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					 Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council




“PLAN FOR PLAY”
  Children’s Play in Basingstoke and Deane

               Revised 2006
                                        CONTENTS

                                                   Page No.

Introduction                                       3

Defining Play                                      4

Is Play Beneficial?                                5

Best Value                                         7

A Strategy for Play                                8

Physical Environment                               8

Social Environment                                 9

Space for Play                                     10

Play Areas in the Borough                          10

“Play” and “Visit” Playgrounds                     11

Improving Playgrounds                              12

Borough Local Plan                                 13

Rural Play Areas                                   13

Partners for Play                                  14

Review of Plan For Play- Introduction              16

Physical Environment                               17

Social Environment                                 17

Space for Play                                     17

Play (Open Access)                                 17

Care                                               18




                                          1
                                        Page No.

A Play Network                          18

Community Involvement                   18

Children’s Access                       18

Adult/Child Ratios                      18

Eleven & Older                          18

Special Needs                           19

Rural Playschemes                       19

Play Officer                            19

Conclusions of Plan For Play            20

Playwork in Basingstoke and Deane       30

Appendix                                40

Conclusions                             42




                                    2
                               BASINGSTOKE AND DEANE

                                       Plan for Play

Introduction

This Report was commissioned by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and
undertaken by ILAM Services Consultancy Practice. The consultant responsible was Rob
Wheway MSc, Med, MILAM, MIMgt who is Principal Consultant – Children’s Play to ILAM
Services.

A variety of methods were used to gather the research material on which this Report is
based.

     Visits to holiday playschemes run by Basingstoke Play Limited (formerly known as
     Basingstoke Play Council) and by other organisations such as schools supported by
     Hampshire County Council to make observations of the play activities.

     Interviews with children and staff at the playschemes.

     Follow up interviews with Officers from Basingstoke Play Limited and from school
     based playschemes.

     Visits to a selection of play areas in both urban and rural areas to observe use and to
     assess local customs and practices regarding design and choice of equipment.

     Interviews with appropriate Officers of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and
     with John Wilkinson, Head of Early Education and Childcare Unit of Hampshire County
     Council.

     Inspection of various reports and other documentation supplied by Basingstoke and
     Deane Borough Council.

In addition it was agreed to undertake a survey of children aged 8 to 12 throughout the
Borough. Given the short time-scales it was agreed that this be undertaken in co-operation
with Hampshire County Council and John Wilkinson was most helpful in assisting with the
liaison with schools and encouraging a positive response.

This Report refers to play in the environment, play on playgrounds and play at playschemes
(with playwork).

This Report on playwork was submitted in October 1999 and is included with this Report as
an appendix.

An analysis of the survey material has been made and is submitted in conjunction with this
Report.




                                              3
Defining Play

“The right to play is a child’s first claim on the community. Play is nature’s training for life.
No community can infringe on its right without doing deep and enduring harm to the bodies
and minds of its future citizens” (Lloyd George 1926).

Play is an activity, which we all recognise when we see it; however it tends to elude precise
definition. For purposes of strategic policy making “Play is nature’s training for life”
recognises its value but does not suggest what is or what is not, play.

There is no widely accepted definition of play which would serve this purpose. There is a
definition of some of the properties of play which has been widely recognised throughout
the play world and does assist for these purposes. (Attrib. Hughes B.).

Play is:

     Freely chosen.

     Personally directed.

     Intrinsically motivated.

Freely Chosen

Play is differentiated from many other childhood activities such as school, therapies,
domestic tasks, interest lessons (music, swimming, etc) by children’s ability to play as they
want to and when they want to. Clearly there are environmental, time constraints etc. It is
therefore essential that a play strategy is based on freedom to choose.

This is not to say that other activities are not valuable and do not enhance children’s lives.
Children may for instance freely choose to go to clubs or, within a therapy, have elements
of free choice. A play strategy will include reference to these other opportunities. However,
a strategy which has organised activities at its heart, rather than the freedom to choose, will
not be a play strategy.
“Play means what children and young people do when they follow their own ideas and
interests, in their own way and for their own reasons’. (Getting serious about play 2004)

Personally Directed

A second element of play is that the children direct the activity themselves; they decide on
its scope, its rules, its end etc. If children are playing at football and cricket they decide the
rules. These rules will almost certainly have significant differences from those of the TCCB
or the FA. The pitch will not be regulation size; neither will the goals/wickets. The numbers
in each team will not be eleven and specific rules will be made to cope with the
circumstances e.g. ‘hit the ball over someone’s garden and it’s six and you’re out’; ‘a catch
must be one-handed if it comes off a roof’.


                                                4
Singing games do not have to be in tune, start at the beginning and finish at the end, and
words and notes can be changed at will.

Again many other sporting and arts activities do enhance children’s lives and reference to
these will be included in an overall play strategy. However, play strategy must have at its
heart the ability for children to direct the activities themselves.

Intrinsically Motivated

Play is undertaken for its own sake. It is fun. For the child that is its reward. Whilst as
adults we understand that it has a significant development impact, that development is
derived from children undertaking it because it is fun.

This is not to devalue what is done in more formal learning situations or in competitions
where the prime motivation is winning rather than taking part. However, a policy based on
an adult curriculum, with rewards or status proffered by adults, will not be a play policy.

Is Play Beneficial?

The Children Act 2004
Local authorities are required, under Section 17 of the Act, to produce a single strategic
Children and Young People’s Plan for all services affecting children and young people,
including play and leisure. The plan should set out a vision for children and young people
and detail the priorities and actions for delivering it. The local authority must consult widely
and include children, young people and their parents or carers, the voluntary and
community sector, as well as the key partners within the children’s trust.

Most adults, when asked about their childhood experiences, will talk with enthusiasm about
when they played. There is therefore a feeling that there was something good about it and
probably beneficial. This can however be countered by a lack of conventional measures by
which success might be assessed. There are no certificates, badges or grades; there is no
increased salary or promotion. And, whilst parents may keep the odd photograph, painting
or piece of writing, there is otherwise no tangible product for what clearly occupied a
significant proportion of a child’s life.

The benefits, which are believed to derive from play, are however regarded as significant.

They are sometimes popularly described using the acronym SPICE. That is children
develop through their play Socially, Physically, Intellectually, Creatively, Emotionally.

Various studies have been undertaken of the benefit to children through their play,
however, these have tended to consider play when used therapeutically and/or in a
relatively controlled situation. The problem for the researcher is that it would clearly be
wrong to deliberately deprive some children of play to act as a control against those who
did play.

Recent research in Zurich (Huttenmoser, Degen-Zimmermann – “Lebensraume fur kinder”)
looked at five-year-old children entering kindergarten. It compared those children who


                                               5
could play “freely and without danger near their homes” with those who could not. It found
that those who could not “showed a considerably less advanced social and motor
development, and they were less autonomous.”

It found, perhaps not unexpectedly, that those children who could play outside had more
friends. They also found that, not only did their parents have more friends as well, but that
they had three times as many people they could call on for baby sitting assistance.

The majority of the families interviewed were middle-class car owners and many of those
parents were already ferrying their children around to specific activities. The research
found that this ferrying did not compensate for the freedom to play outside near their own
homes.

These findings should not be surprising. Much of children’s social and emotional
development comes from joining together with other children making agreements about
rules and conduct and then learning to cope when there are disputes.

This ability to make agreements and stick by them, and to reach them through rational
discussion rather than instinctively, is the basis of our civilisation. It is highly sophisticated
to admit when you are out at hide and seek or rounders so that there is fun of the group of
friends as a whole, rather not admit it for reasons of selfishness.

Children learn these skills through constantly practising them, facing disappointments and
overcoming them (personally directed), but essentially they do it because that is the way to
the most fun (intrinsically motivated).

If children are learning to make their own minds up when and where to undertaken
activities, thereby gaining in confidence, and are also making significant contributions to the
agreement-making processes, then it follows that their self confidence will make them more
autonomous.

When children can play outside they do. There they are instinctively active, that is a
significant proportion of the time is spent in physical movement (Millward, Wheway –
Child’s Play: Facilitating play on housing estates). This physical activity is not merely
restricted to exercise alone, important though that is, but would also include such as
hand/foot and eye co-ordination.

