4 Nations Play Policy Symposium: Playing the Long Game 28 November 2012 Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
Wales update: Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services
General Comment on Article 31: Theresa Casey, President IPA World
Setting the scene – four nations’ presentations: Delyth Lewis, Welsh Government Thekla Garland, Scottish Government Sean Brolly, Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister Patricia Lewsley Mooney, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People Cath Prisk and Chris Nevis, Play England
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Workforce support: Ian Taylor, SkillsActive
Action plans from thematic discussions
Outlining national priorities
Introduction The overall aim of the symposium was to stimulate discussion, debate and dialogue in relation to the development and implementation of play policy and strategy that will benefit children in each of the four nations of the UK and help set the context for a UK response to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) General Comment to support Article 31. Objectives of the symposium: • To bring influential professionals from the play sector together with relevant government ministers and officials in order to share knowledge, learning and best practice. • To discuss the crucial role of government-led play policy in promoting play for children and young people and doing so in a way that is consistent, fair and supports the wider social policy and children’s strategy frameworks. • To provide a forum to enable play professionals and officials from government, with responsibility for social policy, to share and expand their understanding of play. • To provide an opportunity for professionals in each of the four nations to share experiences and learn from each other. The symposium was hosted by Play Wales, working in partnership with PlayBoard Northern Ireland, Play England, Play Scotland and SkillsActive. It was supported by Gwenda Thomas AM, Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services and chaired by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler. Each nation was represented by approximately 15 participants including a Government Minister (Wales), Children’s Commissioners, representatives of play organisations, play professionals and others with a key role in developing and furthering the play agenda in respect of policy.
Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services Our children are our future and in Wales we are committed to delivering policies and programmes that develop their full potential. If we don’t respect children and young people we shouldn’t be in politics. We are making great efforts to work together to create a society that respects all children and their rights. We have recently strengthened our commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) through commencing new legislation. On the 1 May this year the Children and Young People’s Rights Measure came into force. This Measure places a duty on Welsh Ministers to consider the rights of children in decisions we make on policy and legislation. It will underpin and strengthen all of the work we do, to enhance the lives of children, young people and their families. I am proud to be able to say that we are the first country in the UK to take this approach, and one of only a handful in the world. As we are all aware, Article 31 of the UNCRC highlights children’s right to relax and play, and to join in a wide range of cultural, artistic and other recreational activities. During the last decade, starting with our Play Policy in 2002, we have worked closely with all our stakeholders to find ways of promoting play opportunities and implementing this article in Wales. In recognition of this work and the progress we have made, Wales was awarded the ‘International Play Association, Right to Play Award’ in 2011. This prestigious award recognises innovative ways of implementing Article 31 of the UNCRC and I am proud to say that this was the first time that such an award has been made to a whole country. There is no more important right, than the right for children to enjoy the freedom and enjoyment of play. It is essential we guarantee the availability of places that are safe and freely available, for children to play, now and in years to come. Play is vital for children’s development. It benefits their health, their ability to make friends and understand themselves and others. It can contribute significantly to their emotional, physical and cognitive development. It also has a role in tackling poverty, offering life experience and helping children to develop resilience during difficult times. Play is good for our children but also benefits their families and the whole community. Play is already embedded in many of our policies and programmes. It is a key element of our childcare offering in our Flying Start programme which supports our most disadvantaged families. It is also the bed-rock of our Foundation Phase for children aged 3-7 years. I am pleased to say that Wales is taking the lead on a global level, in promoting play opportunities for children through our legislative programme. We have consulted widely on this and are pleased with the positive contribution from the Children’s Commissioner, play sector, local authorities and the public during this process. The Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010, section 11 on Play Opportunities has enabled us to commence the first part of this legislation. On 2 November, the Welsh 4
Government commenced the duty on our local authorities to assess the sufficiency of play opportunities for children in their areas. We have worked closely and widely with our stakeholders to develop the Regulations and Statutory Guidance, setting out the requirements for the legislation. To comply with the duty each local authority will complete a Play Sufficiency Assessment and an Action Plan. These documents will set out the targets, priorities and milestones for achieving play sufficiency. I very much look forward to the completed assessments showing us the excellent play opportunities that are already in place for some of our children, and the forward action plans. We recognise that play is a cross cutting agenda. The assessments will take into account the provision of play and recreational activities. They will also cover planning policy; management of open spaces; traffic policy; health and community initiatives. A further important aspect will be for local authorities to consult widely with children and their families to achieve a play environment that meets their needs. I am pleased that this duty has been received positively and my officials will continue to work very closely with our 22 local authorities across Wales, and third sector play organisations. To support the assessment process, my officials have worked with Play Wales to produce a toolkit for local authorities which has been well received. Next year we will review the assessments and action plans before commencement of the second part of the duty. This will require our local authority partners to secure sufficient play opportunities for all children in their local areas. Although we are making great progress with the play agenda we do not underestimate the challenges that we face. The combination of changing social expectations and growing pressure on resources will have a direct impact on how we secure play opportunities. We will have to use our strong relationships across the sector to design innovative ways to manage resources and secure opportunities for our children. We have already laid the foundation for these relationships and we will continue to strengthen them over the coming years. We value the contribution of our young people. Recently, I was very fortunate to meet with some young representatives from the children and young peopleâ€™s Assembly for Wales, Funky Dragon. These inspirational young people requested a meeting with me to discuss the findings of recent reports they had published relating to play, disabled access to play and bullying. I was delighted to see young people take part in this session with such enthusiasm to share their ideas about play and what they want in their communities. I was very pleased to be able to share information regarding the new play sufficiency legislation with them. I was also particularly impressed by the enthusiasm that the young people showed to be involved in the local authority consultations around the issue of play. The children advised me that we need to develop a phone app and use YouTube if we are to raise the awareness of childrenâ€™s rights. We all want our children to have the best possible start in life. Through our work, and by putting children and young people at the heart of our decisions we will create a play friendly environment for all of our children. If we value the contribution of our children we will create a play friendly Wales. I am sure that the discussions that will take place during the symposium will help us to move forward together in providing high quality play opportunities for all children across the United Kingdom. I am sure this will be of great benefit to us all.
