Archive | March, 2015

Playwork field calls on parties to adopt policy measures for play

25 Mar

Proposals from the National Playwork Conference in Eastbourne show that the playwork sector has lost none of its ambition, or its fight

A special session at the National Playwork Conference in Eastbourne earlier this month has produced a clear and ambitious play policy agenda ahead of the General Election. Here is the text of a joint statement from the conference convenors and the steering group for a new vehicle for playwork:

“A General Comment from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2013[1] said that governments have an obligation under international law to ‘recognise, protect and fulfil’ children’s right to play, through appropriate legislation, planning and budgeting.

A recent research review of the impact of children’s play initiatives found that there is good evidence that they ‘lead to improved health outcomes for children, and are also linked to a range of other developmental benefits’ and that these can be shown to be cost-effective.[2]

Yet, in spite of it being a clear responsibility of government and there being good evidence of its immediate and long-term benefits, public play provision has been one of the main casualties of austerity.[3] A ten-year play strategy for England was abandoned after only two years, and the voices of children and those who support their play have been virtually unheard in the debate about the economy and public services.

UK playworkers now call on political parties to recognise the vital importance of time and space to play in children’s lives and of the vital role of playwork in opening up opportunities otherwise denied to many of them.

We urge all parties, relevant government ministers and other agencies to adopt children’s right to play as a central plank of policy for children and to take urgent steps to protect the country’s unique network of staffed play provision, such as adventure playgrounds, by developing a new national play strategy to include: –

  • A statutory play sufficiency duty for all local councils, as is now the case in Wales.
  • Recognising playwork training and qualifications as essential to extended services, after-school, and holiday play provision.
  • Reforming the regulation of extended services and out-of school provision to make playwork practice an essential part of the inspection criteria.
  • Reinstating central funding for infrastructure, professional workforce development and a new national body for playwork.
  • Directing Public Health England to work with local authorities to develop area-wide strategies for free play.
  • Making play policy a core component of a new Cabinet post for children.
  • Addressing the need for equitable terms and conditions for playworkers.
  • Developing a national programme of ‘playable neighbourhoods’, expanding the numbers of adventure playgrounds, play streets, home zones and play ranger schemes and by supporting playwork and community play development projects.
  • Reforming anti-social behaviour law affecting children’s play so that participation and mediation replace criminalisation.

The playwork sector will continue to develop these proposals in consultation with the field, and is committed to working with government and other agencies to realise such measures in the interests of all the UK’s children, their families and communities”.

Drafted from workshop discussions, feedback sessions and prioritising exercises at the National Playwork Conference, Eastbourne, March 2015, facilitated by Ali Wood and Pete Duncan.

The Eastbourne statement can be downloaded as a pdf here: Playwork policy proposals

Notes

[1] UNCRC (2013) General Comment (GC17) on Article 31 of the CRC.

[2] Gill, T. (2014) The Play Return: a review of the wider impact of play initiatives, London: Children’s Play Policy Forum.

[3] An investigation by Children and Young People Now, reported in January 2014 found that local authority spending on play services over the past three years had been reduced by an average of 39 per cent.

National children’s body calls for all political parties to invest in cost-effective support for children’s play

19 Mar

Media release from the Children’s Play Policy Forum:

The UK’s Children’s Play Policy Forum is calling for all UK political parties to invest in children’s play because of the proven benefits to children, families and communities.

‘Four asks for play’ calls on the UK Government to:
Recognise the need for play before school, during play/break times and after school hours

Extend the existing Department of Health-funded programme supporting regular sessional road closures in residential streets in England to every major city in the UK

Invest in a programme focusing on disadvantaged communities to encourage appropriate play in public space, while reducing neighbourhood conflict and the resulting pressure on police time

Provide support for staffed play provision to test innovative community-based health and well-being initiatives.
Investing in the ‘Four asks for play’ will result in improvements in children’s health and wellbeing, the Children’s Play Policy Forum says, and hence a reduction in the pressures on the National Health Service and the public purse.

Studies show that the long-term health benefits of playing include boosting physical activity levels which helps to tackle child obesity, and supporting children to become more resilient. Play initiatives also benefit the wider community by encouraging neighbourliness and improved community cohesion.

Robin Sutcliffe, Chair of the Children’s Play Policy Forum said:

‘We know that playing provides immediate and long-term benefits to children, young people and the wider community. We all have a responsibility to ensure children have opportunities to play in their communities. We are calling on all political parties to provide for play initiatives across the UK – the level of investment needed would be relatively modest yet extremely cost-effective.’

The Forum is a cross-sector grouping of leading organisations with an interest in children’s play. Members include: Play England, PlayBoard Northern Ireland, Play Scotland, Play Wales, Fields in Trust, Association of Play Industries, Kids, London Play, SkillsActive and Black Voices Network.

Download ‘Four Asks for Play’ here.

Playwork community says ‘yes’ to new vehicle

10 Mar
A survey of practitioners has overwhelmingly endorsed the initiative to create a new membership body for playwork.

The survey, which ran from December 2014 to March 2015, received 155 responses from playwork practitioners, including managers, trainers, lecturers, researchers, campaigners and development workers, as well as face-to-face playworkers.

95 per cent of those responding replied ‘yes’ to the question, ‘do you think playwork needs a new body in the UK?’.

96 per cent of respondents to the survey said they would be interested in joining such a body if it was formed, with more than 76 per cent saying they would be either ‘extremely interested’ or ‘very interested’ in joining.

The survey also asked about priorities for a new body. Top of these, according to the aggregated responses, should be:

  • ‘to represent playwork and playworkers; giving us a collective voice’; followed closely by
  • ‘raising the status of playwork and improving the standing of playwork jobs’;
  • ‘campaigning for playwork – promoting it nationally and supporting local campaigns’; and
  • ‘influencing policy-making – to create a legal and regulatory framework that would support authentic playwork services’.

‘Working to create (or become) a professional body for playwork’ was the fifth priority for respondents.

The playwork community seems ready for a big move.

The playwork community seems ready for a big move.

Some respondents’ comments showed that, whilst welcoming the initiative, they have some important caveats. A common concern was that a new body should not undermine the work that is already being done to support playwork and its development by other bodies, particularly Play Wales.

The steering group for the initiative presented the survey findings last week at the National Playwork Conference in Eastbourne, where they also set out their next steps for the project. These included setting up a new charitable organisation, developing a membership structure and planning for an inaugural general meeting where founding members could meet and elect its first board.

Steering group members, Karen Benjamin and Adrian Voce, who started the current initiative together after a meeting at Sheffield Hallam University in July 2013, said:

‘This is a big vote of support for the idea of a new representative body. Given our lack of resources to promote the survey, it was always going to be a small sample, but such a large majority in favour is a very positive result.

Now the hard work begins. We have quite intentionally kept the development work fully independent. Being owned by and accountable to members is one of the initiative’s guiding principles, derived from our consultation with the field.

‘This means we have to be self-sufficient, building slowly without funds until we are able to levy membership fees – which will then have to be modest, as we want the new body to be accessible to all those working or studying in the field.

‘We believe playwork is an important approach to working with children, which is often misunderstood and under-valued, and is currently lacking support. We think it needs its own independent body and our survey confirms that there are many people in the field who agree, although we also get the message loud and clear that whatever is created must complement and be careful not to undermine other efforts to support and develop the field’.

  • The survey results can be downloaded here.
  • A copy of the Eastbourne presentation is here.

If you are interested in the initiative to create a new vehicle for playwork, please email adrianvoce@me.com with ‘EOI’ (expression of interest) in the subject field.

Thank you!

Adrian Voce
on behalf of the Steering Group.

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