API calls on UK government to include Play in the Mental Health Act
The Association of Play Industries has written to the Government as part of a campaign organised by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood that comprises academics, service providers, charities and practitioners.
An open meeting was called by the APPGFHC on 8 February in response to the publication of the Mental Health White Paper which appears to focus heavily on treatments and cures at the expense of prevention. The 70+ attendees have been urged to respond to the White Paper and submit the legislation they would like to see to the Select Committee on Health and Social Care: Inquiry into ‘Children and young people’s mental health’.
API Chair, Mark Hardy, said: “Providing outdoor play opportunities is both a protective and a preventative public health measure and urgent and sustained investment in a national network of community playgrounds is needed to safeguard children’s mental health.
“The Government must ask why children’s mental health is in crisis and implement policies to prevent so many children reaching breaking point. Outdoor play is essential to children’s normal development and a key factor in their mental health and emotional wellbeing and yet the numbers of public, free-to-access play spaces are in steep decline. The vast majority of children in the UK live in urban areas and without playgrounds their opportunities to play outside are few. For children in the 1 in 8 UK households without gardens, playgrounds are often the only outdoor space in which to play.
“The repeated lockdowns of the last year have meant that children have been under varying degrees of house arrest for months, exacerbating an already worrying trend from outdoor to indoor time. Children and young people’s increasing dependency on screens and technology for entertainment has to be countered by upping the access children have to local ‘doorstep’ play areas which are high-quality, safe, fun and free to all.
“The relatively modest investment required to create a sustainable network of public playgrounds across the UK would have a substantial, positive effect on the mental health of children and represent a simple yet highly effective public health measure. The pandemic has exposed serious inequalities amongst children and young people: public play facilities for all children are essential if we are truly to ‘Level Up’ and ‘Build Back Better’ and place children’s mental health at the heart of recovery.”
Read API’s submission