General Comment on Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights on the Child Theresa Casey, President IPA World
It is entirely suitable that we talk about the forthcoming General Comment on Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in Cardiff as IPA members around the world look to Wales with admiration when it comes to children’s right play. Article 31 has become known as the most overlooked, misunderstood and neglected article in the UNCRC. IPA’s work towards a General Comment has aimed to improve that situation. General Comments are the UN Committee’s interpretation of the content of human rights provisions, in our case the UNCRC. Their purpose is to widen and deepen understanding of aspects of the convention, reflect the changing conditions under which children grow up and bring in new insights from research and practice. Objectives of the forthcoming General Comment on Article 31: • To enhance understanding of the importance of Article 31 for children’s development and wellbeing, and for the realisation of other rights in the Convention. • To provide interpretation to States parties with regard to the provisions, and consequent obligations, associated with Article 31. • To provide guidance on the measures necessary to ensure its implementation for all children without discrimination and on the basis of equality of opportunity. The International Play Association (IPA) began the work of requesting a General Comment on Article 31 at the triennial IPA World conference held in Hong Kong in 2008. IPA soon established a group of international co-signatories to the request. A literature review was commissioned by IPA and published by the Bernard van Leer Foundation in 2010. This initiated the Global Consultations Project that had partners in eight countries, the results of which were presented in person to the UN Committee in Geneva. At the IPA World conference held in Cardiff in 2011, IPA was able to announce the UN Committee’s decision to draft a General Comment on Article 31 and that IPA had been invited to manage the drafting process. IPA established timeframes and a structure for the international Working Group and ‘pool of experts’ for the drafting. We were delighted that Keith Towler, Children’s Commissioner for Wales accepted the invitation to join the international Working Group. The UN Focal Group for the General Comment comprised Awich Pollar (Uganda) – Chair, Yanghee Lee (Korea), Hadeel Al-Asmar (Syrian Arab Republic), Aseil Al-Shehail (Saudi Arabia) Sanphasit Koompraphant (Thailand) and, in an advisory role, Professor Lothar Krappmann. In January 2012 the drafting began in earnest, including rounds of consultation and review and engagement with children in six countries.
The central focus of the General Comment was debated and the UN Committee made it clear that it would be about the whole of Article 31. This will be made explicit in the General Comment - and we realised we don’t know Article 31 as well as we thought! The General Comment applies to all children under the age of 18 years. It does not address the issue of sport which is a major issue in its own right and is only touched on in the General Comment where it sits within play and recreation. In respect of cultural life, the General Comment focuses primarily on aspects related to creative or artistic life, rather than the broader definition within Article 30, the right of the child to enjoy his or her own culture. Text of article 31 1. States Parties recognise the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts. 2. States Parties shall respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity. Extracts from the General Comment illustrate that Article 31 should be understood holistically, both in terms of its constituent parts, and also in its relationship with the Convention in its entirety. Each element of article 31 is mutually linked and reinforcing, and, when realised, serves to enrich the lives of children. Together, they describe conditions necessary to protect the unique and evolving nature of childhood. Their realisation is fundamental to the quality of childhood, to children’s entitlement to optimum development, to the promotion of resilience, and to the realisation of other rights. The General Comment drafting had to deal with a number of issues of interpretation and issues of balance including: • Definitions of play and recreation – differing perspectives on the relationship between them • Role of adults in play and recreation • Autonomy/organised play and recreation • Recognition of all constituent parts of Article 31 • Children from birth to 18 years – particularly visibility of adolescents • Developed and developing world • Risk and safety • Provision of opportunities / freedom and conditions • Principled and pragmatic cases for Article 31 rights Reflections on learning emerging out of the development of the General Comment: • It’s easy to overlook the obvious – such as mentioning fun and joy when it comes to play • Shifting emphasis • Really important topics in relation to play don’t always sound that serious
• Issues of interpretation • Issues of balance • The weight given to General Comments Engaging with children resulted in shifting emphasis as it brought marginalised groups that require particular attention to the forefront, particularly girls, children with disabilities and orphaned children. Broadly, the consultations were reassuring in that they showed the General Comment had captured the main issues and concerns of children. The children’s involvement took place through partnership working with organisations/IPA Branches in Sierra Leone, Thailand, Scotland, Kenya, Lebanon and Brasil. A General Comment does not expand the obligations placed on States parties that have signed up to the UNCRC – this is a general misunderstanding. They do provide interpretation to States parties with regard to their obligations, and provide guidance on the measures necessary to ensure its implementation for all children without discrimination and on the basis of equality of opportunity. States parties should expect to plan for General Comments and incorporate their key messages into action plans and progression towards realistion of children’s rights. We are anticipating