To whom are the Children’s Play Policy Forum and Play Safety Forum accountable?

The accountability and transparency of the Children’s Play Policy Forum (CPPF) and the Play Safety Forum (PSF) have been a matter of concern since their inception back in 1997 with the advent of the four Play Contracts initiated by the then Conservative administration.

Initially the membership and structure of the two fora were in the gift of the Contract holders, who, at that time was the National Playing Fields Association (NPFA) (now Fields in Trust), who simply invited those people or organisations that they felt could contribute to the issues around play and communication with Government at that time. When the contracts were passed to the Children’s Play Council criteria for membership was reviewed and Terms of reference were set up.

The fact that recently there has been growing concern about their accountability and transparency is welcome as it perhaps indicates that the two fora are perceived as having been increasingly influential and effective, but which has probably been truer for the PSF than the CPPF. However, regardless of the reason, this is an important issue and one that both fora take seriously.

Maybe the beginning of a new year would be good time to put on record what has been done in the past year to try and respond to this concern; timely too because the sector has been so reduced and transformed as a result of the drastic cuts to local authority and voluntary and community sector play provision. It also appears that the UK Government is more likely to be influenced the third and private sectors rather than democratically elected local authorities. All this only increases the importance of transparency and accountability.

During the past year the most valuable thing that these two fora have done with regard to transparency has been to create their own websites, independent of any host and entirely in their own right. Given that we have no staff or resources, it is a tribute to the four national lead agencies in the play sector – Play England, Play Wales, Play Scotland and PlayBoard Northern Ireland – and particularly to Play Wales that these have been created. The websites in each case give the aims and objectives of each of the Forum, the criteria for membership, the current members and in the case of the Children’s Play Policy Forum the term of office and process for appointment of the Chair, which is currently also being established for the Play Safety Forum.

The membership of each forum is reviewed and discussed often and new members are considered regularly by the existing members. Both fora are open to suggestions of new members and will consider these at meetings. However, the fora do not consider themselves to be formally accountable to any wider membership or constituency, nor is there a wish to be so.

However it is relevant to note that, since Play England has become an independent charity, the four Nations are all now membership organisations and in this respect all four organisations are accountable to their respective membership and elected trustees. In addition the work of the fora is open to all the members of the organisations that participate and on completion is publicised as far as resources allow.

This informality is partly a matter of practicality, but also due to a wish to complement rather than compete with the four national play agencies, who are all active members of both fora, and who each have clear structures for governance and wider accountability. At times this has enabled conversations with officials and politicians that might have not otherwise taken place and compliments the more formal role of the 4 national orgs.

Personally I am extremely proud of the work that has been done by the PSF since I became Chairman in 2002 and believe that attitudes to risk have developed considerably over that period. Indeed I believe that the UK now leads the world in this field!

With regard to the CPPF I am sad that we have been unable to engage with the current administration in any meaningful sense, what has been achieved is much greater coherence between the Nations and greater resilience in what seems to be a hostile political environment. It is tragic that the UK Government has failed to recognise the contribution that children’s play could and should be making to the health, wellbeing and happiness of all children, and it is a cause to which both the CPPF and PSF will remain unfailingly determined!

Blog post written by Robin Sutcliffe, Chair of the Children’s Play Policy Forum and Play Safety Forum

Children’s Play Policy Forum responds to All Party Parliamentary Group report

The Children’s Play Policy Forum welcomes the latest report from the All Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood, which follows on from their recent report on the role of play.

The recommendations in the Group’s report on The National Obesity Framework include:

  • All school staff/break-time supervisors to be given professional training on the benefits of active play and providing access and opportunity for disabled children.
  • All early years and primary settings required to have a clear Play Policy supported by a structured improvement and implementation plan.
  • Children’s centres, early years settings and schools to be encouraged to share information with parents about physical and play activities that families can replicate at home.
  • All local authorities to audit their play space and provision prior to the adoption of a localised Play Strategy

Chair of the Children’s Play Policy Forum, Robin Sutcliffe said:

‘The Forum is delighted that within the broader context of childhood the report has placed a significant emphasis on the role of play. We hope that the Government will recognise and consider the points raised in this report and reflect them in their own Obesity Framework. Naturally the Forum would be happy to contribute to the any such work.’

Download report

Children’s Play Policy Forum responds to parliamentary report on play

A new report published by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood recommends that playing is crucial to children’s health and wellbeing.

The report has received widespread media attention that has focused on the necessity of providing risky play opportunities as part of a healthy childhood. Whist agreeing that risk taking opportunities are essential to children, the Children’s Play Policy Forum (CPPF) would argue that play is much more than that.

There is much in the report with which the CPPF agrees. However, whilst not going as far as many of us might have hoped the report makes a number of useful suggestions for supporting the development of play provision across the UK.

Robin Sutcliffe, Chair of the Children’s Play Policy Forum said:

‘The Children’s Play Policy Forum welcomes the report on Play of the All Party Political Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood and supports the whole child philosophy contained within the series of reports produced by the APPG. The CPPF hopes that the APPG will succeed in raising the profile of play and engaging politicians in realising the benefits that play can bring to the health and lives of children.

‘The CPPF would welcome the opportunity to work with Members of Parliament and parliamentary groups with an interest in furthering these aims. Specifically the CPPF has recently produced both research (The Play Return: A review of the wider impact of play initiatives) and specific recommendations (Four asks for play) that are in harmony with the report. We would like to invite those with an interest in these to discuss with us their relevance either individually or collectively in order to develop policy which we could all share.’

Download Play report