Government policy for play

The Play Strategy and other government policy

The Play Strategy sets out the government’s commitment to delivering better play opportunities in England.

It’s supported by a £235 million investment, with the aim of ensuring every residential area has a variety of high-quality places for all children to play safely and free of charge. This will mean up to 3,500 new or refurbished play areas to be developed by 2011, plus 30 new adventure playgrounds or play parks. Government funding through The Play Strategy is intended to enhance and improve local authority provision. Local authorities should not be using this funding to replace or otherwise scale back on local play funding and budgets.

Of course, when local people have a sense of ownership and responsibility for their children’s play spaces, they are usually more willing to look after the facilities. That’s why local authorities are required under the terms and conditions of The Play Strategy grant programme to ensure children and communities are engaged and consulted, involving them in design, planning and ongoing ownership of these play spaces.

The government expects local authorities to ensure that communities and the third sector will be engaged and involved in the delivery of local play provision. 

The Play Strategy includes a commitment to increase supervision of play and volunteering by supporting the links between local authorities, the third sector and community policing. This recognises the role of parents and other local people as volunteers, as well as the role of qualified playworkers, play rangers and friends of parks groups, in supporting local play provision.


Local Area Agreements

Your local authority will have a Local Area Agreement (LAA) and will undergo a Comprehensive Area Assessment (CAA) inspection.

Each LAA has a selection of specified national indicator targets, drawn from the National Indicator Set, which have been agreed by the local authority and government as priorities for the local area.

As part of the annual CAA process, the joint inspectorate will also perform a more general assessment of every top tier local authority against the full range of national indicators and local services, including play and leisure provision. The CAA will also take into account your local authority's performance in meeting local priorities as identified in the LAA.

From April 2009, the National Indicator Set includes a new indicator, NI 199. This measures the satisfaction of children and young people with their local parks and play areas.

Play England has produced information about how play contributes to the National Indicator Set and it is worth considering which indicators are prioritised in your area’s LAA. This will help you argue the case for your play project if you are seeking funding or support from your local council or other government supported body.

More information about local strategic planning for play provision and involving residents and communities groups can be found in Embedding the Play Strategy, which Play England published for consultation in October 2009.


Local democracy

The Communities and Local Government White Paper Communities in Control: real people, real power offers a blueprint for how communities can be given more control over local decisions and services.

It gives individuals and communities real opportunities to better influence children’s services and the provision of local play facilities.

In April 2009, a new duty on local councils to involve local people in key decisions was introduced, encouraging local authorities to develop a culture of community engagement, including when regenerating or developing play space. Connecting Communities, a new programme announced in October 2009, will provide support for local neighbourhoods and estates to strengthen local leadership, give people a voice and increase local opportunities.


Communities and the third sector

The Office of the Third Sector (OTS) aims to build a thriving third sector.

It supports the work of voluntary and community groups, social enterprises, charities, cooperatives and mutuals.

Its work, as part of the Cabinet Office, is enabling the sector to campaign for change, deliver public services, promote social enterprise and strengthen communities. Between 2008-2011, OTS will invest over £515 million in third sector programmes.

In summary, OTS works in partnership with central and local government and the third sector to:

  • enable campaigning and empowerment, particularly for those at risk of social exclusion
  • strengthen communities, drawing together people from different sections of society
  • transform public services, through delivery, design, innovation and campaigning
  • enable social enterprise growth and development, combining business and social goals.

Useful resources

Communities and Local Government
This government department provides advice and support to help organisations create strong, attractive and thriving neighbourhoods and communities.
Community Power Pack: Real People, Real Power
A Communities and Local Government guide to help people play a more active role in their community and influence decisions that matter to them.
Embedding the Play Strategy
This guidance from DCSF will help local authorities and their partners to improve local play offers by embedding everyday opportunities for healthy, active play within top-level strategies for children, communities and spatial planning. It emphasises the need for collaboration with the voluntary and community sector.
How children’s play contributes to the National Indicator Set
This Play England document suggests the ways that play provision can support local authority performance against a number of indicators in the National Indicator Set.
Office of the Third Sector
As part of the Cabinet Office, the Office of the Third Sector (OTS) leads work across government to support the environment for a thriving third sector (voluntary and community groups, social enterprises, charities, cooperatives and mutuals), enabling the sector to campaign for change, deliver public services, promote social enterprise and strengthen communities.
Play: An essential part of your Local Area Agreement
A Play England briefing showing how play contributes to the five Every Child Matters outcomes and other areas of the Local Area Agreement.
Play and outcomes for children and young people
A DCSF commissioned literature review to inform the national evaluation of the play pathfinder and playbuilder programmes.
The Play Strategy
The government’s first national Play Strategy, produced by DCSF.
The Play Strategy: Evidence summary
Research and statistics used to support The Play Strategy and a summary of responses from children and adults to the Fair Play consultation.