CHILDREN’S playparks should be protected in law to prevent them being targeted in the latest round of financial cut-backs.
MSPs will be told today that play areas help reduce the growing financial burden caused by childhood obesity by encouraging children to increase their physical activity.
In a report to Holyrood’s petitions committee, PlayScotland, the national agency which promotes play in childhood, says new thinking is required over what constitutes a play area, insisting traditional playgrounds could be given a “natural” makeover that would cost less to equip and maintain.
PlayScotland chief executive Marguerite Hunter Blair will tell MSPs today that a 2011 survey across 14 councils showed that only 35 per cent of children felt happy and safe playing in their streets, while only 45 per cent felt that adults saw it as important that they played outdoors. In addition, 56 per cent said they had no local park or play area.
“We as adults need to ensure that local physical and social environments are supportive of play, and we must ensure that play is not dismissed as frivolous or marginalised,” Mrs Hunter Blair will say.
The agency insists that play underpins the four principles of the Convention of the Rights of the Child – non-discrimination, survival and development, the best interest of the child and participation. The petition says local authorities should have a legal requirement to provide “quality” playspaces for all children and young people.
Mrs Hunter Blair will add: “We want child-friendly communities in Scotland supported by play-friendly neighbourhoods where children can meet friends and play, walk safely in the streets on their own, have green spaces for plants and animals, participate in family, community and social life.”
The petition says local authorities should have a legal requirement to provide “quality” playspaces for all children and young people, allowing them to increase their physical activity and improve their health and wellbeing.
The petition also says more space has been given over to golf courses in recent years. MSPs have now been asked to include a “statutory duty for play” in a planned new children’s and young people bill at Holyrood.
A strong commitment to play at national policy level is having a limited effect on communities.
“This has not cascaded down to local level where community groups have been told that play is not a priority, nor an issue of concern to a community planning partnership,” Mrs Hunter Blair will add.
“It is also clear that many local authorities are increasingly moving away from non-statutory obligations in a bid to live within their means.
“We would argue that this is a false economy when it comes to play.”
Council bosses have said they are “acutely aware” of the importance of play to children’s development and aim to provide the “best possible play facilities they can”.
But Cosla has voiced concerns over the prospect that placing a duty on a council to provide a certain type of play area might be “restrictive”.