that the United Nations Committee will adopt the General Comment in January/ February 2013 – this is when the long game begins. Some broad information about the General Comment Structure of the text: • Introduction • Objectives • Significance of Article 31 in children’s lives • Interpretation of constituents parts of Article 31 • Interpretation of Article 31 in the broader context of the Convention • Creating the context for the realisation of Article 31 • Children requiring particular attention in order to realise their rights under Article 31 • States parties’ obligations Article 31 is interpreted within the broader context of the Convention on the Rights of the Child including of course the General principles (non-discrimination, best interests, life and optimum development, participation). Links are drawn with other relevant rights: • Civil and political rights – freedom of expression, association and access to information • Social and cultural rights - equal rights for children with disabilities, right to health, adequate standard of living, education, respect for own cultures, • Protective rights - protection from violence, sexual and economic exploitation, rehabilitation Challenges in implementation were highlighted in IPA’s consultations on barriers to play in eight countries (2010) as part of the advocacy work towards a General Comment. The themes illustrated then are echoed on the General Comment. 8
• Lack of awareness of the importance of play • Poor and hazardous environments • Lack of access to nature • Balancing risk and safety • Resistance to children’s use of public spaces • Pressure for educational achievement • Overly structured and programmed time • Neglect of Article 31 in development programmes • Lack of investment in cultural and artistic investment for children • The growing role of electronic media • Marketing and commercialisation of play Children requiring particular attention are identified including: girls, children living poverty, children with disabilities, children in institutions, children from indigenous and minority communities, children in situations of conflict, humanitarian and natural disasters, refugees. State parties obligations to respect, to fulfil and to protect children’s Article 31 rights are elaborated in the General Comment. In summary, the General Comment should be: • Used as a key reference in the NGO/shadow, Children’s Commissioners and Government CRC reports to the UN • Used by policy makers and planners as a reference point/guide in making decisions (policies, strategies and actions plans) • Understood by all those working for, or with, children as a tool to advocate for realisation of children’s Article 31 rights. IPA: www.ipaworld.org UN Committee website: www2.ohchr.org
Creating a Play Friendly Wales
Delyth Lewis, Head of Childcare and Play Policy, Department for Health, Social Services and Children, Welsh Government ‘The right to play is the child’s first claim on the community. Play is nature’s training for life. No community can infringe that right without doing enduring harm to the minds and bodies of its citizens.’ David Lloyd George Our aim is that decision making at all levels of government should include a consideration of the impact of those decisions on children’s opportunities to play. This should be the case from national government down to community councils. It also means that we have to work across sectors and policy areas including – planning, traffic and leisure services. We want the following outcomes for children: • To be happy and confident • Have a sense of wellbeing and enjoy life • To be fit, healthy and enjoy physical activity • Have friends and learn social skills • Value themselves and their environment and grow in understanding • Have resilience through experience and testing strategies We are fully committed to respecting and delivering on children’s right to play and have developed an online training package for Welsh Government staff and external colleagues to enhance their learning and understanding of the UNCRC. In Wales our Seven Core Aims for children and young people summarise the UNCRC. Core Aim 4 states: All children and young people have access to play, leisure, sporting and cultural activities. In the last ten years there have been many developments in the play agenda in Wales: • Welsh Government Play Policy – 2002 • Children and Young People, Rights to Action – 2004 • Play Policy Implementation Plan – 2006 • Children and Families (Wales) Measure – 2010 10
• Welsh Government Manifesto Commitment – 2011 • The Play Sufficiency Assessment (Wales) Regulations – 2 November 2012 Play sufficiency is not only about quantity – it is also about quality. On 1 March 2013 we are expecting the Play Sufficiency Assessments and Action Plans from each Local Authority in Wales. We need to consider these assessments carefully and decide how we can support local authorities in achieving the targets in their action plans, which will contribute to the work towards the second part of the Duty which is to secure sufficient play opportunities. In these tough economic times this is a big challenge. We need to use innovative, no cost/low cost, and different ways of working to get the job done. The University of Gloucestershire, in partnership with Play Wales, will be undertaking research into Local Authority responses to the Play Sufficiency Assessment. The research findings will inform our future work relating to legislation and duties. For the past 12 years the Welsh Government has directly funded play. Over the last seven years over £1m of Welsh Government and European funding has been allocated for workforce training – with an attainment rate of 80%. To build on the success of playwork qualifications in Wales we need to develop training for non-play professionals to ensure sufficiency of play opportunities. As part of this we need to look at funding for Playwork Wales. As part of the Big Lottery Fund Child’s Play programme £13m was invested to develop play infrastructure and play projects across Wales. This has resulted in sustainable support networks and many exciting play initiatives across Wales. We all need to consider how this can be taken forward, following the end of the funding programme.
