Government ‘must set out timetable for reopening playgrounds’

Outdoor play campaigners in the UK have written to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson urging him to set out when and how public playgrounds will be reopened.

In an open letter, the Association of Play Industries (API) has also warned that failure to give financial support to the industry will result in a ‘catastrophic’ impact on the health of children, most of whom have been deprived for months now of access to play facilities.

And across the country, parents want to know when the closure notices will be removed, as has been the case in other European countries as global lockdowns begin to ease. With 1 in 8 UK households without a garden, the API says it is asking the Government to answer two key questions as a matter of urgency: when can children play in playgrounds again and will public playgrounds be adequately funded going forward?

‘Deprived of outdoor play facilities’

“Children’s outdoor play is essential for their normal development,” adds Mark Hardy. “Children have been in lockdown for months, many with limited or no outside space. It is astonishing that the UK Government has made no mention of re-opening public playgrounds, despite their emphasis on opening up other arguably less important outdoor activities.”

The API says that public play provision has suffered years of chronic under-funding, with the number of playground closures going into freefall.  A recent survey of around 1,100 parents showed that 72 per cent of parents of children with health issues such as obesity said that the lack of outdoor play facilities in their area had played a role in their children’s problems, while 90 per cent of parents without a local playground said that having access would make their child play outside more.

‘Catastrophic impact on children’s health’

“We are giving the Government notice now of the catastrophic impact on children’s health unless there is targeted support for our small but vital industry,” adds Hardy. There is increasing evidence that Local Authority budgets for public playgrounds will be slashed even further, with devastating, irreversible consequences and significant job losses in the sector,” adds Mark.  “The industry needs to be fit for purpose post-pandemic but so far it has slipped through the gaps of specific government support by not falling under entertainment, sports or retail.”

“The lockdown has created a renewed appreciation of shared public spaces and their role in public health. With evidence that obesity exacerbates Covid-19 symptoms, the need to address the already burgeoning inactivity epidemic becomes even more urgent.”

Author: Simon Weedy

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