12 Jul 2011,
The figures, obtained through the Freedom of Information act, revealed that of the 2,261 playgrounds funded by initiatives under the last Government, 279 were axed because of cuts by this Coalition Government, with just 73 rescued with other funding.
Fair Play for Children, a charity which promotes the child’s right to play, applied for information into the number of children’s playgrounds provided by the 326 ‘principal councils’ in England, 300 of which replied. They found that there are 16,134 playgrounds in England serving 11.2 million children. Of these, 4983 have been constructed or revamped in the last ten years.
The charity says this is the first time a national survey of this kind into children’s playgrounds has been published.
The information also indicates that each council provides just one play area for every 692 children under the age of 16, with approximately 752 children per acre of play area.
When the charity contacted the councils about the play areas run by parish councils in their boundaries they said they knew of 5,265 further playgrounds. Fair Play hopes to gather more information about the provision provided by town and parish councils and has contacted the National Association of Local Councils.
Jan Cosgrove, national secretary of Fair Play for Children, has criticised the Coalition Government for abandoning the national strategy approach of the previous Government, without consulting parents, organisations and children.
She also claims that there is no measure being taken of whether children and their play needs are suffering under the cuts affecting local councils.
‘The Government cannot have it both ways, to say they know the importance of play in children's development and health, and yet not know the effects of their policies nationwide. Words about childhood obesity and concern for lifestyles cut little ice when it is clear there is a national crisis affecting our children's basic ability to be able to get out and play,’ she said.
She added, ‘It is abundantly clear from this that children’s outdoor play needs are not being met by current playground provision or acreage. Playing fields, which do not mainly provide for children’s outdoor play, cover some 10,000 acres across the UK.’
The findings have been released as the first part of Fair Play for England’s study of outdoor play opportunities and access for children. More reports will be published in the next 12 months.
Founded in 1972, Play Matters is a non-profit organisation dedicated to enhancing the role of play in the lives of young children.