Play Policy in Scotland
Thekla Garland, Play Team Leader, Scottish Government Scottish Government recognises that play is central to how children learn, both in terms of cognitive skills and softer skills around relating to other people. Scottish social policy commitments include the forthcoming Play Strategy and in terms of legislation the Children and Young People’s Bill 2013 – which includes play. We are also looking at how play can be included in the statutory guidance. The Scottish Government supports play at a national level in a variety of ways including direct funding of activities and initiatives and support and close liaison with Play Scotland. In 2012/2013 the Scottish Government provided £6.3m funding for play. Additionally: • Core grants: £ 400,000 per year • Play Talk Read: £1.6m to date and a further £1m per year • Go Play: £4m over two years • Go2Play: £3m over three years • Early Years Early Action: £2.8m over two years • Cashback: £350,000 over three years • Arts: £1.9m this year. Play helps to form habits of a lifetime – spending time outdoors, sports, activities. Children may need help to move from one play activity to another – play rangers are helping with this by providing free play opportunities within communities. The play rangers are selling their services to Local Authorities to ensure sustainability. Grounds for Learning (Learning through Landscapes in Scotland) is supporting schools to transform their playgrounds. Children spend approximately 2000 hours in the school playground. The Scottish Government, in partnership with the play sector, has a shared vision to see the value of play recognised throughout society working with local authorities, communities and professionals in health, education and planning locally. The Early Years Taskforce Play/Culture sub group was created in 2012 to focus on wider culture change through play. It is co-chaired by Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, and Sue Palmer who is on the board of Play Scotland. Discussions chaired by Play Scotland’s Marguerite Hunter Blair regarding providing risk in play opportunities has contributed to changing attitudes – we are now working with Local Authority officers to move towards risk-benefit assessment. Working with Local Authority officers to break down barriers is a challenge.
We recognise that children don’t stop playing when they reach 11 or 12 years old – it changes. Local Authorities are responding to demand that older children demand more challenging play opportunities such as parkour courses and skate parks. The Getting it Right for Play qualification has family, community and national outcomes – not just benefits for children. Play Scotland has developed a national indicator and toolkit - Getting It Right for Play. A valuable resource for local authorities and community groups it will assess existing services and play spaces and will support delivery of good quality play opportunities. We have some way to go to achieve desired cultural change – for children to be allowed out to play. We want children to be able to make their own choices to play how they want. This takes time – we’re taking small steps to change childhood for the better. We want play to be embedded across sectors. It has a range of positive outcomes – after all, play is relatively cheap to fund. The key activity for us in the forthcoming months is the play strategy.
Play and leisure – turning rights into reality in Northern Ireland
Sean Brolly, Play Officer, Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, Northern Ireland In Northern Ireland we work on a smaller scale in comparison to the other nations. We look to Wales and Scotland regarding children’s rights to see how they are breaking new ground. The policy context in Northern Ireland: • 1991 – UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 31, Article 12 etc) • 2006 – Children and Young People’s Strategy • 2008 – Play and Leisure Policy Statement • 2011 – Play and Leisure Implementation Plan We have responsibility for 23 of the 37 actions in the Play and Leisure Implementation Plan. Our challenge is the difference between the needs identified by policy makers and how they are delivered on the ground. We need to identify the barriers and the needs on the ground. Play provision is delivered by District Councils: • Embed an evidence-based approach within Councils for assessing provision against need • Encourage Councils to engage with communities through the establishment of Play and Leisure Partnerships to take forward a work programme • Establish Play Officers Forum to channel communication between Departments and Councils. To embed an evidence-based approach Councils are mapping exiting play and leisure provision, assessing against indicators of need, identifying potential gaps and considering how these shortfalls in provision can be addressed. 14 of the 26 Councils carried out initial audits in 2011. To support this work we set up a regional Play Mapping System on the Children and young People’s Strategic Partnership website (www.cypsp.org) which is a central resource of data. The benefits of a regional mapping system comprise: • Reduces dependence of GIS capacity in smaller Councils • Assists Councils to work together to address common/cross cutting issues • Provides regional overview to inform policy development and assist promotion of play and leisure.
The Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister has funded 16 of the 26 Councils to establish Play Partnerships. The partnerships will: • Oversee audit process • Agree Action Plans with Councils to address gaps • Promote play and leisure in Council areas • Assist in tackling negative perceptions • Seek to engage children and young people in decision-making • Bring forward proposals for innovation and inclusion. The Play Officers Forum work plan: • Identify barriers to deliver of the Implementation Plan • Review Partnership Terms of Reference • Consider and agree approach to: • Categorisation of leisure facilities • Assessment of need/sufficiency • Quality measurement • Dissemination of international/local best practice.
Patricia Lewsley-Mooney, Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People We as adults don’t spend enough time playing. We are very good at telling government and children about playing – but what we should be doing ourselves is setting an example. Play is not a destination but a journey. It helps to build skills for life – development of feelings and good health. In Northern Ireland play is on the local and national agenda – we have delivered policy and strategy where needed. Core to that is how policies and strategies are implemented. There is a disconnection between top government officials and those on the ground. We recently held a children’s rights conference in Northern Ireland; as adults we don’t understand what children want to do as play. We need to accept that children will play how they choose to, for example by using their phones and texting. As adults we can’t dictate how children exercise their right to play. When it comes to funding everyone wants a slice of the cake – they all scurry away at the mention of play and concentrate on health and exercise. But as William Bird recently said in the health symposium held in Cardiff play benefits health.
