ChildLinks Issue 2: Perspectives on Play

Barnardos. (2004). ChildLinks Issue 2: Perspectives on Play.
This edition of ChildLinks, focusing on play, was prompted by the launch by the National Children's Office of Ready, Steady, Play! A National Play Policy earlier this year The document is presented in three colourful formats, ie. a full version, a summary version and a leaflet for children. The vision proposed is "An Ireland where the importance of play is recognised so that children experience a range of quality play opportunities to enrich their childhood." The National Play Policy is the first major publication of the National Children’s Office and it Is encouraging that there was such a high level of consultation with children, children’s organisations and — other stakeholders. To the best of my knowledge this is the first occasion since the adoption of the National Children’s Strategy where Government actively consulted with, listened to and responded to the views of children on a key issue. That is a positive model and precedent for future policy making. The document itself is a very useful resource to those interested in "play" in the broadest meaning of the word. It includes content on the objectives of play, definitions, underlying principles, the broader policy context, as well as useful information in regard to what might be called the state of play in Ireland today. Of interest to the childcare sector, it notes that 77.5% of childcare settings had access to an outdoor play space (2002 figures). It also refers to the fact that "80% of childcare is conducted through the use of childminders, relatives and other informal arrangements... that there is little published information on the overall standard of play opportunities for children in this sector of childminding", The play policy proposes three actions of specific interest to the childcare sector as follows: ° The Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education will address the importance of play in developing quality standards in early childhood care and education. The revised Child Care (Pre-school) Regulations will have a greater emphasis on the importance of play in child development. e Local authorities will monitor compliance with "Childcare Facilities: Guidelines for Planning Authorities" (2001) to ensure that outdoor play facilities are provided in all new facilities. The document also contains case studies of good practice which cover a range of relevant themes such as the importance of play in school, meeting children’s play needs in a_ hospital environment, community playgrounds and international experience. The Action Plan proposes 52 specific actions crossing a range of objectives. The Action Plan is ambitious, innovative — and comprehensive. The commitment to "partnership between Government Departments, agencies, voluntary groups, local communities, families and children" is to be welcomed. What is less clear is the Government commitment to resourcing the Action Plan. While a number of separate funding schemes have been announced in recent weeks and months there has not been a detailed resource plan produced to accompany the Action Plan. Given the importance of play in children’s lives and the quality of this play policy, it is incumbent on all relevant Government Departments and agencies to ensure that the Action Plan is resourced and implemented in full.