Today a call goes out to all UK political parties to invest in children’s play because of the proven benefits to children, families and communities. The call comes from the Children’s Play Policy Forum (CPPF), which brings together the leading UK agencies with an interest in play.
The call takes the form of ‘four asks for play’:
- Recognise the need for play before school, during play/break times and after school hours
- Extend the existing Department of Health-funded street play programme (which supports regular short-term 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.
CPPF says that investing in these ‘four asks for play’ will result in improvements in children’s health and wellbeing, and hence a reduction in the pressures on the National Health Service and the public purse. The call is available to download as a pdf.
The call takes its cue from my report The Play Return, also published by the CPPF. As I wrote when it was launched, this report gathered for the first time in one place hard evidence of the measurable impact of initiatives to improve play opportunities.
Looking at projects in schools, streets, parks, green spaces and neighbourhoods, the report argued 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. It also showed how lay initiatives benefit the wider community by encouraging neighbourliness and improved community cohesion.
As the General Election approaches, the time is right to remind politicians of all parties of that improving play opportunities is not only a human right (as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child). It also makes good political sense.
I would invite you to share this call far and wide. Why not ask your prospective MPs and councillors (do not forget the local elections that will be happening up and down the country) what action they will take to give children a happy, healthy childhood: in short, how will they respond to these four asks?