Virtually half the days in the year are full days for play (weekends and holidays) and school
days, particularly during the lighter evenings, contain significant time for play. Where
children can play out they will exercise themselves for significant periods. Where however
they can only undertake exercise when accompanied by a parent then they will be
restricted to the time the parent can devote to the excursion. This will usually be a
significantly lesser period.

Every Child Matters: Change for children is the Government’s overarching approach to the
well-being of children and young people. It is founded on five key outcomes: being healthy;
staying safe; enjoying and achieving; making a positive contribution; and achieving
economic well being. Along with culture and sport, play organisations have a central role in
helping to deliver these five outcomes.


                                                 6
Best Value

In this Report the recommendations and comments that are made are based on an implied
aim, that is:

‘To ensure play opportunities for all children who live in Basingstoke and Deane’.


The word “opportunities” is deliberately used, rather than “facilities” or “services”.
Children’s “opportunities” to play may be improved without any specific play facility or
service being provided.

In this way it is the outcomes that are important and should be measured, rather than the
outputs.

The word “ensure” is used rather than “provide”. This recognises that the Authority can
work in partnership with its citizens, community groups, voluntary organisations and the
commercial sector to ensure that opportunities exist, rather than the Council having
necessarily to provide them itself.

It also recognises that, by providing encouragement, co-ordination or taking initiatives, the
Authority’s resources can have a multiplier effect and generate more opportunities than
would exist if the same resources were spent directly on provision.




                                              7
                                     A Strategy for Play

This report will suggest a hierarchy within a strategic plan for play.

(a)   Environment for Play

(b) Space for Play

(c)   People for Play

(d) Partners for Play

The rationale is that virtually all children’s play opportunities are limited or enhanced by
decisions made by their local authority concerning the environment of the neighbourhood in
which they live.

The majority of children’s play opportunities can be enhanced by deliberate retention,
provision or enhancement of spaces where they can play (playgrounds, parks, public open
space etc).

Many children’s play opportunities are improved by adults (playworkers), both volunteer
and paid, who can stimulate creative play opportunities and encourage a wider range of
opportunities than would otherwise be the case. They can also create very positive
opportunities for children who might otherwise be excluded from many activities.

There are many other partners who can provide enhanced leisure opportunities for children.
These include leisure provision (swimming pools, libraries), youth service, arts and sports
based clubs, uniformed organisation, commercial organisations (bowling, indoor
playgrounds), schools etc. These can all enhance the variety of opportunities available to
children.

Physical Environment

The most significant impact on children’s play opportunities is whether they feel safe to
move around their own neighbourhood and play with their friends. There is a direct
correlation between the flow of motorised traffic and the willingness of parents to allow their
children to play outside.

Where parents feel the children are safe they will let toddlers play outside on the front
doorstep or in the garden where they can be seen. As they get older children will start to
move further afield; firstly playing in the street itself, then being allowed to play outside
another trusted adult’s house (usually a friend’s parent or a relative). They then move to
being restricted to agreed boundaries or specific journeys. Then as they leave childhood all
restrictions are lifted.

These benefits can be seen in Basingstoke where by the design of roads or the provision of
foot/cycle-ways some children can travel further than in other areas.




                                                8
Where children feel safe to travel round not only will they benefit from being able to play
with more of their friends, but will also be able to use more of the facilities provided. The
number of facilities available to children will therefore be increased without any increase in
the absolute number of facilities.


Home Zones

The Government has recognised the benefits to children’s physical and social health of
being able to move around within their own neighbourhood, as well as the benefits to the
community as a whole. They have a policy of promoting “Home Zones”.

A home zone is a street, or group of streets, where pedestrians have priority and cars travel
at little more than walking pace.

Home Zones – ‘challenging the future of our streets’ was published in 2005 by DfT. It
shares good practice in Home Zone designs and scheme development, drawing particularly
on the experience gathered from the Home Zone Challenge.

No amount of quality play provision will make a difference to a child who is not able to
access it. To combat this, DfT encourages local authorities to pay particular attention to
tackling issues of accessibility for those from disadvantaged groups, such as those living in
deprived communities.

RECOMMENDATIONS

   1) That the Council ensures that residents are aware of the benefits to children’s
      physical and social development, and the benefits to the community as a whole,
      from them being able to access their own neighbourhood by foot or by cycle.

   2) That, where it is desired by the majority of local residents, including children, then
      there be an assumption that priority on residential roads will be given to pedestrians
      and cyclists, over motorised traffic unless the road fulfils some necessary distribution
      function.

Social Environment

Children are often perceived as a nuisance. This would appear to be particularly true
where they, or their parents, are unknown to the complainant.

If children are to have the freedom to play then they have as much right to traverse the
pavements and use the open spaces as any other section of the community. They do not
have a greater right to do anything which might be dangerous or harmful to others or
themselves.
Where there is a perceived nuisance much can be achieved by promoting mediation. In
this children are treated as partners within the community who are capable of reaching
reasonable compromises on what is appropriate behaviour. The Council has also used
video/drama for this purpose.



                                               9
Consultations should encourage and support participation by children which will then give a
realistic assessment of the feelings of the community as a whole.

This will not solve all disputes, however, in the majority of cases, it is likely to lead to a
more successful resolution than would otherwise be the case and, in some instances, will
result in significantly improved relationships between adults and children.



RECOMMENDATION

   1) The Council have a policy of mediation as its first course of action where there are
      disputes concerning children playing. This will mean developing strategies for
      developing contacts with children involved and also entail liaison with police,
      schools, youth workers, community leaders, etc.

Space for Play

The opportunities for children’s play are increased by deliberately enhancing the
environment; such enhancements include the provision of play areas, public open space
parks etc and improvements to them which increase play opportunities.

Research has shown that children’s usual play place is where they can “see and be seen”,
that is they are within sight of their own home, or a friend’s home, so that they are within the
security provided by a parent, friend’s parent or other trusted adults.

Children also prefer to play in places “where it’s at”. That is places where there is a good
possibility that they will meet and be able to interact with other members of the community.
This is why children often gather in front of shops and tend to play in front, rather than back,
gardens.

Play areas, which do not fulfil these two criteria, often tend to be less well-used, and more
likely to suffer from unacceptable behaviour.

When children play they tend to stay in one place for a relatively short time. They move
from home to a friend’s, to a play area, to a tree, to another friend’s, back home for the
toilet or money for the ice-cream van all within an hour or so.

This choosing where and how to play is an essential part of their play. Attempts to use play
areas as “corrals” in which children are kept safe, as well as being an infringement of their
liberty, will almost certainly fail.

Play Areas in the Borough

A number of play areas were visited both in Basingstoke and the surrounding towns and
villages. Whilst this was not a full analysis of all the playgrounds, some common themes
did emerge.




                                               10
A number of the sites, particularly in the rural areas, were quite isolated, often both visually
and geographically. The consequence is that they appeared little used. It was also often
the case that children’s homes were separated from the play areas by an un-calmed road.
This acts as an effective barrier for use of the playground by the children.

At some of the villages the sites were so far away from the housing that it is doubtful
whether children reached the play areas unaccompanied with any regularity and some,
were situated in such locations that virtually all the people would need to go by car.

Some are sited so that sightlines from nearby housing are poor and parental supervision is
therefore very limited.

The condition of the equipment appeared to be generally reasonably good. However it was
surprising the number of items that still had tarmac or concrete slabs underneath, rather
than impact absorbing surfaces.

Impact absorbing surfaces have been recommended since 1978 when the Department of
the Environment wrote to all the Local Authorities. The Council would therefore be in a
relatively weak position if accidents were to happen, particularly where there are concrete
slabs, which also act as trip hazards. There is a programme of improvements based on
risk assessments.

In Basingstoke itself, on some estates, there are numerous play areas that are quite close
to the housing. It may be possible in some instances to reduce either the number of play
areas, or the items of equipment on the play areas, without a significant loss of play value
to the children.

Further observational research does need to be taken in this regard and should be helpful
in making other judgements.

“Play” and “Visit” Playgrounds

Besides the LAP/LEAP/NEAP categorisation, as recommended by the NPFA and used by
the Audit Commission, there is an additional way of categorising playgrounds. That is
whether they are essentially for local children, or whether they serve as a facility to be
visited.

