If the Prime Minister is really serious about tackling obesity as part of the fight against coronavirus, he must tell us now when public playgrounds can open again and invest in them before they disappear for good. With the announcement that schools are to stay closed until at least September, he simply cannot condemn children to an extended summer lockdown.
This is the message from the Association of Play Industries, whose campaign to re-open playgrounds and secure their investment is gathering pace. The API has today written to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Housing, Communities & Local Government, requesting an urgent meeting. The API is urging the Government to:
1.Provide a new funding stream specifically for public playgrounds to reverse the decline in numbers over recent years.
2.Immediately provide guidelines for when and how playgrounds will be brought back into use.
API Chair Mark Hardy says: “With parents up and down the land desperate for playgrounds to reopen, pressure is growing on the Government to follow Scotland’s example and outline their plans as a matter of urgency. Children matter, so where are they in the Mr Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown?
“Lockdown for many children has been a brutal experience with months spent indoors, separated from friends, uncertainty over their futures, hope removed. By opening playgrounds again, the Government can set children free and let them know that they haven’t been forgotten.
“The day-to-day lives of children and families are hugely impacted by playground closures, especially the millions of households without little or no outside space. The Government now need to show that they are in touch with the lives of ordinary people and ease their burden.”
With chronic under-investment in playgrounds in recent years and the closure and neglect of playgrounds going into freefall, the API has been warning of the catastrophic impact of mass playground closures on children’s mental and physical health.
“Once playgrounds are back in action, there needs to be urgent, sustained and significant government investment in public play provision,” says Mark.
“Playgrounds matter. The vast majority of children live in urban areas and playgrounds often represent their only chance for outdoor play. Playgrounds are levellers – an essential public service – free and accessible to all. They help to alleviate inequality and bring communities together to promote social cohesion. They encourage physical activity and fitness, build social skills, foster resilience and uniquely provide a safe, stimulating space for children to do what they need to do – play.
“Lockdown has brought into sharp focus the importance of public playgrounds. Children’s lives are far poorer without them and the poorest suffer the most.”