Current landscape for play in England Cath Prisk, Director, Play England
In England no government minister has a lead responsibility for play – it is very much about empowering the voluntary sector to take a lead. We have support from the Cabinet Office and the Department of Health, and potentially an interest in play provision as part of childcare or youth from DfE, but there is no expectation of Government leadership nationally. For the English government it is a locally important issue. Localism rules. There is consequently no minister with all round responsibility for play, instead it sits with the DfE as part of the Children’s Minister’s portfolio, and equally with DH in the public health portfolio and in transport with active travel, in CLG as part of communities and in the Cabinet Office as part of the localism/big society portfolio. Responsibility for policy implementation has now turned from the state to being the responsibility of communities and their representatives. This might have been an almost wholly welcomed evolution, if it hadn’t been for the austerity measures, and the concurrent end of both the Government investment and the Big Lottery investments in play… The reality in communities has been a very significant cut to real funding going directly into play services and spaces, with an estimated 80 per cent of Local Authorities allowing their play policies (which merged their spatial plans, public health strategies and children’s plans) to lapse. This meant that most Local Authorities lost their local play teams and many local voluntary sector organisations lost contracts to deliver school clubs before and after the school day, adventure playgrounds, holiday playschemes and outreach playwork in parks and communities. The impact was seen this summer in far less staffed provision for children. More subtly this has meant there are less people advocating for children’s play in strategies for local planning, public health, transport and active travel, for example. However, this has not just been about cuts. This has, for many, been a call to action to communities, often led by small long-standing voluntary sector organisations. National Government has been investing in more focused ways, and is quietly encouraging of play being a strand of local activity. In recent discussions with politicians of all parties, including ministers with relevant portfolios, we are getting a positive response as locally and nationally play is being seen as a cost-effective solution to many issues facing local communities. There is also growing support and recognition that this is about children, families and communities reclaiming their freedom to play at home, in their street and in their community, and to have adventures throughout childhood and teenage years.
Most recently Anna Soubry, Under Secretary of State for Health, made it clear that she sees play as a critical part of local legacy of the Olympics and she expects Local Authorities to ensure it is part of the “inspiring a generation” measures locally. But note again, there is no expectation that Government will require a play response. Key practical investments from central Government do include: • Cabinet Office – Funding a £2 million Social Action Fund programme to stimulate over 20,000 people to volunteer locally to increase play opportunities and create a culture of playing out. To date, mid-way through the programme, the Free Time Consortium has achieved 17,000 volunteers and over 500,000 children playing out in communities stretching from Torbay to North Tyneside as a result of this investment. • Department of Business, Innovation and Skills – Investing in workforce development of early years staff to develop playwork skills, in particular so settings for two to four year olds can increase opportunities for healthy, active outdoor play. • Department of Health – encouraging local commissioners of public health to invest in outdoor play and building links with active travel. • Department of Communities and Local Government – encouraging Local Authorities to relax regulations around street parties and street play. • In addition, Play England is a partner in the Nature Movement film-led campaign ‘Project Wildthing’ (www.projectwildthing.com) to connect children with nature and supporting the Playing Out project in Bristol in showing people how to implement legislation to close streets temporarily for children’s play. Every community has a responsibility and a role to champion freedom to play for the future.
Chris Nevis, Chair of Strategic Board, Play England The gauntlet is down for Local Authorities to make a difference. Setting play within a preventative strategy does give us some strength. There is a big drive for Local Authorities to work with other organisations to provide more for less – this is an opportunity for Local Authorities to work passionately with play associations and children and young people. We need to use the new peer review process to bench mark access to opportunities – the biggest driver is the importance of the child’s voice. This is a crucial part of our planning. In Gateshead the non-statutory play service has been saved and experienced significant growth through being flexible in its response to commissioning requests. Commissioning opportunities have come from a range of Health, Social Care, Police partners delivering small group work, 1 to 1 support, play schemes for targeted groups Forest School adventure play delivery. It has encouraged a partnership with children’s centres, youth service and the looked after children service to provide an enhanced service offer. This provides us with a clear opportunity to protect the right to play in a policy void.
