Chris Leslie, MP for Nottingham East, called upon the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government to commission a thorough report into the state of play in the UK – following on from the API’s Nowhere to play report which uncovered a steep decline in the number of playgrounds in England with 448 closed or closing.
“With rising levels of childhood obesity and a deepening crisis in children’s mental health, research is urgently needed into the correlation between these issues and the deprivation experienced in some areas where free play opportunities are lacking.
“It’s now time to drive forward a renaissance in children’s play across the country so that the physical and mental health benefits of outdoor play are opened up to children from all backgrounds.
“I will be asking the government for a clear show of support for play and the benefits it brings to children, families and communities. A relatively modest investment in playground provision now will help reverse the downward trend.
“The worsening childhood obesity crisis means that the provision of spaces for children to play and get active has to take priority. Children with a playground within 1km of their home are five times more likely to be of a healthy weight.
“For many children living in deprived areas – who are more than twice as likely to be obese than those in more affluent areas – playgrounds are often their only chance to play outdoors.
“We would expect to find a higher incidence of childhood obesity in deprived areas where free play opportunities are limited. Research into the prevalence of obesity and other health issues in certain geographic areas could examine these correlations and ultimately guide decision-making.
“Play is fundamental to children’s wellbeing. If play is restricted there are likely to be profound effects upon their physical and mental health, both now and in the future. Although not a silver bullet, a well-maintained community play area fosters social cohesion, inspires children to get active and can transform a community.”
Mr Leslie drew fresh attention to an issue that many may be unaware of: The number of playgrounds in the UK is dwindling at an alarming rate and, if we’re not careful, these free, local and safe spaces for children to play in could be lost forever.
Mr Leslie also called for urgent research into the state of UK playground provision and the link with childhood obesity and mental health problems.
Alongside a well overdue investment of £100 million to reverse the downward trend in playgrounds found in the API’s Nowhere To Play report, Mr Leslie asked the Minister to prioritise play and playgrounds by commissioning research to drive public policy and to ensure that children’s voices are represented.
For more information, please visit http://www.api-play.org/news/BLOG
Information taken from the API website.