As commentators, experts and members of the public pore over the Government’s eagerly awaited ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown – play, as per usual, does not feature in the strategy.
Today, APPG member organisation, ‘The Association of Play Industries’ (API) has rightly criticised this omission – all the more glaring in view of the Government’s expressed desire to encourage people to extend their range of outdoors activities. In a statement the API has said:
The fundamental role that play has in children’s normal development has been completely overlooked,
and notes that a number of experts in children’s mental health and development have written to the Government asking that children’s social and emotional wellbeing be prioritised.
In particular, no consideration has been given to the detrimental effect of lockdown on children who live in a flat or house with no access to a garden or any other outside space. It is likely that they will be those children who live in the most disadvantaged circumstances in society and their experience of lockdown will be entirely different from that of children from more affluent backgrounds. The API contends that playing in an outdoor playground is an important activity for children and an essential component of their healing process as they begin to process and cope with the unquantifiable effects of lockdown:
We are calling upon the Government to set out the phase in which a return to children’s play in public playgrounds could be considered, and to outline the safety guidelines required so that playgrounds can operate safely when conditions allow. This is urgently needed to provide hope for children, parents and communities and also to allow local authorise to apply the modifications needed.https://www.api-play.org/posts/response-to-uk-governments-50-page-covid-19-recovery-strategy/
Helen Clark, Lead Author for the APPG added:
The API is absolutely correct to draw the Government’s attention to the fact that, once again, they have written play out of history and it was never more needed to allow children to heal from what has been a uniquely traumatic experience with potentially lasting damage to their health and wellbeing.
In our three published reports on children’s mental health the APPG has argues that play is essential to children’s health and wellbeing in all circumstances. However, successive governments have consistently refused to accept this, downgrading play at every opportunity when it should be at the heart of all strategies to promote children’s welfare and wellbeing.
The API deserves an immediate response from the Government to the serious issues that it has raised – and this response should be given to the widest possible audience; preferably at the daily press conference and followed by a Ministerial Statement in the House.