Far too many laws conspire to ban activities with almost imperceptible risks creating a burden of stifling nanny state regulation that has stopped many of the simple adventures of life which previous generations took as their right. From banning conkers & snowballs in schools, to CRB checks for parents who dare to offer to help with youth groups, the UK has gone bonkers.

What is so wrong with our modern society and laws that it is necessary to post signs on a nature reserve informing visitors that a piece of natural grassland has risk? Why is it necessary for schools to ban parents from taking pictures of their own children at a nativity plays? Why did I worry last winter whether I should clear the snow outside my house in case someone might sue me if they happened to slip?

So many activities, events and organisation which previous generations just took for granted have recently had to shut down simply because they can't get insurance to cover such dangerous activities like a group of people standing around in a field enjoying a few games.

It is the cumulation of “risk aversion” that is at fault, so action is needed in many areas but here are a few suggestions:

  1. Put the onus on insurance for normal “everyday risk” back onto the individual. Why do people expect to be able to sue a voluntary youth club if a kid falls over when running around. If they want to be insured, why do they expect voluntary groups to carry insurance they themselves do not have? This type of selfish behaviour has to be stopped else voluntary groups will disappear leaving kids with nowhere to go except expensive commercial activities or “finding some way to entertain themselves” (graffiti, drugs, etc.)
  2. Schools are scared witless by the raft of rules and regulations that try to stop risk taking by children. Teachers are now so afraid of letting children do simple things just because of minuscule risk and more and more overweight with nothing else to do except talk about the TV they are going to watch. This is particularly harmful to boys who are naturally more risk taking than girls. We need to give children the right to take risks at school, to by taught how to deal with risks, in as safe a way as possible, but for the good us all by the very nature of risk taking, there will be accidents, and we must have the courage to accept this.
  3. After each and every major accident there is usually a hang wringing exercise trying to work out “how to stop it ever happening again”. Unfortunately, the cumulative effect of all these doubtless well intentioned recommendations aimed at each individual tragedy, seems to more stifling rules and regulation that effectively “ban the activity” to get rid of the minuscule risk. We must stop such inquiries taking the easy way out and recommending restrictions based on one off incidents where there is no evidence of wide scale harm reduction and when there is the huge risk of wider social harm by further ingraining anti-risk rules and regulations.

Why is this idea important?

If we want to be an entrepreneurial society, we need to nurture a new generation of risk takers. Fortunately, young children don't need to be taught how to take risks, it is a natural part of normal healthy play. Play can be made safer, but entirely safe means entirely risk free and then children will never learn how to take risks SAFELY! If we want to develop risk takers, we as a society need also to be prepared to take risks because in the long run, a risk free society, cannot be an entrepreneurial society!

There's no doubt that the anti-risk nature of modern Britain is resulting in more and more children not getting out to play and spending more and more time inside. If we want to get rid of the couch potato society we need to give people a taste for healthy adventure. This is not a new idea, it's very much the same idea as written in the book by a war hero 100 years ago who wrote a book which would now be called “SAS for boys”.

But it is an idea that has been trampled to death by health and safety madness! This was a book based on his own experience of using the practical skills learnt in war reconnaissance. These he had discovered were ideal to attract young men and boys into useful healthy and socially beneficial activities away from the harmful activities which they would otherwise engage in. If anything his ideas are even more compelling today as they were then because, if we look around today at modern society with its culture of drinking, drug taking, graffiti, couch potatoes and gangs of youths roaming the streets we are more in need than ever of giving young adults and particularly young men something better to do. The war hero was BP who formed what is now called “Scouts” from the army Scouts who were the forerunners of the SAS.

Rules and regulations are closing down youth groups and de-risking those that still survive until many “youth groups” are little more than child minding groups of absolutely no interest to the very young adults who would be most attracted to real adventure. The result is that this de-risking of organised groups has simply forced youth adults to find their “adventure” where it is uncontrollable by the nanny state and so this “protective” nanny state is totally counter productive. Young people are not being protected by this nanny state. Young people (and particularly young men) are natural risk takers. Our society should be harnessing that adventurous urge to our advantage and channelling that risk taking into beneficial activity for society. Instead, this health and safety culture has banned legal risk taking and so encouraged young toward drink, drugs, unprotected sex and petty crime. How is that protecting them?

We need to stop pretending that life is risk free and stop the seemingly endless road-roller nanny state! We need to encourage activities and organisations that channel the risk-taking urge through well organised activities who do not shirk from the risk-taking that young people need. Let's encourage a healthy attitude to risk because whilst risk means that a very very few people may not live as long at least the life they, and the rest of us live, will have been happier and healthier for the good of us all.

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