Ian Taylor, Chief Executive, SkillsActive SkillsActive is the Sector Skills Council for the Active Leisure, Learning and Wellbeing Sector. It is an officially recognised and licensed organisation that sets the best quality standards for skills, offers effective training solutions and facilitates career development in the sport, fitness, outdoors, caravanning, playwork and hair and beauty industries. SkillsActive was established to support employers by providing quality training and key resources for businesses, professional and newcomers to the sector to boost business performance. By addressing employer needs and the workforce’s skills gap, we will ensure a stable and innovative future for our industry. In terms of playwork, boosting business performance means providing the best possible play experiences for children and young people. The economic climate is challenging the playwork sector at the moment and we are working hard to help employers adapt and diversify, in order to sustain their service for the future. Characteristics of the playwork workforce: • Public, private and voluntary sectors • Adventure playgrounds, out of school clubs, holiday schemes • Mostly micro businesses and small employers • Part time and sessional staff, often 16 hours per week • Low pay • Predominantly female • Over 50% have a second job. While in England we are seeing the impact of Local Authorities cuts, most typically on open access provision such as adventure playgrounds. The devolved governments in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have recognised the importance of play to children’s healthy development and wellbeing in recent policy announcements. We applaud this. It is our role to ensure that employers have access to quality, fit for purpose qualifications and training for their staff, to support these developments. The UK Play and Playwork Education & Skills Strategy 2011 – 2016’s vision is a skilled, qualified and developing workforce, whose practice is underpinned by the Playwork Principles, who provide high quality, accessible play opportunities for children and young people. Through wide consultation with employers, playworkers and parents we developed a five year strategy to help us achieve this vision which has children and young people at its heart. 20
The strategy offers an important element of support to the sector, which contributed to implementing Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in all four of the UK nations. The aims of the strategy: • Position playwork as a distinct profession within the children and young people’s workforce • Support other sectors and the public in their understanding of the value of play and playwork • Develop and promote a suite of sustainable qualifications that are valued • Encourage delivery and uptake of high quality accessible training, education and professional development opportunities. • Through these aims we intend to gain recognition for the valuable work undertaken in play settings and equip employers and their staff with the necessary skills, not just to do the work but to articulate its benefits to the wider public and act, as the Playwork Principles state, as advocates for play. To do this, we are: • Developing an employer skills protocol or pledge to encourage support for play staff development and thereby the provision of quality services • Developing a network of quality approved training providers, so that employers and their playworkers can be reassured that the staff delivering playwork training are qualified trainers and experienced in playwork • Providing free access for playworkers to the playwork Active Passport which is a free, online tool to record qualifications, experience and development. With funding from the Sector Priorities Fund in Wales we have been working with Play Wales to develop level 2 and 3 playwork qualifications and associated training materials in Wales – Playwork: Principles into Practice (P3). In England we have gained funding to support the delivery of a range of playwork qualifications and have worked with PlayBoard Northern Ireland to deliver an awareness event for training providers to support the roll out of level 5 playwork qualifications in line with the revised minimum daycare standards. We have started the development of the register for playwork professionals in England with the aim of rolling this out across the UK in the coming months and years. In all four nations of the UK we maintain good links with government to provide policy advice and enable employers’ views to be heard. And, of course we are working closely with key partners in each nation to promote and support play through the development of a skilled, professional workforce.
Key points from presentations • If you don’t respect children’s rights you shouldn’t be in politics • Ensuring play on agenda for embedding legislation • “Mind the gap policy” – implementation • Where is the evidence gathered and presented • Snapshots – embedding • Is hair and beauty – playing with identity?? • Sustainability – legacy • How can we raise awareness Article 31 cross departmentally • Moving from legislation to implementation • Legacy and sustainability • Implementation of high level national strategy and policy • Moving from firework shows to lighting fires • What happens when you have to bend and spin • Play within preventative agenda • Consequences of not recognising rights (children’s stories) • Benefits of playing • Making decisions on informed basis • Policy into practice • Breaking new ground • Culture change takes time • Innovative, creative, cheap, free • Officials who get it • Play workforce – workforce development • Being part of a “family” of children’s rights • Commissioner holding government to account (scrutiny) • Political connection with children and young people • Leadership
• Political commitment • Society that respects children and their rights • Legislation – children’s rights • Article 31 • Play’s role in tackling child poverty • Resilience • Play sufficiency assessments • Cross-cutting agenda • Changing social expectations • Challenges and pressure on resources • Involvement of children and young people • Putting children and young people at the heart of decision making • Delivery of policies and programmes • Weight given to General Comments • “Going against the tide” • On-going relationships with children • Joy, fun, freedom • Rich picture – Article 31 • Indivisibility • Richness of human resources • Rights – relevance to children • The long game • Courage to stick up for children’s right to play • Duty bearers should be ready for General Comment • Shared ownership of Article 31.
Action plans from thematic discussions Following the presentations participants divided themselves into six groups for thematic discussions. Each group included participants from each of the four nations. 1. Article 12
• Build confidence in children to participate
• Consultation/participation and engagement, children and young people voices – structures
• Culture – seen and not heard – negative against children
• Play is the way children participate in society
• Experience the control dimension adult/ child
• Article 31 – play – first way of engagement
• Always look at different ways of engagement – make sure it’s current
• Participation/engagement rather than consultation • Might be a place for Participation Standards but could be a tick box approach • “Hear by right” – “Act by right” standards • Looking at child led rather than adult led • Embed child’s voice in culture and practice • Hierarchy of: • Delivery • Engagement • Consultation
• Improve culture in tolerance
• Timing/environment/methodology/content must be taken into account • There’s ladders and snakes • Develop a participation app • Develop young people’s skills to ask the questions • Qualifications across sectors should embed, engagement workforce development; • looking, interpreting, observation, depth of understanding of children and young people’s need
• Respect the views of others without speaking for them/place for experts
• Ladder of engagement
• Example play areas; paths; lines of intent
• Where are children • Look at awareness revolving across sections
• Looking at the environment and does this influence the children’s response • Reaching children
• Be informed
• Advocacy is an important skill
• Children and young people to hold workers to account
• Use of technology
2. Changing culture
• Child friendly rights based society
• All areas designated as play space
• Changes in culture
• Range of spaces, part of network
• Government messages to reach all Local Authorities
• No particular spaces • Universal way of designating space • Children – self regulated • Not limited to physical space • Mental space and freedom
• Range of play spaces • Education of parents • All four countries should use the General Comment to help ensure a child friendly society
• Culture shift not just about children
• A people friendly society (not just child friendly)
• Need a people friendly society and not just child friendly
• Engagement with parents/children
• There is a lack of community contact
• Changes in culture.
