Play spaces not accessible to disabled children

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Parental concerns and a lack of accessible facilities continue to prevent disabled children from playing inclusively, according to a new survey by the charity Kids.


Of the 952 surveyed, including those who work with children across the play, leisure, childcare and disability sectors, along with parents, 25 per cent said that local services and play spaces are not accessible to disabled children.

While 47 per cent of respondents said play services and spaces were accessible, the charity, which champions the social inclusion of disabled children, says that these claims were not backed up by the statements made describing those services.

One respondent said, ‘There are some areas that contain equipment suitable for children with impairments however more often than not the entire space has not been designed to be as inclusive as possible.'

Only 10 per cent knew of plans to build new, or update existing, play spaces in their local area.

When asked where play is now compared to 2010 and if it is has got better or worse, views were mixed depending on area.

Some reported very good experiences of play where local authorities, chosen as Play Pathfinders and Playbuilders, used funding under the Labour Government’s Play Strategy to develop adventure playgrounds and play areas before the national project came to an end. These areas had generally well-regarded provision of good quality.

One respondent said, ‘If you can afford to access it, it’s got better, but free things have got worse. Lots of free adventure playgrounds and adventure play days have closed or ended, as councils have cut funds.’

Another said, ‘With the budget cuts at present and those that might occur in the future, there is a fear that play is being de-prioritised. We don’t have the funds to maintain our interaction with families.’

The survey also revealed that many parents were not confident that their impaired child would be fully supported when accessing mainstream services. Bullying was also a concern for parents of disabled children.

Asked what is the one thing that could help improve disabled children’s access to play opportunities, respondents’ answers ranged from providing a play space dedicated to disabled children or those with a specific impairment, information to be more easily accessible, provision for age groups often excluded such as very young disabled children and better staff training.

Kids, the charity that works with disabled children, says that the reframing of Government policies over the past two years, including the cessation of the Department for Education’s Play Strategy, which has led to a decline in play workers, may have a negative effect on play opportunities for disabled children.

In 2010, the education secretary Michael Gove announced plans to cut spending on play. This included freezing grants to 132 councils for up to 1,300 playgrounds.

Sam Hancock, assistant director for KIDS National Development Department, said, 'The responses to the survey demonstrate that parents still have valid concerns about how their child will be welcomed in mainstream play and leisure provision. At the same time, some staff that are working in these environments don’t feel confident enough to welcome disabled children and young people, or know how to go about doing this.

'Good quality training and support would go a long way to address this and give both parties the confidence to ensure that disabled children and young people have a genuine choice when deciding how to spend their play and leisure time.'

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