several establishments with a much more mixed environment have moved to impose a broad brush ban on single adults. One example (although not the only example by any means) is Puxton Park near Minehead in Somerset (UK).
A somerset grandfather who had previously attended the park with his grandchildren is reported to have returned at a later date on his own to see an advertised falconry display only to be turned away as a single male over fears of pedophilia risk to children.
In a rather clumsy statement from the park’s managing director, this exclusion was defended on the following grounds:
“This has been blown out of all proportion. The main aspect not being reported is that Puxton Park is predominantly an attraction for children aged 0 years to 7 years with 90% of the park dedicated fully to child’s play, which is not suitable for lone adults.”
“Some adults may be interested in our falconry department and we offer falconry experience days which are open to all. We have not set out to discriminate against single adults but we take child protection extremely seriously.” “We would rather be over zealous when unaccompanied adults visit us armed with cameras than put children at any potential risk. Even schools follow similar policies with regards to the photography of children. Our members fully support our decisions and we have received nothing but praise for our policy including positive feedback from a Child Protection Specialist, who commended us for our child protection principals. Within seven years we have only had one complaint about this policy from the gentlemen last week. At the time of setting the policy the other parks within the area had a similar stance to us. I have spoken to two or three similar client-based parks this morning and they still have the same policy as we do. I’m not going to name names as it’s unprofessional of me to do so. In light of this coverage we will look at what other parks are doing with their admissions policy, speak to our customers and review.”– ALISTAIR MEAD MANAGING DIRECTOR OF PUXTON PARK
An interesting perspective, however am I the only person to be uncomfortable with the apparent alignment of being a single male with being a higher than average pedophile risk?
I am at least reassured that Mr Mead recongnises his actions are over zealous but regret that he feels a blanket ban on all singles would be more appropriate than (for example) a ban of photography in or near the children’s play area(s). If you wish to implement a ban at least make it evidence based, proportionate and fair to the individual. This blanket ban fails on all three fronts in my view.
Whilst not doubting the sincerity of this apology, it does seem half-hearted at best. Although 90% of the park may be child centric clearly not all of it is. I wonder how many 3- 10 year olds will be queuing to sample the local cheeses in the farm shop or attending the £340 falconry exhibits. The assurance that these are open to everyone certainly runs contrary to the reported facts and seems arbitrary – some might even say discriminatory.
I certainly wouldn’t hold this establishment up as the sole poor implementation of this policy, but it appears to be one of the least well nuanced.
Have we really reached a point where anyone over 30 who for what ever reason is childless is not only to be pitied but also treated as a probably criminal? Puxton Park and those who follow this rationale we all deserve better !