• Fear • Media feeding cultural fear
• Shift emphasis – positive reporting
• What partnership and conditions are critical to delivering the play agenda?
• Overcoming fear • Time • Child fitting into free time • Support from government to spend quality time with children • Educating parents about play • Must change culture of parents • Central government messages do not reach all Local Authorities • Regionalisation devolution • How do we get there?
• Partnerships agreements in place in advance, applications for money often very short time to turn around • Trust strong relationships • Culture change • Assessments will change cross-sectorial, allocation of time • Time - completing agendas • Champions for play • Sense of place – right partnership for the area
• Local politicians/link with sufficiency (childcare)
• Schools/community hubs
• Identify audience
• Play associations selling services to schools
• Using children as examples
• Volunteers – getting them on board
• Identifying key people in the community.
• Driving forward risk benefit • Children’s right to enjoy their childhood
4. Making the case • All the good things/benefits of play in terms of preventive qualities
• Political buy in: • Evidence that early intervention matters • You only get one chance and you’ve got to do more to reduce crisis management
• Provision doesn’t have to be expensive – a little injection results in community engagements
• Do departments in civil service work together? Try – depends on individuals
• Identify the “big hitters” – education and health – making links
• Scotland – Director General who operates as a corporate team – good relationships
• Need to present differently
• Using legislations – Localism Bill in England
• Knowing your audience – presenting play in their language • Starting with children and families helps create state premise to find out about what children and parents (through social media) think about play – recognising the strength of the child’s voice. • Communicating why it’s important in order that it’s understood by others
5. Seize the moment – Spring 2013 • United Nations has no resources after publishing of the General Comment • Four nations working together to promote the General Comment
• Politicians – how investing saves money
• Speak to England Children’s Commissioner in December 2012
• What happens when politicians dislike children?
• Joint statement from four Children’s Commissioners the day of release
• Early intervention and health – to prevent crisis management
• Each country to speak to ministers about their response and getting it on their agendas
• What are the long running sores?
• Produce a children’s version when the General Comment is adopted
• What are they trying to fix? • Start locally • Local organisations using members • Hook commissioners and staff (England) • Ensuring that all potentials understand the role they have to play and can advocate for play • Scotland – early years intervention to improve outcomes (preventative spend agenda) • Four Chief Medical Officers (CMO’s) released physical activity guidance • Can we identify four nations approaches? • Identify cross party agreements (early years etc)
• Launch the children and young people’s version on Newsround and Blue Peter • All nations to co-ordinate events and celebration of the General Comment • Three nations to jointly and separately celebrate it (where is England?) • Get children and young people to visit Downing Street with invitations to Cameron to join the party • Each nation to co-ordinate children and young people to go to their First Ministers office with a challenge to “come and play” • Why do our ministers love children so much? An opportunity
6. Indivisibility • Engaging with arts and cultural organisations • Concern play might be ‘lost’ again against culture/arts aspect (General Comment written in such a way play is a main item therefore of equal weight)
• Change mind-sets of what play is – extend understanding • Culture is what you believe – play is what you do • Audits trying to capture wider elements of play e.g. art classes
• Awareness raising regarding Article 31 through partnership working with arts/culture organisations
• Art/cultural sector not realising children have a right to arts/culture!
• Arts/culture sufficiently audited already?
• Provision at edge of communities – NIMBY – not at the heart of the community
• Each area of Article 31 needs to be audited equally • Sport omitted form Article 31? Or is it included under leisure?
• (Quentin Stevens – Ludic City)
• Does play have a higher profile than art/ culture in Article 31? • Age appropriateness – play and playgrounds
• Organised play – sport? No longer freely chosen
• Play assessments to consider engaging/ training staff at museums
• “Play proceeds culture” • Is the play informing culture or vice versa? Or are they so intertwined they are indivisible?
• If play isn’t assessed as a whole young people will be left out e.g. youth shelters, children
• Article 31 is only divided for auditing purposes (Wales) to ensure play is given equal weight
• Worry about play as it’s been “badly” funded historically, compared to the arts
• Arts council, Sport Wales, Play Wales – the only one that might have been cut completely in terms of funding is Play Wales
• Have play advocates on all policy/boards/ councils for arts, culture, leisure and recreation
• Arts and culture tend to be targeted towards adults – not easy to measure – avoiding segregation
• Challenge getting choices regarding play heard “high enough up” in Local Authorities
• Sufficiency Assessments about play as a whole – not only fixed equipment playgrounds
• We should be providing opportunities for children regardless of play/arts/culture – what they want to do. Provide space?
