The Chairperson welcomed to the meeting Ms. A. Stallard, representing Playboard NI, and Ms. A. Crawford, representing the Mae Murray Foundation.
The representatives thanked the Committee for the opportunity to present and commenced by providing the Members with an overview of the role of their respective organisations.
Ms. Stallard advised that Playboard NI and the Mae Murray Foundation had been working collaboratively on several pieces of work over the past number of years to find solutions and develop partnerships to promote inclusivity. She advised that this work was underpinned by the work of the UNCRC, in particular, Article 31.
The representative advised that over the last year-and-a-half both organisations had undertaken an extensive piece of work entitled, ‘Let Me Play’ Inclusive Play Park Study, this had looked at the provision of playparks for children with physical, learning, sensory or complex needs who faced exclusion from play parks in Northern Ireland. The results had been launched in March 2022, reporting on the outcomes of the regional online survey, focus groups and play participation sessions that had been undertaken as part of the study.
The Members were advised that from 500 respondents:
· 57% of families had reported that they were unable to use a play park as often as they would like:
· 56% had to travel long distances to access a play park that would meet their play needs; and
· 40% had rated their play park experience as poor or very poor.
Ms. Crawford stated that unfortunately these figures highlighted that many children continued to be excluded from play parks and were not having their play needs meet and she then drew the Members’ attention to the six common barriers faced by families:
· Getting to the Play Park;
· Play Park Site Facilities;
· Access to Play;
· Participation in Play;
· Communication; and
The representative advised that the need for the provision of changing places facilities was one repetitive barrier, amongst others, that had been highlighted as an ongoing concern.
The representatives referred the Members to the 4 Nations and Play Industry Statement. They detailed that the proposed next steps, over the next twelve months, was to build on the ‘Let Me Play’ and PSF Statement. This would involve both organisations working to develop guidance for play providers, aiming to provide the information and guidance needed to enhance both accessible and inclusive play provision, building an Inclusive Play Park model of best practice and working with families, young people, landscape designers and Councils to ensure the co-design of any future schemes.
In terms of the ‘ask’ from the Council, the Members were asked to:
· adopt the ‘Let Me Play’ findings and to apply the recommendations into the park and play park planning processes;
· adopt the terminology, definitions and recommendations from the UK statement – ‘Including Disabled Children in Play Provision’;
· embed participative processes in play park design – involving families and communities throughout the design process;
· undertake a review of the current play park portfolio to ensure all were accessible; and
· build on the above, to initiate a plan to deliver inclusive play parks at strategically placed sites to ensure that children could access inclusive play within a reasonable distance from their home.
Several of the Members commended the valuable work of both organisations undertaken through the ‘Let Me Play’ Inclusive Play Park Study.
During discussion, there was a consensus from the Members that they would be keen to ensure that all children would have access to inclusive and accessible play facilities within a reasonable distance from their home, along with a desire to ensure that the necessary infrastructure was incorporated into any new Council schemes.
Following a suggestion from a Member that the City Centre would make an excellent location for such a play facility. Ms. Crawford advised that the Mae Murray Foundation and Play Board NI intended, in the future, to build a playpark that would be their ‘model of excellence’, she stated that they would be looking at suitable locations throughout Northern Ireland for it to be sited and would be keen to liaise with the Council in this regard.
The Members noted that, as item 4 (b) was a Notice of Motion in relation to Inclusive Play Parks, further discussion would take place regarding the suggestions at this stage in proceedings.
The Chairperson thanked the representatives for their informative presentation, and they retired from the meeting.