A “play” facility will be within easy travelling distance of the children who use it. They will go
there unaccompanied. They will come and go as they decide. Whilst parents may be
encouraged to be present by the provision of seats, it will almost always be the case that
adults constitute a small minority of those present and that quite often there will be children
present without any adults there.

A “visit” facility is one which, by virtue of distance or location, is not visited by many children
of their own. The majority of children will have been taken there by parents, grandparents
or other adults. It will nearly always be the case that there are almost as many adults
present as there are children.




                                                11
Both are beneficial; the first being primarily for children, the second being primarily for
family groups. Clearly some facilities do fulfil both criteria, however these tend to be a
smaller number than might be expected.

A policy of creating “visit” playgrounds alone, though superficially beneficial as they do
often appear well attended and popular, would not address the “play” needs of the children.

Improving Playgrounds

In deciding whether to enhance, modify or remove playgrounds the Authority bases its
decisions on a variety of criteria. The following are suggested to assist in making those
decisions:


Use

Do children use the site or, if not, can changes be made which will increase use? Such
changes might include cutting back walls or bushes to improve sightlines, traffic calming the
adjacent road or, if it is a visit area, then ensuring the area is also attractive to adults so that
they are more likely to accompany children.

Age Appropriate

Is the equipment appropriate for its location and the ages of children in the area (is it in the
area of family housing)? If it is not age appropriate then the remedy might be a change in
the equipment or a re-location.

Children up to the age of 14 or 15 still play out and go to playgrounds. Provision of some
more challenging items, room for ball games or wheeled play and the provision of meeting
places (without reducing sightlines) can significantly improve their opportunities and often
reduce their domination of facilities for younger children.

Play Value

A play value score alone can be misleading. The questions should always be asked “Is the
play value appropriate for the site”. Would different items improve the play value and “Is
there equipment which could be removed without any loss in play value?”

If items can be removed without loss of play value this may release maintenance funds, or
funds designated for impact absorbing surfaces, which might then give opportunities for
equipment of a better play value.

Risk Assessment

A risk assessment is helpful in prioritising action. However, it has limitations when used as
a strategic tool.

In these circumstances a separation needs to be made between two separate types of risk:



                                                12
(a)   Those risks which are an inherent part of the design of the playground or items of
      equipment and which would require large capital costs to remedy. These would
      include replacement of dangerous items, installing of impact absorbing surfaces.

(b)   Those risks which are essentially part of routine maintenance, or those which can be
      rectified within normal maintenance spending. Besides damage and breakage these
      would include such things as the replacement of hard swing seats with impact
      absorbing seats.

Remedying maintenance and similar problems even it “high risk” will probably require
improvements to the inspection and maintenance regime rather than changes to the capital
spending programme.



Borough Local Plan

The Borough Local Plan of January 1998 recommended a movement away from local small
play areas into “fewer larger and better equipped play areas”.

In some areas of Basingstoke there are a large number of play areas close to houses. In
these circumstances it is reasonable to reduce the number and, on some, reduce the items
of equipment.

There could however be a policy shift where none might have been intended. That is that
there would be a change from “play” facilities to “visit” facilities. These are two distinct but
complementary types of facility, which are explained elsewhere in this Report.
Within the plan the recommendations of linking open spaces by footpaths and cycle ways is
helpful to children.

The plan could be improved if there were a greater emphasis on the ability for parents to
have oversight of the play area from a main window or door of their house. The ability of
young children to be able to access the play areas safely should also be a requirement.

Rural Play Areas

Basingstoke has numerous small villages and settlements which, no doubt, do not wish
their children to be overlooked when play areas are provided.

The play areas within the rural villages and settlements tend to be located by the village hall
or on the playing field. The consequence is that some appear to be relatively little used.
This is particularly true where they are some distance from the houses, or where children
would have to travel along a busy road to get to the playground.

In these circumstances it would appear that the playgrounds are used if adults bring
children, perhaps when there is a sporting event such as a football match in progress, or as
a special visit.




                                              13
Where it is a special visit then consideration needs to be given to the adults’ needs, as well
as the children’s. A bench seat is a minimum in this regard, however, where there is the
possibility of siting a playground near a building which has active community involvement
and the possibility of obtaining some refreshment, this should be given a weighting over a
site on which there is no such facility.

When sites are being considered within villages then the same issues of access apply as in
urban areas. It will usually be preferable to site a playground where children can have
unaccompanied access, rather than one to which they do not have easy access. This will
apply even if the play opportunities (or play value) cannot be as high at the more accessible
site.




RECOMMENDATIONS

That a greater emphasis be given to ensuring that the children use and feel safe at the
playgrounds, public open spaces and similar by considering:

      1) The sightlines from the children’s own homes or from places where there are other
         trusted adults.

(b)    Locating the playgrounds where children can access them safely.

(c)    Locating the playgrounds where children are likely to be able to interact with other
       members of the community.

That involvement of the children and an approach based on mediation be the first course of
action where children playing is regarded as a problem.

That the criteria for playground improvements, modifications or removal be modified so that
those reports on Annual Inspections, Risk assessments, play value assessments etc can
more easily dovetail into the longer-term strategic decision making.

Partners for Play

There are many other partners who can provide enhanced leisure opportunities for children.
These include leisure provision (swimming pools, libraries) youth service, arts and sports
based clubs, uniformed organisations, commercial organisations (bowling, indoor
playgrounds), schools etc. These can all enhance the variety of opportunities available to
children.

There was evidence of some duplication of similar schemes in some areas during the
summer holiday period.

It would also appear from the children’s summer survey that various activities and clubs
were taking place and being enjoyed by the children. A greater awareness of these


                                               14
activities would enable the authority to target its resources at areas with fewer
opportunities.

An understanding of the human resources that trigger and maintain these other activities
and their diversity, would enable the authority to encourage additional opportunities in other
areas.

RECOMMENDATION

The Play Officer’s brief include co-operation with and encouragement of these partners for
play.




                                              15
                                  Review of Plan for Play


Introduction

After the Basingstoke and Deane ‘Plan for Play’ was completed in June 2000 a number of
issues were raised and recommendations made within the report. It has been advised that
a review of this document be carried out to develop an action plan to address any
outstanding issues that may arise.

A variety of methods were initially used to gather research material on which the report is
based.

    •   Visits were made to holiday playschemes to observe play activities
    •   Interviews were conducted with staff and children at these playschemes.
    •   Follow up interviews were conducted with officers from Basingstoke Play Council
        and from school based playschemes.
    •   Visits were made to a selection of play areas.
    •   Interviews were conducted with appropriate officers of Basingstoke and Deane
        Borough Council.
    •   Inspection of various reports and documentation supplied by Basingstoke and
        Deane Borough Council.
    •   A survey of children aged 8-12 throughout the Borough was also carried out.


It was also requested that some additional research should be undertaken into play and
children with special needs. This research was undertaken with the co-operation of Loddon
School, a full-time residential school catering for children with severe autism. Saxonwood
School, a primary school for children with physical disabilities and Maple Ridge School,
which is the primary feeder for Dove House School, both catering for children with
moderate learning difficulties.

Each school was visited and informal discussions held with members of staff. During these
discussions they were asked a number of questions relating to children and their
opportunities to play. Interviews were also conducted with children at Dove House School
and at Maple Ridge School. At each school the children were also observed at play inside
and outside. Interviews were also conducted with parents who had children with special
needs.

Recommendations

Within the ‘Plan for Play’ a number of recommendations and comments were made that
aimed to “ensure play opportunities for all children who live in Basingstoke and Deane”.

It was hoped that Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council would work in partnership with
its citizens, community groups, voluntary organisations and the commercial sector to
ensure that opportunities for play existed, rather than the Council having to always provide
them themselves. It was therefore understood that with support and encouragement
communities would begin to set up their own play provision.


                                             16
Recommendations were made throughout the report on specific areas of improvement.

These included:

Physical Environment

    •   Ensure residents are aware of the benefits of children’s play.
    •   Ensure residents are aware of the benefits to children’s physical and social
        development, and the benefits to the community as a whole, from them being able
        to access their own neighbourhood by foot or by cycle.
    •   Where it is desired by the majority of local residents, including children, there be an
        assumption that priority on residential roads will be given to pedestrians and
        cyclists over motorised traffic.

