‘Urgent need’ to implement changes to play infrastructure in Wales – report

Image: Play Wales

A report on play services in Wales says there is an ‘urgent need’ to deliver key changes like promoting school grounds as community assets and having adequate safeguarding in place.

The Ministerial Review of Play steering group report has been published by the Welsh government after a detailed three-year review of its work on play policy.

It outlines 15 key recommendations in relation to six themes identified in the review, above all emphasising that there is an urgent need to implement these recommendations to improve opportunities for children’s play in Wales.

The report is supported by a background paper which provides related information such as reports on the impact of the pandemic and the reasoning behind the recommendations. Led the Welsh Government’s Play Policy Team, the cross-professional steering group was made up of play and playwork specialists, with policy officials from across the Welsh Government and independent academic advisors to support the review.

‘Views of children must inform how neighbourhoods are planned’

Julie Morgan, Welsh Deputy Minister for Social Services, said: “The aim of the review is to take stock of our vision and principles for play and to consider how best to drive forward play policy in the context of changes since the last review in 2002.

“The recommendations…are wide ranging, and some will require government cross policy working and continued collaboration with the sector. Therefore, we will undertake further exploration of the recommendations and suggested milestones, which will help to inform the actions required to address them. It is my intention to formally respond to the Steering Group’s report with a detailed action plan later this year.”

The aim is to take stock of our vision and principles for play

The recommendations, many of which require significant work to improve on current arrangements, include:

  • A strategic approach to play sufficiency across all Welsh Government policy areas
  • Ensuring Welsh Government policy instruments include measures to support children’s ability to make the most of opportunities to play
  • Ensuring any plans for recovery from the pandemic and cost of living crisis consider children’s right to play
  • The views and experiences of children must inform the ways neighbourhoods are planned and managed
  • Promoting the importance of play and use of school grounds as a community asset

National play body Play Wales was one of a range of partners that comprised the steering group, and it was given the task of coordinating the writing of the report. Mike Greenaway, Director of Play Wales, said: “We welcomed the decision of the deputy minister to commission the ministerial review in 2019. It demonstrates the continued value and importance the Welsh Government places on opportunities to play in children’s lives and a recognition of its role in contributing to leading change.

“This review sets out how we can strategically improve opportunities for play with recommendations for the next steps on the journey to making us a truly play friendly country. We look forward in anticipation to the deputy minister’s response.”

The report concludes: “There is an urgent need to implement these recommendations to create a more sustainable environment for delivering opportunities for children’s play in Wales. There will inevitably be a cost associated with implementing these recommendations, but given the importance of play to the health and wellbeing of children it is a price worth paying.”

Author: Simon Weedy

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