Public play warning falling on deaf ears

The Association of Play Industries has expressed repeated concern about the ongoing decline in public play provision and the long-term affects of children being inactive during lockdown.

The recent #PlayMustStay campaign, undertaken by the API, showed a 44 per cent decrease in spend on public play areas since 2017 and an accompanying survey confirmed that the public were equally concerned at the effects of this reduction.

With lockdown exacerbating the problem of more children shifting towards a more sedentary childhood indoors, the API wrote to government ministers urging them to tell the public when play areas could re-open and asking them to provide a specific funding stream for outdoor play and fitness facilities. Despite encouragement when children were allowed back in to play areas on 4 July, the response from government on funding has been less than supportive. Ministers feel that the funding they have provided to local authorities is sufficient for them to determine the best local provision, but this contrasts sharply with what is actually happening.

Only this week it was announced that several playgrounds would be permanently closed in Nottingham. The API argues that billions of pounds have been committed by the government during the coronavirus crisis to support the economy and yet the amount required to reverse the decline in public play provision and have a positive impact on health and mental well-being is minimal.

Mark Hardy, chair of the API, said: “Children have got out of the habit of being active during lockdown, physical activity is vitally important to our society. Active children become active adults and without a fit and healthy society we are less able to cope with future virus’s and of course the cost of obesity to the public purse is well understood. The relatively small cost of providing specific funding pales into insignificance compared to the health benefits.”