Social Environment

    •   The Council has a policy of mediation as its first course of action where there are
        disputes concerning children playing. This will mean developing strategies for
        building contacts with children involved and also entail liaison with community
        wardens, police, schools, youth workers etc.

Space for Play

    •   A greater emphasis be given to ensuring that children use and feel safe at the
        playgrounds, public open spaces and similar by considering:

                      The sightlines from children’s own homes or from places where there
                      are other trusted adults.
                      Locating the playgrounds where children can access them safely.
                      Locating the playgrounds where children are likely to be able to
                      interact with other members of the community.

Play (open access)

    •   The primary focus for the Borough’s play policy must be the right of the child to play
        in ways that are freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated.
    •   Provide support for playwork opportunities particularly during the summer holidays.
    •   To avoid confusion the word ‘play’ be used to denote facilities to which children are
        free to come and go.




                                              17
Care

    •   The Borough co-operates with the County Council to ensure that additional ‘care’
        facilities are provided.
    •   Innovative approaches to allow ‘play’ and ‘care’ to take place at the same locations.
    •   To avoid confusion the word ‘care’ be used to denote provision where children are
        “received to be looked after” and are not allowed to leave until collected by an
        appropriate person or with the permission of an appropriate person (usually a
        parent)

A Play Network

    •   The Borough Council facilitate the networking of providers within the Borough.
    •   It is suggested this be on a relatively informal basis in the first instance so that
        those involved can help to shape a structure appropriate to their needs.

Community Involvement

    •   Ensure there is a clear point of reference for any community group wishing to start
        its own playscheme, i.e. The Community Development Officer (Play/Youth)
    •   Community groups encouraged to start own playschemes
    •   Grant aid given directly to community groups and schemes encouraged to be ‘open
        access’. (Locally Managed Play Scheme Grant Fund)
    •   Other support is given either by the play officer or through the play network as
        appropriate, (Advice, support and training)
    •   Annual Play Scheme Forum and Talk Back Session to take place February and
        September.

Children’s Access

    •   Children must be able to attend the schemes independently and this must be a
        criterion for the provision receiving support.
    •   Relocation must be considered if reasonable access is not possible.


Adult/Child Ratios

    •   Guidance strategies must be developed for workers with children at play
        opportunities i.e. where children are free to come and go.
    •   This should be done in co-operation with the County Council Social Services
        Department.

Eleven and Older

    •   A more flexible approach to the admission of over 11’s to playschemes.
    •   Greater liaison with Youth service to be encouraged to ensure wider range of
        activities appropriate to older children.



                                               18
Special Needs

    •   Discuss with special schools their particular needs, in terms of design of
        playgrounds and equipment, and accessibility of different sites. A small number of
        playgrounds could then be targeted for special treatment but would remain suitable
        for, and open to, the general public. Schools will be asked to inform parents about
        these particular playgrounds.

    •   Where a holiday playscheme is either grant aided, supported or run by Basingstoke
        and Deane, there should be a basic assumption that it will be inclusive for children
        with special needs. Under Section 21 of the Disability Discrimination Act a service
        provider is under a duty to take such steps as it is reasonable to take in order to
        make reasonable adjustments to overcome physical barriers to access for disabled
        people.

    •   Training should be offered to staff and volunteers in working with parents of and
        children with special needs. If a parent enquires about whether their child can
        attend a playscheme, then they should be invited to discuss with staff any special
        needs the child might have, and how staff will be able to cope. An inclusion pro-
        forma has been developed that staff members can complete in relation to a child
        with special needs, their access to the setting and any additional resources
        required.

    •   Where staff feel they might not be able to cope then the Borough should be able to
        provide additional support and advice, to enable playschemes to be inclusive.
        Referral to a special needs playscheme should be offered where a child’s special
        needs are so severe that attendance at a mainstream scheme is not possible.

    •   If a school or other organisation is providing a holiday play scheme for children with
        special needs, then they should be encouraged to join the supportive network,
        previously mentioned.

Rural Playschemes

    •   The Borough should consider support for specialists who can add variety to isolated
        rural schemes.
    •   Extra support for rural schemes especially where children are unable to attend on
        their own.

Play Officer

    •   The Borough Council appointed a Community Development Officer (Play/Youth) in
        March 2004 who will have responsibility for coordination and promotion of
        children’s play.




                                              19
                                   Conclusions of Plan for Play

Playschemes

       •    A voluntary network should be encouraged so that schemes can share information
            and ideas. Basic training should be offered through this network.
       •    It is hoped that within 5 years the number of play schemes running at least 2 weeks
            within the summer holidays, will have risen to 50.

Care

       •    There is an urgent need for co-operation with the Early Education and Childcare
            Unit to ensure that these additional resources are attracted to the Borough.
       •    The Play Officer would need to be clear that new schemes were sustainable and
            that they did not discriminate against children who required ‘play’ rather than ‘care’.
       •    The strong possibility exists of a few new schemes being started each year.

Home Zones etc.

   •       If the Government increases Local Authorities’ opportunities to give priority to
           pedestrians over the car this will enable significant improvements to be made to
           children’s play opportunities and to community development in general.
   •       The department should ensure that the benefits to children’s play opportunities are
           widely understood and publicised both by the public and within the authority.

Play Areas

   •       There are approximately 120 play areas which all now have impact absorbing
           surfaces and all play areas are fenced.

Financial Implications

   •       There is a need to ensure that existing resources are being used efficiently and
           effectively.
   •       With the Community Development Officer (Play/Youth) generating new interest in
           play opportunities, it is likely to lead to increased expenditure as children’s play
           moves higher up people’s priorities.

Special Needs

   •       The Council may wish to consider some additional funds for the enhanced/modified
           playgrounds which are developed in consultation with local special schools.
   •       The play schemes available for special needs children also need to be improved.




                                                  20
Priorities

The Officers (Community Development Officer (Play/Youth) and Early Years and Childcare
Development Officer) will need to concentrate on two areas of work.

    1. Playschemes:-

                    i.   Encouraging local schemes.
                   ii.   Starting to develop the Play Network and setting up training and
                         other support.
                  iii.   Advertising and administering the grant aid.
                  iv.    Monitoring the effectiveness of the schemes and proposing future
                         strategy.

    2. Liaison with Hampshire County Council to ensure that:-

                    i.   Basingstoke and Deane attract the resources for ‘care’ schemes.
                   ii.   That the schemes enhance the provision for children’s play.
                  iii.   Monitor and review the schemes with HCC.

After the initial period it would be hoped that the Play Network would take an increasing role
in supporting the playschemes. Also with the ‘care’ schemes once the strategy and
practicalities have been finalised and the schemes have been running then the input from
the Play officer should be reduced.

The officer should then be able to devote more time to an overall responsibility for
children’s play. A high priority will need to be given to having specific ‘play’ inputs into
matters of Planning and Transport.

Other tasks would include

       Developing the mediation approach to conflict in places where children play.
       Liaison with the Youth Service, Basingstoke Play Limited, and other agencies in
       developing opportunities for the over 11’s.
       Co-operation with Sports, Arts, (LA, Voluntary and Commercial) to enhance
       children’s recreational opportunities.
       Work with communities to assist them to assess the children’s play needs and look
       for solutions rather than merely requesting a facility.
       Reviewing the initiatives for children with special needs and developing the
       strategies.
       Reviewing the developments made to the fixed equipment playgrounds and making
       recommendation.

The officer would be keeping him/herself aware of developments in other authorities and of
any national initiatives so the Basingstoke and Deane can benefit from this information.


                                               21
Progress

A number of the recommendations have been developed and play within the Borough of
Basingstoke and Deane is improving.


Physical Environment

   •   Cycle lanes have been introduced on many of the Borough’s main roads.

   •   Pedestrian crossings have also been put in place to allow easier access to playing
       fields, parks and community facilities.

Social Environment

   •   Community Wardens were introduced to the Borough in January 2004. The scheme
       seeks to improve the well-being of local residents and make their neighbourhoods
       cleaner, safer and a more enjoyable place in which to live.

