Over 100 playworkers and play advocates have united to refute the UKIP claim that immigration stops children playing out together, and to highlight the real reasons for the decline in outdoor play.
This is a copy our letter, which is being sent to 3000 election candidates today, calling for government support for community play.
Play advocates are encouraged to adapt it with examples and quotes from families to use in local campaigns*
*Please remove signatories if the letter is altered in any way.
Following the recent assertion, from Nigel Farage of UKIP, that immigration divides communities to the extent that children can no longer play outside together, we would like to assure you that in our experience of supporting community play over many years, this is not true.
We would, however, like to highlight evidence of the real barriers to outdoor play.
Play is in some ways a delicate thing, largely unnoticed by the adult world. Yet when children are free to play, they thrive. There is plenty of evidence that playing is vital to their development, essential to good mental health and physical activity. It is how children discover their identity and their passions. Most importantly, playing is how they most enjoy being alive.
Children play regardless of their differences, and the friendships they form through play make up the social fabric that strengthens families – and whole communities. Over a number of years there has been a great deal of research into the barriers that children face to their natural desire to play with their friends in the public spaces near their homes.
The number one offender is invariably traffic, followed by parental anxiety about ‘stranger danger’.
Research (by Ipsos MORI, NOP and a range of academic institutions) over a number of years has shown that other reasons for children not playing out as much as they and their parents would like, are anxieties about bullying, too much rubbish, poorly maintained or boring playgrounds and a lack of trusted adult oversight. In recent years, fear of accusations of bad parenting has also been cited as a reason for keeping children inside. Pressure on both children’s and adults’ time – from school and work respectively – is another.
These barriers have become so great that some studies estimate that today’s children have less than 10 per cent of the space for free play, compared to only 30-40 years ago. Strong links have been made between this decline and a range of poor health trends.
None of the evidence that we have looked at suggests that immigration is a significant factor.
On the contrary, children playing outside bring people together and engender strong, cohesive communities. We see children from diverse backgrounds playing together in their local neighbourhoods every day, but to enable and support more children to play outside – the way they have for countless generations all over the world – we need to control traffic, not immigration. Children and their parents need to have confidence in the public spaces where they would play.
They need more road closures, lower speed limits, safe routes to school and play areas, more and better community policing; and funding for playwork and community play projects. In the longer-term, planning decisions and spatial development strategies must consider what children need from the built environment and the wider public realm.
We would like to invite you to meet some of us and to visit the streets, estates and villages where you can see for yourself the power of community play. We would also be more than happy to discuss with you how the new government can support children’s play after the election.
Please pledge today to work with us to improve the spaces where families live; to support community play for the UK’s children – in all their glorious diversity.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Isabelle Allen, Playworker, Sycamore Adventure
Marc Armitage, Independent Playwork Consultant
Arthur Battram, PleXity
Tracey Beasley, Playwork and Early Years Trainer, CWT – Chamber Training
