Sweets for children 'too risky' say council bosses

Katie Davies FUN-BUSTING Camden Council has stopped a charity giving out sweets at a children s fun day due to health and safety fears. West Hampstead s Kindness Offensive is supported by London Mayor Boris Johnson and is a well-established organisation

Katie Davies

FUN-BUSTING Camden Council has stopped a charity giving out sweets at a children's fun day due to health and safety fears.

West Hampstead's Kindness Offensive is supported by London Mayor Boris Johnson and is a well-established organisation whose volunteers all have Criminal Records Bureau checks.

But the council has barred them from offering their free treats and balloons at a Hampstead children's event.

Firstly it said the adult volunteers could be dangerous and then it claimed the treats could make youngsters fat.

Throughout tomorrow (Friday), the group will be visiting Age Concern homes and offering the free treats and uplifting activities to the elderly as part of its usual free generous work.

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Members thought they then could finish at the fun day at Hampstead Community Centre.

The centre was all for it and ready to go when the town hall weighed in.

Kindness Offensive co-founder David Goodfellow was told he had to call the officer in charge due to safety issues about adults attending children's activities.

Mr Goodfellow assured him they would not have access to children alone and they were all fully vetted and insured.

But the officer then said that problems from obesity and the council's healthy eating policies meant they could not give them permission to attend and give out sweets anyway.

Mr Goodfellow said he even offered fruit alternatives, such as dried mango slices and fruit bars. But that was not enough to get them through Camden's bureaucratic hoops.

"People always say we should get involved with our communities but there is this cocoon being constructed around children where no-one can do anything nice for them," the 31-year-old said. "What kind of world is it we are living in when it is presumed that if you want to do something for children there must be an alternative motive?

"The council knows who we are and we have done loads of stuff across Camden before."

The group of 15 volunteers are now sticking to the over-60s for their treats this time around.

But Mr Goodfellow says the bigger worry is that similar charitable activities will be banned by over-zealous bureaucrats.

"I am really sad and disappointed," he said. "It was something really simple which could have given kids 20 minutes of fun and excitement.

"It is absolutely ridiculous and a very scary precedent. It is such a mixed message we are being given.

"We are told that we should get involved in the community and we all recognise society is pulling apart and we need to get more involved to stop it.

"But when you try to do it, you are shot down straight away. They are literally taking candy from babies. It is political correctness gone absolutely mad."

Members are now keeping back the fruit snacks and chocolate they were going to give out so parents can contact them directly and they will deliver them free of charge instead.

The Commons parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, Tamsin Omond, is taking part in tomorrow's Kindness events.

She said: "Apparently you can't give fruit and chocolate to kids but you can give it to pensioners.

"This was meant to encourage generosity and kindness and people having fun and looking after one and other. But that is forbidden because of Camden Council."

A council spokeswoman said: "Much as we appreciate the sentiment of what the Kindness Offensive is trying to do, the council has a responsibility to guarantee the health and safety of all children and to take into account the views and preferences of all parents.

"The council has not said that the organisation cannot attend any events with children, only that they must take account of the dietary requirements and allergies of all children attending events to ensure that no-one is excluded from the fun and that they must support the council's work to encourage children to eat healthily. Unfortunately on this occasion the Kindness Offensive were not able to work with the council on planning how to meet these requirements."

The council denied the Kindness Offensive had offered fruit alternatives and said the sweets on offer did not comply with their work to encourage children to eat healthily.