Campaigners highlight health and social benefits of play

By Joe Lepper

| 06 August 2014

Play campaigners are highlighting to policymakers the health and social benefits of play schemes in an attempt to encourage more government investment in the sector.

Research has shown street play schemes are shown to improve community interaction.

The Children’s Play Policy Forum has released a report to mark national Playday (today) that outlines latest evidence showing the benefits of play on children’s health, education and wellbeing.

The Play Return report has already been handed to the Cabinet Office and is also being made available to senior politicians across the four UK countries.

It follows a year of struggle in the sector, with Play England being hit by staff and funding cuts, Play Wales facing closure after losing its grant from the Welsh government, while a CYP Now investigation revealed a third of councils had closed play facilities in the past year.

The report outlines the need for investment in four key areas: play in school break times, unstaffed public play places, supervised out-of-school provision and street play initiatives.

Successful play in school break time initiatives highlighted include a playground improvement scheme in a Glasgow primary school where a new all-weather ball pitch and naturalistic play space had contributed to a decrease in bullying, accidents and injuries. Teachers also reported improved attainment and concentration among pupils.

Report author Tim Gill said: “At the core of the report is the message that not only does outdoor play impact significantly on the lives of children and young people, it also in many cases can provide a basis for the transformation of wider communities.

“From the perspective of politicians and policymakers, the report highlights that investing in play can, and does, lead to multiple benefits including improved educational attainment, a healthier society and increased levels of tolerance within and between communities.”

A street play initiative in Bristol run by community interest company Playing Out was another scheme mentioned in the report. Research by Bristol University found it improved community interaction and was well supported by parents.

Robin Sutcliffe, chairman of the Children’s Play Policy Forum, which includes representatives of Play England, Play Wales, Play Scotland and Playboard Northern Ireland, added: “At a government policy level it is our belief that this report provides compelling evidence of the impact play can have across a range of policy areas including health and education.”

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