Joan Beattie, EQ Playwork Training and Consultancy
Lucy Benson, Islington Play Association
Steve Boeje, Play Association Hammersmith and Fulham
Jackie Boldon and the Shiremoor Adventure Playground team
Dani Bowman, Community Development Officer, High Wycombe
Karen Benjamin, Training and Development Officer, Playwork Partnerships
Janine Sally Brady
Professor Fraser Brown
Donne Buck, New Ark Adventure Playground
Petra Burgess, senior playworker, Bapp
Phill Burton, Dynamix
Rebecca Coley, Birmingham PlayCare Service
Samuel Butler, St. John Ambulance
Theresa Casey, International Play Association (IPA)
Laura Jane Clifton
Lottie Child, Lecturer, the University of the Arts and Forest School Leader
Mick Conway, Playday Founder and member of The Wild Network Council
Rachel Cross, Playworker, Bristol
Pete Darlo, Playful human
Elaine Davies, Chief Executive, About Play
Tiu De Haan
Siobhan Dillon, College Park Residents Association, NW10
Vicky Edwards, Crawley Play Service
Cinzia Ferella, International Sales Manager, Sutcliffe Play
Marvlon Gardener, Nana Marz Childcare
Tim Gill, Independent Researcher
Anita Grant, Islington Play Association
Paul Greatorex, Play consultant, Leisure and the Environment
Claire Griffiths, Play Department Manager of AVOW, Play on Plas Madoc
Andy Grout, Playworker
Sylwyn Guilbaud, Playworker
John Hale, Somerstown Adventure Playground, Portsmouth
Bridget Handscomb, Hackney Play Association
Chris Harwood, Sandwell Adventure Play Association
Donna Hawkins, Playworker, Brighton
Andy Hinchcliffe, Pop-Up Adventure Play
Paul Hocker, Development Director, London Play
Claire House, Smash Club Manager
Caitlin Howells, Community Artist and Playworker, Norfolk
Abi Ps Hunter
Haki Kapasi, Inspire
Tony Kendle, The Eden Project
Yanina Koszalinski, Pitsmoor Adventure Playground
Dr. Pete King
Leonie Labistour, University of Gloucestershire
Suzanna Law, Pop-Up Adventure Play
Amanda Lawler, Playworker, Funzone Ltd.
Morgan Leichter-Saxby, Pop-Up Adventure Play
Pip Levett, Director of Play, Play Gloucestershire
Marianne Mannello, Playworker
Melian Mansfield, Chair, London Play
Chris Martin, Playwork Convenor, Unite the union
Nathan MacGillivray, Play Development Worker
Lisa Matthew, Play Mosaic Ltd.
Dr. Mel McCree
Keeks Mcgarry, Shiremoor Adventure Playground
Ken McKeating, Playwork Manager
Patrick Meleady, Pitsmoor Adventure Playground
Sue Morris, Community Stuff
Rachel Murray, Playwork Consultant and Forest School Practitioner
Jade Newton-Gardener, IMAP
Eddie Nuttall, Felix Road Adventure Playground
Emma Payne, Birmingham PlayCare Network
Tanya Petherick, Director, Class Of Their Own
Carolyn Port, Chair of Governors, Winterslow Primary School and Founder of Winterslow Youth Zone
Dave Poulton, Playworker
David Spencer Ramsey
Lynda Ray, About Play, Sheffield
Rachel Rose Reid
Simon Rix, Meriden Adventure Playground Association
Shelly Rossiter, Manager, YMCA, Dorset
Michael Rowan, Parks Consultant, Aucuparia Consultancy
Dr. Wendy Russell, University of Gloucestershire
Joel Seath, Playworker
Sasha Sencier Persaud-Jagdhar
Lily Slingo, School Play Coordinator, Bristol
Tania Slingo, Parent
Colin Simmons, Trustee, London Play
Panash Shah, Cambridge Kids Club
Hilary Smith, University of Gloucestershire
Kate Smith, Tiverton Adventure Playground
Rachel Temple, Ceda
Adrian Voce OBE
Barry Walden, Vice Chair, London Play
Paul Waller, Brighton and Hove Play Service
Laura Walsh, Central YMCA Club
Philip Waters, The Eden Project
Laura Watkins, Woodland Toddlers, Busy Rascals and Pitsmoor Adventure Playground
Margaret Westwood, International Play Association (IPA), Scotland
Raymond Arnold Willis, Play Manager
Niki Willows, Playworker and Trainer, Rounded & Grounded
Ali Wood, Independent Playwork Trainer and Researcher
Will Wpa, Senior Playworker @wpaplay Play Association
Charlie Rebekah Caplan Wilson
Charlie Wilson, Supervisor, Class of Their Own, Brighton
Penny Wilson, Playworker
Mike Wragg, Chair, Eccleshill Adventure Playground
Sandra Wright, Leader, Wild Foxes Forest School