The government has the power to make a significant positive impact on children’s health and wellbeing in the budget this week, despite fears of another round of austerity.
Free-to-use public playgrounds are the most popular location for children’s outdoor play*, providing an essential public service at minimal cost to the taxpayer. The Association of Play Industries is urging the Chancellor not to overlook these vital community assets.
API Chair Mark Hardy says:
“The restrictions of the last two years have brought home to all of us the importance of free community play spaces and the central role they have in children’s physical and mental health. The impact of lockdowns on children has been profound – hugely exacerbating the child obesity and mental health crises – and children are only now beginning to re-engage.”
Press speculation that the budget will include sweeping cuts to public spending have prompted the API to appeal to the government to protect children’s health.
“The last time public spending cuts were enforced, there was a dramatic decline in the number of public play spaces, leaving many children – particularly those in deprived areas – with nowhere to play,” says Mark.
“If the government is serious about Levelling Up, they must ensure that all children have equal play opportunities by protecting free-to-access playgrounds: we have long campaigned for a dedicated central funding stream to ensure all sectors of society are well-served by such facilities. However, given the current economic outlook, we would simply urge the Chancellor to ensure as a minimum that funding for play spaces is ringfenced and unaffected by any cuts to public expenditure.”
The myriad benefits to children of regular outdoor play are well-documented. “Playgrounds help tackle childhood obesity, mental health and sleep problems and children play out more when they have a playground nearby,” adds Mark. “At the heart of communities, public playgrounds are also essential for social cohesion, connecting people every day and promoting inclusivity where children from all walks of life and all abilities play together.”
*Away from the home setting. 1 in 8 UK households has no garden, rising to 1 in 5 in London.