PlayBoard: putting play on the agenda

Jackie An outline of the organisation’s work and how play can be encouraged by government policy.

Who are PlayBoard?

PlayBoard is Northern Ireland’s lead NGO for children’s play and as such the organisation has established a strong profile of championing and advocating for children’s play and children’s rights. Over the last 27 years operating as an umbrella membership body, PlayBoard has supported the development and implementation of play innovation. Our accumulation of knowledge and practical application on the subject of play and playwork has meant that the organisation has grown in experience and reputation with an ever increasing sphere of influence at regional and local levels. Our track record and multi-disciplinary relationships have proved instrumental in assisting us drive and influence policy for play at numerous levels.

What do you do?

PlayBoard provides advice, support and training to highlight that play, as a basic human right, is fundamental to children’s happiness, well-being, learning and development. The organisation campaigns to raise awareness and develop partnerships in order to promote the holistic benefits of playing.

Why is your work important?

Children growing up today encounter many societal pressures and constraints, for example, growing up in increasingly urbanised environments with little or no access to nature, fear of real or perceived crime and, of course, the perception of dangerous strangers. Technological advancement and consumerist pressures along with our quest for educational attainment mean that more and more children are experiencing stressed, anxious and fearful childhoods.

Play is the most natural medium for children’s learning and development; it is the mechanism that children use to acquire valuable life skills and coping strategies. However, children today do not have the same freedoms or spaces to play in, that previous generations took for granted. Research highlights that in the space of one generation, play and outdoor opportunities for play have been reduced by almost ninety per cent. The growing needs and expectations of contemporary society mean that opportunities for outdoor play are ever decreasing.

Do you think the Northern Ireland Executive understands why investment in play is important?

From 2009 to 2011 PlayBoard worked with the Executive to develop Northern Ireland’s first Play and Leisure Policy and Implementation Framework. This inclusive and collaborative process to policy development demonstrated the Executive’s commitment to children and young people’s policy. The cumulative approach resulted in ‘Play and Leisure’ receiving Executive endorsement in March 2011.

However, one year on, we are disappointed to report that departmentally there has been little, or no, progress on actions contained within the plan.

PlayBoard believes that the following policy changes should be made:

• Early intervention rather than remedial action needs to be developed as a central plank of children’s policy formation;

• Northern Ireland urgently needs a coherent political and interdepartmental manifesto for the development and implementation of children and young people’s policy;

• Strong leadership and action backed by appropriate resourcing is required if policy rhetoric is to translate into action and measured outcomes;

• The play and leisure policy framework needs to be promoted and recognised within the current outcome agenda as established in the ‘Our Pledge’ 10-year Children’s Strategy;

• Policy-makers and resource providers should take cognisance of the importance of play, realising that play and the conditions that support play are much wider than a children’s policy remit i.e. planning, housing, transport, community policing etc.

7 Crescent Gardens, Belfast, BT7 1NS

Tel: 028 9080 3380 / Fax: 028 9080 3381



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