Ever since I started PLAYbynature, this website, this blog, I have been singing the praises of the U.K. model, the work of the last 25+ years of organizations such as PLAY England, PLAY Wales and PLAYLINK, to name a few, that have developed play provision into a reflective profession that protects children’s freedom and right to play.
PLAY Wales has been a leader in this movement from the very beginning, in the U.K. and globally. Their executive director, Mike Greenaway sits on the Board of the International Play Association, IPA World, and was a key influencer of the U.N. comment on the right to play that came out in 2013. This official Comment from a global agency re-iterates that play is a human right for children, a natural right and that our policies and plans for bigger and better subway systems, world class conference centres and intensified neighbourhoods need to include consideration of children at play.
Protecting the right to play and providing for the children also means protecting families, family relationships, school communities and the broader community, rich and poor, immigrant and 3rd generation Canadian, because when the children are developing well – it radiates into every community. But if the children are restless, unhappy, battling obesity, frustrated, lonely, depressed – we develop a whole new set of problems which impact families, schools and the larger community. And it gets very expensive to tackle the problems.
PLAY Wales has done many extra-ordinary things. Among them, they succeeded in getting a law passed, the Play Sufficiency Duty, that enshrined play provision as a legal duty and they were rolling out materials to help local councils figure out how to assess their play provision and comply with that law.
Wales is not a rich country. I don’t really know why the Welsh government has decided to cut the funding, but I imagine it has something to do with fiscal restraint. Can we support this important play organization by showing the Welsh government that PLAY Wales is an internationally recognized exporter of intellectual property and therefore of significant benefit to the economy of Wales.
If you feel you can add your signature to the petition, click here.
If you would like to learn more, see the open letter below, written by another esteemed collegue, Bernard Spiegal of PLAYLINK:
An open letter in respect of the Welsh Government’s decision not to fund PLAY WALES
Our first reaction on hearing of the Welsh Government’s decision to no longer fund Play Wales was, simply, disbelief and shock. At first blush, and subsequently after cool consideration, the decision can only be comprehended either as an act of unwitting self-destruction, or as a bewildering lurch into irrationality.
In terms of the first possibility, an act of self destruction, the Welsh Government, until now, has been widely and justifiably admired for enshrining in legislation children’s right (and need) to play and to take this beyond warm words by requiring local authorities ‘to assess and secure sufficient play opportunities’ – the Play Sufficiency Duty (PSD), a duty, ironically in the circumstances, that came into effect on 1 July.
In Wales, within the UK and also internationally, it is widely acknowledged that the fact that there is a Play Sufficiency Duty owes much – beyond measure – to Play Wales. It is here, in not funding Play Wales, that the Welsh Government has inflicted upon itself an act of self-destruction, wilfully separating itself from an organisation with an unparalleled reputation, that is a rich source of knowledge and understanding about play, knowledge and understanding that is anchored in a proven record of making a difference on the ground – of translating theory into practice as my organisation, PLAYLINK, knows at first hand.
But this is not PLAYLINK’s testimony alone.This from ‘An Analysis of Wales’ Play Sufficiency Assessment Duty’ by the University of Gloucestershire, May 2013:
“This partnership approach was used to full effect in the development and support for the implementation of the Play Sufficiency Assessment (PSA). In interviews, all three nationalpartners involved – Welsh Government, Play Wales and the Welsh Local Government
Association – spoke in very positive terms of the success of their partnership. The WLGA representative felt that the partnership was unique… he had never before experienced such a level of partnership working right from the start… He felt this was down to two key factors:
“‘the reputation of Play Wales: … they are a body with a very strong skillset and obviously at the forefront of play advocacy in terms of the United Nations and international bodies. Plus I think the staff in Welsh Government recognise that there are people out there with expertise that can help them deliver what they want to deliver. It’s a mutual appreciation of other skills and how we can get the best results.'”
The second possible explanation for the decision – irrationality – follows from the first. Given that Play Wales has an unassailable record of achievement, is an organisation of the highest integrity, it simply beggars belief that a key ‘partner’ – a Welsh Government fully cognisant of the organisation’s achievements, which it has experienced for itself – could, if fully conscious, have made its grant decision in any sense ‘rationally’. It can only be that some unbidden flaw embedded itself in all or some aspects of the grant assessment process: the very approach; its structure and process; the criteria against which decisions were made, or the assessment that followed from them. Whichever may be the case, any process that yields a flawed decision should not be allowed to stand. It is in the hands of Government to correct the wrong.
In closing this plea, it is right to return to the positive, to laud the Welsh Government’s achievement in passing the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010, Section 11, the play sufficiency duty. What is potentially most encouraging, is the Welsh Government’s recognition that play is not only an activity that takes place in discrete spaces and at prescribed times; it is not something that can simply be ‘provided’ by adults – this understanding takes us beyond the limited and traditional way of thinking about ‘providing’ for play, that is, primarily through designated playgrounds, useful though they may be in some circumstances.
It is Play Wales, with its understandings, knowledge, practice background, integrity and reputation of high regard that is – beyond contradiction – the only national Welsh organisation capable of working collaboratively with others to create the conditions that will secure play friendly environments for Welsh children. Those ‘conditions’ include, but are not limited to, affecting people’s attitudes to children and young people; planning issues; and the way the shared public realm – parks, streets, open spaces, nature reserves – is conceived and managed.
Along with countless others, I urge you to ensure that the Welsh Government properly funds Play Wales and refreshes what I assume was previously a trust-based relationship, one of supreme utility for Welsh children, the communities in which they live, the organisations committed to their well-being and last, but by no means least, to the Welsh Government itself.
Bernard Spiegal, Director
PLAYLINK is a UK-based, multi-disciplinary play and shared space organisation that has a long history of working with Play Wales. This includes work on health and safety issues, conference speaking and, most recently, in a three way collaboration between Tri-county Play Association, Play Wales and PLAYLINK designing two playable, shared public realm projects, one in Maerdy, the other in Sirhowy Nature Reserve.