   •   The role of Community Wardens is that of a trusted friend, working at the grass roots
       and acting as the eyes and ears of the community, council and other partner
       agencies. Wardens are specially trained and uniformed and provide a visible
       presence in designated residential areas. These at present are Oakridge/South
       View, Popley, Buckskin/Kempshott, South Ham, Brighton Hill, Winklebury, and the
       rural areas Bishops Green/Tadley and Overton/ Whitchurch.

   •   The Community Wardens are able to act as mediators when disputes occur between
       children and other local residents and are involved in providing some schemes for
       children during the holidays and after school. During school holidays they have run
       football days where the children could go along and have a game of football with
       their friends without being a nuisance to other residents. In the evenings they have
       run ‘Mocktail’ bars at Youth Clubs & Community Centres, providing young people
       with non-alcoholic cocktails.

Space for Play

   •   A number of play areas in the Borough have been recently refurbished and are now
       a lot more attractive and safer for the children who should be attending. A number of
       these are situated within housing estates and have impact absorbing surfaces
       allowing easier access and safer play for the children.


Play (Open Access)

   •   There are 28 registered schemes in the Borough, with a 29th which operates under
       the registration required time and a 30th running under the auspice of a nursery.



                                             22
      Of this there are:

             •   Three breakfast clubs.
             •   Twenty three after school clubs.
             •   Nineteen holiday provisions - however these are run at different times
                 during the year so are not available all of the time.

      The clubs will have been funded in a variety of ways - TEC funding for the older
      clubs, NOF for the newer and some have opened independently.

A Play Network

  •   The Basingstoke Out of School Play Network has been set up and holds quarterly
      meetings with organisations that are offering play provision within the Borough. It is
      a chance for groups to meet to discuss what they are doing at the present time and
      what they hope to do in the future. These meetings also provide an opportunity for
      ideas and information to be shared.

  •   There is also a Hampshire Play Network, which meets bi-monthly and involves all of
      the Child Care Development Worker’s (CDW) from across the county and a number
      of other local authority workers as well. At local network meetings across the county
      the CDW’s report back any important information from the Hampshire Play Network
      that local providers need to know about this could include sharing ideas and good
      practice from other authorities. A Basic Playwork course is co-ordinated via the
      Network and information on other related playwork training courses is provided. An
      NVQ in playwork is available through Basingstoke Play Limited – who are members
      of the Hampshire Play Network.

Community Involvement

  •   The Community Development Officer (Play/Youth) is employed to co-ordinate the
      grant fund and is a clear point of reference for anyone wishing to start an open
      access playscheme.

  •   The Locally Managed Play Scheme Grant Fund was created and is now running into
      its fourth year. The scheme was re-launched in April 2004 and has been a success
      with community groups applying for grants to start up their own holiday play
      schemes. Community Centres and Village Halls are being encouraged to run their
      own schemes, especially those in rural areas where a demand has been highlighted

      The grant scheme intends to support sustainable projects that will:

                           •   Improve the quality of open access play opportunities within the
                               borough
                           •   Address the needs of all children, particularly those who are
                               disadvantaged
                           •   Encourage community participation



                                                23
                        •   Complement local and other borough strategies and
                            programmes.

       Any organisation or Parish Council can apply for the grant provided that the project
       is managed by volunteers, non profit making and operated with no undue restrictions
       on membership. The scheme must also operate within the Borough of Basingstoke
       and Deane and benefit residents of the borough.

   •   All groups wishing to run an open access play scheme or those groups already
       running such a scheme are invited to attend the local play network meeting, along
       with the Play Scheme Forum and Talk Back Session to gain extra support and
       advice.


Children’s Access

   •   Access to the Play Council run schemes have been improved as they have extended
       their age range up to 15 years old. However, it is not clear how frequently these
       schemes are used by the over 11’s.

   •   When schemes are developed access is always looked at to make sure that children
       can physically attend the scheme independently. However, it is not always possible
       to achieve this and other provisions may need to be used.

Adult/Child Ratios

   •   The older age range projects now offered by Basingstoke Play Limited have created
       an environment which caters for children, young people and parent’s expectations.

   •   OFSTED took responsibility for the registration of holiday schemes. At the present
       time over 8’s are not included in the registration of schemes nor are schemes that
       run for less than two hours per day. A publication entitled ‘Open for Play’ has been
       published by Playlink and it looks at the standards specifically in relation to good
       practice in open access play provision. All clubs are advised to follow best practice
       guidelines, whether registered or not, based on Health and Safety considerations.

   •   When following the Ofsted guidelines the minimum staffing ratio is 1:8 children aged
       3-7 years at child care schemes. The normal minimum staffing ratio is 1:13 children
       aged 5-7 years in open access schemes.

   •   All staff working with children will be Criminal Records Bureau checked and will be
       required to adhere to the schemes child protection policy in order to protect the
       children and the staff themselves.
   •   Basingstoke Play Limited is still providing the majority of the ‘open access’
       playschemes but they are being encouraged to act as more of a support network
       and to encourage communities to set up their own groups. The Borough council is
       also acting as a support network through their Community Development Officer (Play
       & Youth).



                                             24
   •   The Basingstoke Play Limited run schemes have changed their age restrictions on
       all holiday schemes to include any child from 5-15 years of age. It is also possible
       for children below 5 to attend the scheme as long as they are accompanied by an
       adult.

   •   The Borough has been involved in developing the Hampshire Play Policy and has
       developed the play principles. The policy will be delivered to all providers in the
       Borough. A draft policy is currently being considered.

Care
   • There are currently 25 registered out of school childcare settings in the Borough.
     These are managed by a range of providers including private companies, community
     schools and local community committees. The providers offer a range of services
     including; breakfast clubs, after-school clubs and holiday care.

   •   The start-up funding has been gained from a variety of different channels which
       include; Hampshire TEC, NOF and Sure Start, some have also opened
       independently.

       In addition to registered provision the Borough Council have provided pump-priming
       funding for the establishment of three new breakfast clubs and has secured funding
       for future support.

A Play Network

   •   The Basingstoke Out of School Play Network has been set up and holds quarterly
       meetings with organisations that are offering play provision within the Borough. It is
       a chance for groups to meet to discuss what they are doing at the present time and
       what they hope to do in the future. These meetings also provide an opportunity for
       ideas and information to be shared.

   •   There is also a Hampshire Play Network, which meets bi-monthly and involves all of
       the Chid Care Development Worker’s (CDW) from across the county and a number
       of other local authority workers as well. At local network meetings across the county
       the CDW’s report back any important information from the Hampshire Play Network
       that local providers need to know about this could include sharing ideas and good
       practice from other authorities. A Basic Playwork course is co-ordinated via the
       Network and information on other related playwork training courses is provided. An
       NVQ in playwork is available through Basingstoke Play Limited – who are members
       of the Hampshire Play Network.


   Community Involvement

   •   The Community Development Officer (Play/Youth) is employed to co-ordinate the
       grant fund and is a clear point of reference for anyone wishing to start an open
       access playscheme.




                                              25
•   The Locally Managed Play Scheme Grant Fund was created and is now running into
    its third year. The scheme was re-launched in April 2004 and has been a success
    with community groups applying for grants to start up their own holiday play
    schemes. Community Centres and Village Halls are being encouraged to run their
    own schemes, especially those in rural areas where a demand has been highlighted

    The grant scheme intends to support sustainable projects that will:

                     •   Improve the quality of open access play opportunities within the
                         borough
                     •   Address the needs of all children, particularly those who are
                         disadvantaged
                     •   Encourage community participation
                     •   Complement local and other borough strategies and
                         programmes.

    Any organisation or Parish Council can apply for the grant provided that the project
    is managed by volunteers, non profit making and operated with no undue restrictions
    on membership. The scheme must also operate within the Borough of Basingstoke
    and Deane and benefit residents of the borough.

•   All groups wishing to run an open access play scheme or those groups already
    running such a scheme are invited to attend the local play network meeting to gain
    extra support and advice.

Children’s Access

•   Access to Basingstoke Play Limited run schemes have been improved as they have
    extended their age range up to 15 years old. However, it is not clear how frequently
    these schemes are used by the over 11’s.

