Politicians told: invest in play, and children, families and communities will all see the benefits

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.

4 asks

The call takes the form of ‘four asks for play’:

  1. Recognise the need for play before school, during play/break times and after school hours
  2. 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
  3. 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
  4. 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?

6 responses to “Politicians told: invest in play, and children, families and communities will all see the benefits

  1. I am really disappointed by how unambitious the calls are.

    Play in school – just before and after and at playtime? Aaarggh! How about recognising the value and importance of play in the learning? Play is an essential part of learning and creativity and opportunities for play are being pushed out in pursuit of results in standardised tests. My son is 7 now and play as part of learning was removed after year 1 in his primary school. We changed school to one where play is valued – Lewes New School.

    Are things so bad that we have to set the bar so low?

  2. Thanks for the comment Una. I’d like to hear what others think – do the asks set the bar too low?

  3. Pingback: One Little, Two Little, Three Canadians, We Love Thee – Who is Singing Canada’s Play People Chorus? | PlayGroundology

  4. Hi Tim, you got me thinking about what’s going on on this side of the pond – http://bit.ly/1xkPlUE

  5. I really do understand your disappointment in the level at which we decided to pitch the four asks, which will no doubt prompt the question “well why didn’t you make it higher?”

    The Children’s Play Policy Forum did discuss the level of the pitch very carefully and were quite clear and agreed that this should be pitched at a level that we felt could not be disputed by the politicians at whom it is directed. The pitch was based on the supporting evidence in Tim’s review “The Play Return”. In the light of the current Government’s engagement with play over the past four years, we all felt that we were more likely to get a positive response if we kept to promises that were well within the capabilities of the current policies of austerity.

    I think that we all knew that many within the sector would want more, and indeed we do of course want more ourselves, nor I suspect, do any of us agree entirely with the policies of austerity currently being imposed. However we wanted to present to the parties, leading up to the election and following the election, asks that would make some real difference to the lives of children and which we believed could not reasonably be ignored.

    I believe that we have done this and I am delighted by the cohesion and support we have had, even from those who I am sure must share your feelings.

    Robin Sutcliffe
    Children’s Play Policy Forum Chair

  6. I agree with Robin’s comment that the pitch to politicians from the CPPF was at a pragmatic level in response to government capabilities in the age of austerity. But my view is the key point about the ‘Four Asks’ is these were made on the best available evidence of play initiatives. The bar could have been set higher but what evidence do we have to it back up? A set of assertions isn’t a policy ask.

    Noel Gallagher once said of his brother Liam, ‘He’s like a man with a fork in a world of soup.’ Unfortunately for us we are trying to sell soup to people with forks. Even if they think it’s tasty, they don’t know how to pick it up.

    Tim’s report didn’t focus on the benefits of play but on the impact of play initiatives. The evidence of the benefits of play accords with the belief in the play sector of the intrinsic value of play. Politicians and policy makers when pressed, get this. But the challenge for us, who advocate for play, is we have a whole lot more work to do on the evidence of practical intervention, i.e. what can be done at a practical level to make a difference and measure its effectiveness.

    What we should encourage is a debate about what constitutes an effective intervention to support children’s play and how to measure the impact on children and the wider community. Easy to say, difficult to do. But that for me has always been our challenge.

    Steven Chown
    Programme Development Manager
    Play England

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