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New UK government ‘must address play crisis’, charity warns

Research from Fields in Trust outlined a third of children in Britain don’t have access to any nearby playgrounds. Now, the charity is calling for ministers to consider children’s needs in the upcoming General Election. 

Today, Thursday 6th June 2024, national charity Fields in Trust have published new research which outlines children’s needs in this country aren’t being met. The charity have found that 2.3 million children in Britain under the age of nine, live more than a ten-minute walk away from their nearest playground. This statistic has cast growing concerns for children’s health, wellbeing and physical activity levels. 

brown wooden playground surrounded by green trees during daytime

The findings from Fields in Trust are part of this year’s Green Space Index, a unique annual barometer of publicly accessible park and green space provision across Great Britain.

Experts have theorised that decades of underinvestment and poor planning choices are some of the driving factors behind the lack of playgrounds, with nearly 800 facing closure since 2013.

In addition, the charity also discovered that four in ten councils have more than a third of children living further than a ten-minute walk away from their nearest park. Councillors have warned that they can’t afford to maintain all of its sites, with some play areas having to be ‘removed or repurposed’ to save money.

Fields in Trust has calculated that, on average, a single playground serves 376 children aged up to nine. Although, researchers discovered that in more deprived areas, there is a higher density of children relying on a space to meet their needs leading to overcrowding and unfair access to recreational spaces.

Playgrounds are vital for ‘children’s brain development’

As well as being a space that children can burn off energy, a growing body of research links playgrounds and outdoor play to physical health and wellbeing. Experts have found that parks help combat chronic stress and assist with ADHD and other mental health problems.

Ben, aged seven, who was involved in Fields in Trust’s research, said: ‘At home, I get bored and lonely easily, but I feel energised and free when I am playing outside.’

a young boy running through a sprinkle of water

The lack of outdoor play and playground facilities also reduces the opportunities for children and young people to be active. According to the lates Sport England, which was comprised of 100,000 children and young people, 53% of children do not meet the recommended daily activity target of 60 minutes. What’s more, approximately 35% of 10-and 11-year-olds in England are overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk for serious health implications later in life.

With these facts in mind, Fields in Trust are calling on the next government to prioritise providing more playgrounds and outdoor spaces.

Children should be able to live without boundaries

Following the publication of Fields in Trust’s latest research, various industry-experts have expressed their agreement that the next government should prioritise preserving playgrounds for young people.

‘It’s staggering that one in three children live more than a ten-minute walk from their local playground. This fact alone shows that the needs of children simply aren’t a priority for too many decision makers,’ Paul Lindley OBE, founder of Ella’s Kitchen and children’s campaigner said. ‘As part of a commitment to a better future for all our children we need to make sure they can access places where they can play, learn and grow. That’s a right, not a privilege.’

Dr William Bird MBE, CEO and founder of Intelligent Health and general practitioner, added: ‘Time after time, evidence has shown that children who are given the freedom to play, be curious and connect with nature, will grow up to be more robust and resilient adults. Children’s brains develop differently when they live near a green space, leading to positive outcomes on life expectancy and reducing the likelihood of chronic disease.

‘Fields in Trust’s new report demonstrates that despite green and blue space being absolutely critical to long-term health and wellbeing, we are failing to meet the needs of our children through a lack of quality access.’

Helen Griffiths, chief executive of Fields in Trust, remarked: ‘The upcoming General Election is an opportunity for the new government to take the action needed to reverse years of damage to families and communities.

‘We must take this opportunity for every party to put children’s access to play at the top of their election pledges. But we need to go beyond vague promises, which is why we have created our ‘A Better Future For Parks and Green Spaces’ Manifesto with a set of asks that will deliver a future that parks, people, and nature deserve.

‘It’s time, now more than ever, to take parks and play seriously.’

Images: Oakville News and MI PHAM

More on this topic:

Playground? More like no-go ground: 49% of children never visit the areas

Children’s playground massacre: Parks in London to be replaced by social homes

Emily Whitehouse
Writer and journalist for Newstart Magazine, Social Care Today and Air Quality News.


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