•   When schemes are developed access is always looked at to make sure that children
    can physically attend the scheme independently. However, it is not always possible
    to achieve this and other provisions may need to be used.


Adult/Child Ratios

•   The older age range projects now offered by Basingstoke Play Limited have created
    an environment which caters for children, young people and parent’s expectations.

•   OFSTED took responsibility for the registration of holiday schemes. At the present
    time over 8’s are not included in the registration of schemes nor are schemes that
    run for less than two hours per day. A publication entitled ‘Open for Play’ has been
    published by Playlink and it looks at the standards specifically in relation to good
    practice in open access play provision. All clubs are advised to follow best practice
    guidelines, whether registered or not, based on Health and Safety considerations.




                                          26
  •   When following the Ofsted guidelines the minimum staffing ratio is 1:8 children aged
      3-7 years at child care schemes. The normal minimum staffing ratio is 1:13 children
      aged 5-7 years in open access schemes.

  •   All staff working with children will be Criminal Records Bureau checked and will be
      required to adhere to the schemes child protection policy in order to protect the
      children and the staff themselves.


  Eleven and Older

  •   Research is being undertaken to consider a mobile play project which would include
      older age range provision. The possibility of providing opportunities for 10-13 year
      olds, during the school holidays and after school, is also being investigated by
      Basingstoke and Deane’s Youth Leisure Officer.

  Special Needs

  •   Basingstoke Play Limited currently runs a care scheme for children with special
      needs for which they receive an inclusion grant. It is hoped that funds can be
      provided to include children with special needs into mainstream play schemes where
      possible.

  •   The introduction of the Disability Discrimination Act on October 1st 2004 means that
      all playschemes must now make reasonable adjustments to allow any child to attend
      a playscheme. Extra costs should be built into a clubs business plan to cover any
      changes that need to be made.

Rural Playschemes

  •   The implementation of the Locally Managed Playscheme Grant Fund is addressing
      needs in rural areas.

  •   A mapping exercise conducted by the Community Play Development Officer in June
      2004 had highlighted rural areas that were in need of the establishment of a locally
      managed playscheme. The results were taken to Basingstoke Play Limited and they
      used this information in the process of adapting the locations of their schemes. It is
      hoped that they can run a scheme from an identified centre whilst also offering
      support and advice. It is anticipated this support will eventually lead to the centre
      being able to run their own playschemes.

  •   Community Centres, Village Halls and schools are increasingly being used to
      provide opportunities. However, community safety issues remain a consideration for
      parents, e.g. safety of child if having to walk on own to scheme. When planning a
      rural scheme providers should be encouraged to include extra cost that may occur
      including inclusion costs.




                                            27
Play Officer

   •   After the initial development of the post of Children’s Leisure Officer this was
       reviewed in late 2003 when the officer left their post. It was decided that with the
       current post ‘play’ was not being dealt with as entirely as it should be. It was
       therefore decided to create an Early Years and Child Care post to deal with all of the
       care issues and a Community Play Development Officer was employed to cover play
       issues more fully. More recently due to a business unit reorganisation in October
       2005 the post of Community Development Officer (Play/Youth) was created. It is
       hoped that the development of this post would help Basingstoke and Deane to meet
       the objectives of the Plan for Play.

   •   The Community Development Officer (Play/Youth) has been employed in order to
       provide encouragement and support for community groups and to stimulate the
       locally managed play opportunities available within the Borough. The role of the
       officer is also to promote and co-ordinate the Locally Managed Play Scheme Grant
       Fund and encourage communities to apply to this grant to set up their own
       playschemes.




                                        Actions Needed

   •   Communication with the youth leisure officer/youth service needs to be improved to
       increase provision for over 11’s.

   •   Rural play provision needs to be assessed and improvements made

          –    Investigate feasibility of a play van to visit rural areas which have little or no
               facilities available for play. A visit was made to the East Hampshire
               District Council’s RAPP scheme (Rural Area Play Project) in April 2006
               at Ropley Village Hall by the Community Development Officer
               (Play/Youth). The scheme was observed and contacts were made for
               future reference for advice and good practice.

          –    Questionnaire distributed around rural areas to assess feasibility of proposal.
               Will enough people want to attend, are the facilities available (park/grass
               area, toilets). Will parents/carers be willing to stay with their children? Would
               the children prefer to stay on their own – contact details would then need to
               be provided. It would be beneficial to aim such a questionnaire at the rural
               areas highlighted by the mapping exercise.

          –    The session would run for less than 2 hours so that OFSTED registration
               would not be needed. However, OFSTED guidelines for good practice will be
               followed to ensure the highest quality of provision is offered.



                                                28
•   Support for specialists who can offer variety to rural schemes should also be
    encouraged. For example, sports coaches were invited to the Ball Play Day,
    during August 2006 at the Clift Meadow Pavilion, tennis, basketball, football
    and tag rugby taster sessions were on offer to 4-15 year olds. A Hooping
    workshop was available at the Street Games Play Day at Popley Fields
    Community Centre during August 2006, this activity was enjoyed by parents
    and children of all ages. The Park Rangers were on hand to provide activities
    at the Woodland Play Day in Oakley, also in August 2006, many diverse
    activities can be offered to encourage more children and young people to
    attend these schemes.

•   A review of the special needs provision and the possibility of inclusion into
    mainstream play schemes after the implementation of the Disability Discrimination
    Act.

•   Develop a guidance strategy for any community groups wishing to start their own
    locally managed playschemes. To include information on legislation, points of
    contact and planning. Will also include information needed to be provided to staff
    working with children.




                                          29
Revised September 2006



                                        PLAYWORK

                                             IN

                               BASINGSTOKE AND DEANE

INTRODUCTION

This is a report to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council concerning play opportunities,
within the Borough, where there are playworkers or other supervisors. In particular it refers
to “holiday playscheme” provision but also refers to year round opportunities.

It has been prepared by ILAM Services Limited as part of an overall review of play. This
Report is specifically concerned with playwork and does not cover the other play
opportunities which are part of the overall review.

The findings and recommendations are based on observations and interviews of and with
children and playworkers conducted at playschemes in the Borough during July and August
1999.

It also follows a consultation meeting with stakeholders held in the Council Offices on 27
September 1999.

In addition a wide consultation was carried out with children throughout Basingstoke. This
was undertaken through the schools with the helpful support of the Early Education and
Childcare Unit of Hampshire County Council.

The response to this has been much greater than anticipated with many schools taking
part. The forms are still being returned. When analysed, the findings will contribute to the
overall Report. However an initial analysis suggests that, with reference to playschemes,
the findings are not different from those previously obtained by interview.

BACKGROUND

For many years the Borough Council has delivered playschemes in co-operation with
Basingstoke Play Limited. In recent years this has become more formalised with a “service
level agreement” for the playscheme to provide a specific number of playschemes.

This arrangement has continued, apparently unchanged, (the retiring postholder has been
in position for sixteen years) and much valuable work has been undertaken.

There have however been significant changes in both the service provided by Basingstoke
Play Limited and the overall environment in which it is operating. The changes have


                                             30
happened incrementally and have therefore at no specific point required a change in policy.
However the overall effect has been significant and a change in policy and practice is now
required.


The major changes in practice and environment are detailed in the remainder of this Report
and recommendations are made.


(A) PLAY (Open Access)

It is widely accepted within the play world that some of the defining features of “play” are
that it is:

                “Freely chosen, personally directed, intrinsically motivated”.

It is a measure of the changes which have come about that opportunities for play often
have “open access” added to differentiate them from “care” provision.

All children need to play. “Play is nature’s training for life”. It is not just the activities
themselves which are important, but it is in the agreement and decision making that much
benefit is gained. What to do, when and how to do it, with whom, defining the “rules”,
deciding the desired outcomes etc are all integral elements of play and are significantly
different from school.

Playschemes and other playwork opportunities are ones where children can freely choose
to attend when they want. They do so because they are able to choose to experience a
wider variety of activities than might otherwise be the case. They also attend because
there are trusted adults near at hand giving them added feelings or security.

