A clarion call to put play at the heart of government policy on child health and wellbeing has been welcomed by the Association of Play Industries (API).
The API supports the central recommendation of the All Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood for government to adopt a holistic strategy to support child development. Launching its report to Parliament, the group’s co-Chair, children’s advocate Baroness Floella Benjamin, called on politicians from all parties to acknowledge the vital role of play in children’s lives and particularly in helping tackle the physical inactivity crisis.
Key recommendations for government in the report that win API support are:
- Play to be embedded within a Whole Child Strategy under the aegis of a Cabinet Minister for Children responsible for cross-departmental roll out and co-ordination;
- Government to require local authorities to prepare children and young people’s plans including strategies to address overweight and obesity with its physical, mental and emotional consequences;
- Funding for play to be ring-fenced within local authority budgets;
- Address barriers to outdoor play for children of all ages and abilities;
- Extend the Sport England Primary Spaces and Sport Premium programmes to all schools with a broader scope to incorporate a wide variety of physical literacy activities including play;
- Communicate through public information campaigns to parents and families the value of active outdoor play, including benefit:risk assessment;
- Improve public sector procurement practice for public play provision.
In the House of Lords this week, Baroness Benjamin asked what plans the government has to introduce a national strategy for play as part of a holistic approach to child health and fitness, after which a number of parliamentary colleagues agreed to convene a meeting to discuss the APPG’s report and recommendations further.
Speaking at the report’s parliamentary launch, API Chair Mark Hardy said: “This comprehensive report covers many aspects of play and play provision but a single unifying message is that children will always play provided they are given the opportunity to do so. We must ask ourselves if our children today have the same or better opportunities to play than we did. If they do not, then we must address that. This report makes some strong recommendations which if followed will have a positive impact on creating more opportunities for children to play. High quality public play facilities bring innumerable benefits to local communities that reach far beyond simply providing children with a fun place to play.”
Recent research by the API amongst families shows that over 80% of parents think there should be funding for more high quality public play facilities. The API campaigns at the highest levels for policy recognition for play and is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for a Fit and Healthy Childhood, Children’s Play Policy Forum and Federation of Sports and Play Associations.