Playing Makes Economic Sense

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Last week at the National Playwork Conference Dens of Equality/Parks for Play won the award for the ‘best playwork in other context’. This award is for a playwork approach used in non ‘playwork-traditional’ context. We were competing against playwork within school provision and other education or learning, creative work within communities – in fact almost anywhere where ‘playwork is the medium and not the context’. Dens of Equality and Parks for Play continue as regular funding streams dry up and finding new ways to deliver a playwork service, while picking up awards like this for best practice nationally.

Back in Birmingham we ran a breakfast meeting to show our latest Parks for Play film and to discuss work with our Birmingham City Council partners to develop longer term strategies for funding. Parks4Play run Playwell – the only fully inclusive provider of after-school care in the UK. While provision for disabled children nationally is shockingly poor, it underlies a wider mis-understanding about the needs for specialist childcare and recognising its benefits.

Parents of disabled children want to work to provide for their families and not be dependent on the state. Playwell also provides vital social context for both the children and their families to learn, develop socially and, not least, to play. The families who have access to Playwell are the lucky ones. Across Birmingham and UK there are families with disabled children where parents want to work but can’t. Their children, likewise are in poverty, dependent on the state and isolated with little or no play opportunities.

There are 84,000 children across Birmingham in poverty. How many of them are disabled? How many of them have parents able and willing to work but find themselves unable to work because they are caring full-time for their children?

After-school care like Playwell is part of the solution to high levels of poverty and effective support for families with disabled children. When will both the economic and welfare benefits of childcare like Playwell be recognized and best practice like this be spread across the UK?