Playwork practitioners back creation of new representative body

By Adam Offord

| 12 March 2015

More than nine out of 10 playwork practitioners think a new membership body is needed for the profession in the UK, according to a poll.

Adrian Voce: The new playworkers body will be "owned by and accountable to its members". Image: Robin Hammond

The survey also found that 96 per cent of practitioners said they would be interested in joining a new playworkers body, with more than three-quarters "extremely interested" or "very interested" in joining.

The findings come from the responses of 153 playwork practitioners, which included managers, trainers, lecturers, and researchers, as well as campaigners, development workers, and face-to-face playworkers.

Karen Benjamin and Adrian Voce, members of the steering group of play experts behind the initiative, are now planning to set up a new charitable organisation, develop a membership structure and plan for a general meeting where founding members can meet and elect the organisation’s first board.

They said: “We have quite intentionally kept the development work fully independent. Being owned by and accountable to its members is one of the guiding principles, derived from our consultation with the field.

“This means we have to be self-sufficient, building slowly, without funds, until such time as we are able to levy membership fees – which will then have to be modest, as we want the new body to be accessible to all those working in or studying playwork.”

When asked about priorities for a new body, the top response from practitioners was for it to "represent playwork and playworkers – giving a collective voice".

Other priorities that respondents would like to see include raising the status of playwork and improving the standing of playwork jobs as well as campaigning for playwork and influencing policymaking.

The creation of a professional body was another priority, but many practitioners also raised concerns that a new body should not compromise the work that is already being done to support playwork and its development by other sector organisations.

Benjamin and Voce added: “We believe playwork is an important approach to working with children, which is often misunderstood and perennially undervalued.

“We think it needs its own independent champion, and our survey confirms that there are many people in the field who agree, although we also get the message loud and clear that whatever is created must complement, and be careful not to undermine, other efforts to support and develop the field.”

The findings were presented last week at the National Playwork Conference.

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