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View from the community: We need facilities to let children play

PUBLISHED: 08:00 02 September 2018

Kevin Jenkins

Regular readers of my opinion pieces will know the value I place on children's and my support for the United Nations declaration that it is the 'Right of Every Child to Play'.

Sadly only Wales have used the UN declaration to underpin a statuary play offer. Since 2010 every Welsh local authority “must secure sufficient play opportunities in its area for children.”

Elsewhere across England and especially in London, hundreds of adventure playgrounds, after school, weekend and holiday play clubs have closed as authorities have increasingly struggled to maintain the services they are required to by statute.

I am heartened and encouraged by the recent intervention o the Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield at the weekend. She warns that children are leading a ‘battery hen existence’ during the summer holidays, that it is damaging their mental health contributing to violence and ensuring that they return to school in worse health than when they left – she believes that radical measures are needed to resolve the importance of play.

The commissioner proposes that the ‘sugar tax’ (approx £240m expected to be raised this year) should be used to boost play outside school times.

Currently it is proposed that the proceeds from the tax be spent on providing breakfast clubs in schools and sports clubs.

Without a base underpinning play, nothing will happen, no matter how valuable having access to staffed play opportunities is to children, especially those living in poverty – which 43 per cent of Newham children do daily.

While quite rightly there are increasing moves towards reinstalling a youth service, without a play or junior youth service – the value of the youth service itself is compromised.

I would urge Newham’s Mayor to consider widening her declared and extremely welcome commitment to increasing youth hubs in the borough to include a phased programme of re-introducing out of school staffed play opportunities.

Parents, residents and groups interested in working to restore play opportunities in Newham are very welcome to join the Let Newham Play Again Group – a loose alliance committed to doing so – further details from kjenservices@hotmail.com

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