A steering group is continuing to explore the options for a new vehicle for playwork – and is calling on the field to respond in numbers to a survey that will help assess its prospects.
A Facebook group has recently been hosting a ‘Conversation for Authentic Playwork’. Dealing mainly with issues and questions of practice, it has highlighted the daily challenges of front-line playwork and offered some stimulating, occasionally heated, debates about the playwork approach.
What most members of this group would acknowledge, I am sure, is that whatever the tenets of good practice and how they might be applied in any given situation, the context for authentic playwork, however it is defined, has never been tougher.
It is not simply that jobs, projects and whole services are disappearing – and seem likely to continue to do so – but that some providers of the remaining services would appear to have very little understanding of what playwork really is.
The playwork principles may demand of practitioners that the ‘play process takes precedence and playworkers act as advocates for play when engaging with adult led agendas’ but when employers – and inspectors – fail to understand what this means, or even recognise the principles themselves, this cannot be easy.
Concerned about the prospects for a profession still in its infancy in the face of the radical contraction of public services, the abandonment of the Play Strategy and the ‘back to basics’ approach to children’s services taken by the Coalition Government, in July 2013 Bob Hughes and the late Professor Perry Else called a meeting to look at how the field might respond.
Since the Sheffield summit, a number of those who attended have been exploring the possibilities for a new vehicle for playwork in the UK, which could promote and campaign for it, work to raise its status, support research, develop good practice, influence policy and offer services and benefits to playworkers.
There have been open meetings, website postings and a table at the national Playwork Conference in March 2014. A steering group has now been formed, and around 150 practitioners, trainers and advocates across the UK have signed a broad statement of aims and principles that should underpin any new body.
The steering group now wants to explore in a bit more depth the viability of a new body, which means developing and assessing the sustainability of a business model for it. As part of this research everyone in the UK playwork field is invited to complete a short questionnaire.
It remains to be seen if a new vehicle for playwork is viable – at a time when there are more closures than start-ups in the public and voluntary sectors – but the long-term survival of playwork as a distinct approach and a recognised vocation may depend upon the answer.
As well as completing the survey, if you broadly endorse this approach and might be interested in joining it once it is formed, please e-mail email@example.com with ‘Playwork EOI’ as the subject. We will then add you to the mailing list.