Whilst those children at “playschemes” in the Borough speak highly of the schemes and
enjoy what they do, the schemes themselves cannot really be defined as playschemes
because the majority of the children cannot freely choose what to do and when they want to
do it – they cannot vote with their feet. The schemes also tend to cater for small numbers
because of the emphasis on “care”.

The location of many of the schemes also acts as a restriction on children’s ability to come
and go as they please.

There has however been a recent small development. This has not been observed as part
of this research, but it is understood that the park rangers, who have just started being
employed, are taking a pro-active role in the parks, rather than a negative policing role.

(A) Recommendations

1.   The Borough have as its primary focus for its play policy the right of children to play in
     ways that are freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated.




                                              31
2.    That the Borough recognise and provide support for playwork opportunities for
      children to choose to attend particularly in the school holiday.

3.    That for the avoidance of confusion both for parents and for policy making and grant-
      aiding that the word “play” be used to denote facilities to which children are free to
      come and go.


     (B) CARE

In 2004 the Government published their ‘Choice for parents: a ten year strategy for
childcare’. This document builds on the foundations already laid since the National
Childcare Strategy was launched in 1998 and continues to embed the ethos that all children
deserve the best start in life.

The strategy seeks to address several issues including the delivery of quality services for
children and families, meeting targets to cut child poverty and improving the opportunities
for people to achieve greater balance between work commitments and their family life.
Notably the four key aims are:
•    Choice and flexibility: parents to have greater choice about balancing work and family
     life.
•    Availability: for all families with children aged up to 14 who need it, an affordable,
     flexible, high quality childcare place that meets their circumstances.
•    Quality: high quality provision with a highly skilled childcare and early year’s workforce,
     among the best in the world.
•    Affordability: families to be able to afford flexible, high quality childcare that is
     appropriate for their needs.

As such the Borough has developed a strong ‘care’ market, alongside the ‘play’ provision.
Whilst the “care” schemes do receive Council subsidy, they are nevertheless essentially in
a marketplace competing for (adult) customer fees. If they do not attract sufficient fees
then they are not financially viable and are also not seen to succeed.

Whilst market forces can encourage quality, accessible provision there is the potential
issues in two specific areas:-

•     A concentration of provision where it is most “profitable” or at least where least
      subsidy is needed. This has the potential to ignore local need.

•     A concentration on those children whose parents will pay for care and a consequent
      exclusion of those children who do not require additional “care”.

In recognising the differences between the support needs of ‘care’ and ‘play’ settings the
‘Basingstoke Out of School Partnership’ was developed to compliment the ‘Play Forum’.
This seeks to provide a networking and good practice sharing forum, which will work to
develop appropriate support mechanisms for ‘care’ settings.




                                                32
The Early Education and Childcare Unit of Hampshire County Council currently commission
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council to provide support and guidance to both existing
and establishing ‘care’ provision.

While ‘care’ predominantly seeks to meet the needs of working parents, it is recognised that
the child’s ability to freely choose their own play activities is an invaluable part of the
service. Dedicated support is offered to all settings providing ‘care’ for children aged 0-14
years to ensure the development of inclusive play practice across the Borough.

As such, it is important that ‘care’ settings follow the same good practice standards as ‘play’
settings, including; ‘Best Play Review’ published in 2000, the National Playwork
Assumptions and Principles and the National Day care Standards.

It is therefore vital that there is a comprehensive playwork training programme available to
playwork staff in ‘care’ settings. In order to ensure that the County Council programme has
a local element the Out of School Partnership also seek to provide short work-shop style
courses for ‘care’ providers.

(B) Recommendations

   1. That the Borough continues to look for innovative approaches to schemes which
      enable both “play” and “care” at the same locations.
   2. That the Borough Council continues to support the Out of School Partnership.
   3. That the development officers for ‘care’ and ‘play’ continue to work closely to ensure
      that there is accessible provision across the Borough, which meets local need.

(C) CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLES PLAN

In line with the requirements of the Children Act 2004 the County Council have drafted a
‘Children and Young People’s Plan’ (CYPP). The County CYPP seeks to define services
and their delivery throughout the County, identifying partnership opportunities, pooled
budgets and joint commissioning arrangements.

To enable local focus on delivery, the Basingstoke and Deane Local Strategic Partnership
(LSP) are working to develop a ‘Local Implementation Plan’. The importance of Play and
its place within service delivery for children and young people’s services must be
underlined.

CONSULTATION

While comprehensive consultation was undertaken during the development of this Strategy
it is important to ensure that development work continues to be relevant and consequential
for local children and families.

As such, regular opportunities for consultation with children and families are vital. An
effective link both internally with all business units and externally with local organisations
will ensure that consultation work is both meaningful and beneficial to service development.
Key partners in this on-going work will be local schools, out of school childcare providers,



                                              33
playscheme providers, Hampshire Children and Families Forum, Hampshire County
Council’s Parent Development Team and Hampshire Children’s Fund.

Recommendations

     1. That the Borough develops a database system of local consultation work with
        children and families, both internally and externally.




(D) A PLAY NETWORK

The title “Play Council” suggests an organisation comprising representation from a number
of organisations, particularly the voluntary sector, who are involved in children’s play.

Typically a Play Council would be a forum for co-ordination and co-operation between
providers. It would provide or publicise opportunities for training of staff and volunteers. It
would also assist members to access resources economically through information, and
possibly through joint purchases of materials, specialists, entrance to facilities etc. It would
also assist community or voluntary organisations wishing to start playschemes within their
area.

Originally the Play Council undertook this role; however, increasingly it has acted as, or
appeared to act as, the Council’s sole agent for running the playschemes within the
Borough. The Play Council role has therefore been lost through a well-intentioned desire
by all to ensure that the playschemes which are run are provided cost effectively.

The loss of this co-ordinating function does mean that there is no supportive network of
play providers and no source of encouragement and advice for community based
organisations.

In addition there is no strategy for ensuring that key subsidies from the Borough or County
Council are targeted at areas with the most need and avoid unnecessary duplication.

(C) Recommendations

1.    The Borough Council facilitate the networking of providers within the Borough.

2.    It is suggested that this be on a relatively informal basis in the first instance so that
      those involved can help to shape a structure appropriate to their needs.

(E) COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT

Basingstoke Play Limited (formerly known as Basingstoke Play Council) was originally set
up as a co-ordinating body encouraging community groups to start their own playschemes.
The emphasis on care has meant that it is now in competition with any other groups which
might be set up. An advisory or supportive function is not compatible with competing for
the same customer fees or Council subsidy.


                                                34
In addition its service level agreement emphasises its delivery of a service, i.e. the
provision of schemes, rather than co-ordination.

There is therefore no obvious focus for community run “playwork” within the Borough.
Should a community or voluntary group wish to set up its own scheme there is no obvious
point for advice, information and support.

A system of direct grants to these groups would encourage community involvement or
“active citizenship”. It would also encourage a direct relationship with the local authority. In
some authorities grants have been given through a “network” organisation or play council.
Whilst this has some administrative simplicity it can tend to encourage competition rather
than co-operation between the groups and can act as a disincentive to the support of
emerging groups.




(D) Recommendations

1.   The Borough ensures that there is a clear point of reference for any community group
     wishing to start its own playscheme. The Community Development Officer
     (Play/Youth) now in place; is the Borough’s contact for community groups.

2.   That community groups are encouraged to start their own playschemes. Help and
     advice is now available from the Community Development Officer (Play/Youth).

3.   That grant aid is given directly to community groups. The Locally Managed Play
     Scheme Grant Fund is promoted and managed by the Community Development
     Officer (Play/Youth) set up to fund community group schemes.

4.   That other support is given either by the play officer or through the play network as
     appropriate.


(F) CHILDREN’S ACCESS

There has been a belief, not restricted to this Borough that so long as a playscheme, youth
club or similar supervised facility is within the general vicinity of the children’s homes, then
the attraction of the activities, and the supervision provided, would ensure that children
would have access to the scheme.

This assumption can no longer be made because of changes which have been made to
children’s independent mobility.