Outlining national priorities Following the thematic discussions participants gathered in four national groups to feedback on the thematic discussions and prioritise key points for action for their respective nations. Wales – key action points • Promote General Comment on Article 31 – co-ordinated UK launch with National Ministers and Children’s Commissioners • Ensure Play Sufficiency Assessments are completed • Ensure the Government meets the targets it has set itself in its Programme for Government • Convince big cultural institutions in Wales to recognise children’s right to play • Advocacy; take action to ensure that there is representation of children’s play to on national bodies i.e. arts, culture • Revisit the formation of a Government interdepartmental play policy steering group
Scotland – key action points • Article 31 • Richer understanding of Article 31 (IPA) • Early years task force culture group • Completing and implementing Scotland’s first national Play Strategy • Supporting the implementation of a Statutory Duty on Local Authorities and Health Boards, to plan around the design and delivery of services to improve the wellbeing of children and young people. The Scottish Government believes play is a critical part of a child’s wellbeing and is keen that this reflected in the forthcoming Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill. • Changing culture – spaces and places, promoting core values for child friendly environments (Rotterdam Norms); implementing a risk benefit approach to play through the new High Level Statement • Seize the moment – Commissioners; children’s ministers; children should invite key influencers to a Play Party to promote the General Comment on the child’s right to play
Northern Ireland – key action points • Raise the profile of play (use and promote General Comment on Article 31) • Making the ‘play’ connections with the ‘unusual suspects’ (planners, GP’s, social workers, education etc) • Interdepartmental Development Group (IDG for play) grouping to be reconvened – progress play and Leisure PFL Partnerships at a Local Authourity level • Children’s Commissioner’s office (NICCY) and PlayBoard to convene a meeting with Junior Ministers to discuss implications of new General comment • NICCY and PlayBoard to host a public event on Article 31 • Using evidence already gathered to support argument • Investigate process to establish a benchmark for play using Social return on investment process.
England – key action points • Indivisibility of Article 31 • Play sector to support arts and culture lobby – look at reciprocity • Bridge gaps through SkillsActive creative and cultural sector • Changing culture • Using the localism agenda to devolve the reciprocity to build confidence • Seize the moment • Celebrate General Comments x 4 • Group of children to visit first ministers and invite them out to play • Launch IPA young people’s version of General Comments on Newsround in June/Summer • Keith Towler to meet Children’s Commissioner regarding the General Comment and meet Sharon Hodgson to ask a question at parliamentary question time • Consultation/Participation • Train workforce across sectors to engage and measure impact and influence • Partnership • Play Policy Forum • Involving unions • Examine membership • Develop and build current partnerships • Use Children’s Commissioner Forum • Look at themed events with ministers and officials • Look at regional – bottom up approach • DWP funding: NHS Trusts • Have problems + £ = solutions! 28
Conclusion In his summing up the Chair of the symposium, Keith Towler emphasised the importance of providing children with the freedom to roam in their communities. He concluded that the long game regarding the General Comment on Article 31 starts now.
Participants’ feedback The symposium received very positive and constructive feedback. Here is a small selection of participants’ feedback comments taken from the evaluation forms completed at the end of the day. ‘I thought the symposium was excellent, one of the best sessions on any subject I have been to.’ Peter Gomer, Interim Policy Adviser (Leisure, Culture, Tourism & Heritage), Welsh Local Government Association ‘Very useful and thought provoking presentations and interesting discussions.’ ‘Learning from others is key to progress. Given a focus for the way forward allowed clarity in census of next steps.’ ‘Lots of food for thought.’ ‘Excellent range of speeches and perspectives from around the UK. The afternoon was stimulating with interesting and informative, even groundbreaking debate and discussion. It has brought clarity to the immediate future and identified actions for the mid to long term.’ ‘My mind is burning with ideas about the General Comment and how I can incorporate it into what I do.’
Participants list Marc Armitage
Independent Playworking Consultant
Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister
Children’s Rights Policy Officer
Save the Children
Fields In Trust
Natural Childhood Project Manager
Play Team, Children and Families Directorate
Business Support Manager
Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership
Lead – playwork and the children’s workforce
Interim Policy Advisor
Welsh Local Government Association
Policy Officer, Childcare and Play Policy Team
Milton Keynes Play Association
PlayBoard Northern Ireland
Marguerite Hunter Blair
Margaret Jervis MBE DL
Chair of Trustees
Head of Childcare and Play Policy
Commissioner for Children and Young People
Play Team, Children and Families Directorate
Chair of Trustee Board
Board of Directors
PlayBoard Northern Ireland
Scottish Pre-School Play Association
Play Services Manager
North Lanarkshire Council
Chair of Strategic Board
Senior Manager, Childcare and Play Policy Team
PlayBoard Northern Ireland
PlayBoard Northern Ireland
Senior Advocacy Officer
PlayBoard Northern Ireland
Leigh Anne Stradeski
Senior Lecturer in Childhood Studies
Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services
National Manager for Wales
Children’s Commissioner for Wales
Office of the Children’s Commissioner
Chair – Executive Committee
John Valentine Williams OBE
Chair of Trustee Board
Children in Wales
Director of Children’s Services Children’s Links
National Manager for Scotland SkillsActive
Angharad Wyn Jones
4 Nations Play Policy Symposium - Playing the Long Game report