The Policy Studies Institute, in its Report “One False Move”, found dramatic decreases in
children’s mobility between 1970 and 1990. One telling example from their research is that
80% of seven and eight year olds travelled to school unaccompanied in 1970. By 1990 this
figure had fallen to 9%. It is reasonable to assume that this reduction in freedom also


                                               35
applies to other facilities which children might visit such as playschemes, libraries,
swimming pools as well as grandparents, friends and neighbours.

This research corresponds to the research of the playschemes in Basingstoke and Deane,
and by the consultant in other Authorities where supervised facilities very often, although
not inevitably, had poorer attendance if they were not easily accessible to children.

(E) Recommendations

1.   The ability of children to travel independently to and from the scheme is one of the
     criteria which is used to decide whether the Borough Council should provide or
     support the provision of a playscheme.

2.   Where reasonable access is not possible, relocation within the area, or traffic flow
     modifications be considered.



(G) ADULT/CHILD RATIOS

There appears to be some misunderstanding of ratios which apply to open access
playschemes which may be due to some incorrect advice from Social Services. To give an
example, when asked what would happen if more children turned up to a scheme than the
given ratio permitted, then the staff said that they would turn children away.

This is clearly contrary to good health and safety practices and contrary to advice given by
the Government. The Department of Health, in its circular LAC (93)1 of January 1993
specifically recommended the following book: “Open Access Play and The Children Act – A
guide to registration based on the philosophy and practice of adventure playgrounds”.

This gives such advice as “the staff should be able to demonstrate that they have strategies
for dealing with large numbers of children” and “it is obvious that in some circumstances it
might be more risky to turn children away from the playground than to accept/retain them
where they can be supervised”.

On registration of children it states the following: “as a matter of good practice playgrounds
should always have a record of the names and addresses of the children who attend
frequently and the means of contacting an authorised carer in case of emergency”.

The key word here is “frequently”. There can be no assumption at a playscheme that all
children must register. Firstly because many children may attend on a brief, casual basis
and not return, and secondly because a mandatory registration at the point of entry will give
the erroneous impression that the children are being “received to be looked after”.

The assumption of “care” ratios also has the effect of concentrating resources on a few
children who are intensively looked after. This then ensures that large numbers of children
are less safe and have less access to places where there are trusted adults close at hand.




                                               36
The high ratios do not apply to other places where children attend in large numbers, and
feel secure because of adult supervisors but are not received to be looked after e.g.
swimming pools.

(G) Recommendations

1.    The Borough develop guidance strategies for workers with children at play
      opportunities i.e. where children are free to come and go.

2.    It is suggested that this be done in co-operation with the County Council Social
      Services Department.


(H) ELEVEN AND OLDER

Children over eleven are not permitted on the schemes. This appears to be a very arbitrary
decision not based on the friendship groups with whom the children play, or on the age at
which children still consider themselves to “play”.

Children of eleven to thirteen will still often play in a relatively childlike manner, and enjoy
the types of activities which younger children enjoy. Children of fourteen or fifteen still
value the opportunity to drop in and take part in activities which an adult would call “play”
but which would be avoided as a term by these older children.

It is often the case that older children take some responsibility for younger siblings and so
will want to go to the same place. This can be an important part of growing up and
developing parenting skills.

Some limited activities are or have been provided at some schemes for the over 11’s. In
addition the Youth service does make some provision.

There was some evidence of specialist sports sessions taking place and effectively being
competition in that location, whereas other areas had no provision.

(H) Recommendations

1.    The Borough Council encourage a more flexible approach to the admission of over
      11’s to playschemes.

2.    A greater liaison with the Youth service be encouraged to ensure a wide range of
      activities appropriate to the older children and an avoidance of unnecessary
      duplication.

(I)   RURAL PLAYSCHEMES

A significant proportion of the Borough is in rural areas where some children may be
relatively isolated or live in linear villages where travel to any communal facility may be
difficult.



                                                37
Some of the least well-attended schemes were in these areas. The causes appear to lie in
the lack of community links – people forget or do not know that it is on and the short
duration of the schemes – financial considerations mean that for relatively small potential
numbers the resources are spread thin.

The recommendations on community involvement should help to redress this. The
provision of some specialist arts and sports sessions to boost the local involvement would
be a cost-effective way of supporting these schemes still further.

There is also a reality that if children need to be brought in from outlying areas then they
will not be as free to come and go as those in more urban locations. Whilst not altering the
overall policy on play some understanding will be required for this situation.



(H) Recommendations

1.    The Borough consider support for specialists who can add variety to isolated rural
      schemes.

2.    Consideration be given to supervision requirements at rural schemes where children
      cannot attend under their own steam.




(J)   PLAY OFFICER

It is clear that much playwork and other related opportunities such as youth work and care
is taking place within the Borough of Basingstoke and Deane. The Authority has a
commitment to making and grant aiding provision.

There are also opportunities for attracting new resources via the Childcare initiatives in co-
operation with the County Council. There is untapped potential for encouraging active
citizenship by supporting community-based schemes. In addition there is some scope for
better use of existing resources by better co-operation with other providers and avoiding
duplication.

Responsibility for the various activities is spread round a variety of officers with no one
person responsible for overall co-ordination. The result is that the opportunities for new
resources and improved provision tend to fall between the responsibilities, despite
individuals best efforts.

This is a large area of work and responsibility for its oversight and co-ordination should lie
with an officer of sufficient seniority to be able to co-ordinate fellow officers and liaise with
the County Council Departments at a strategic level.

The person should have an understanding of children’s play needs and knowledge of the
various ways in which those needs might be met.


                                                38
It is likely that the person’s responsibility would be commensurate with a level around points
30-36 on the local government spinal column.

Should the person appointed be a specific Play Officer then s/he should also have a role in
developing and overseeing the Council’s overall play policy with reference to playgrounds,
open space, housing estate design, transport, etc.

(J)   Recommendation

1.    The Borough Council appoint or give responsibility for overall co-ordination of
      children’s play to a specific officer.

Rob Wheway MSc Med MILAM MIMgt
Principal Consultant
ILAM Services Limited

October 1999




                                              39
APPENDIX

This details some other findings from the research, which are not linked to specific
recommendations.

Children’s Satisfaction

Children were observed at a variety of the schemes, both those run by Basingstoke Play
Limited and those by Community Schools. At all of the schemes the children seemed
happy with the activities that were on offer and those interviewed expressed satisfaction,
and also to the question of whether there was anything they did not like about the scheme,
answered in the negative, or with only minor misgivings.

Premises

Schools are being increasingly used for summer schemes. Where these are organised by
the School themselves and, at the John Hunt School run by the playscheme, they are all
“care” schemes; they appear well attended with a variety of activities and numbers which
appear to range from fifty to a hundred per day.

Where Basingstoke Play Limited schemes are based in schools there is some evidence
that these are reasonably well attended having numbers ranging from twenty-five to thirty
per day. However, where Basingstoke Play Limited schemes are based in village or
community halls, the numbers appear traditionally low i.e. that is below twenty-five. In this
year in particular they are very low being often less than ten children per day with some
sessions attracting numbers are low as one to five children.

The reasons for the low attendance appear to be the poor locations of the schemes and the
lack of links into the local community. There is also the possibility that some schools are
failing to advertise the schemes as widely as previously as the schemes are in direct
competition with activities the schools are running or intending to run.

Playworkers

Basingstoke Play Limited has for many years used students at the playworkers. This has
had the advantage of a pool of relatively easily organised staff who can be transferred to
different sites.

At all sites the playworkers were helpful and organised a variety of activities for the children
who attended. They had all received training at sessions organised by Basingstoke Play
Limited. Some had worked for Basingstoke Play Limited in previous years which gave
some continuity.

The work has also given the students experience which is of benefit for those going on to
be teachers or similar, as well as giving them a reasonable paid holiday job.

This appears to have developed because the alternative of encouraging local community
involvement can be more time consuming and is less likely to deliver a guaranteed service.



                                               40
The disadvantages are that there are no links with the local community so that if few
children turn up the playworkers are not able to do anything about it.

There is no follow up or linking in to local events and facilities and often little continuity
between the different weeks of a scheme.

Where there are only a few children it is expensive on a per child basis and there is limited
opportunity to adjust the scheme to local circumstances in the light of local knowledge.

Research

The visits to the playschemes were expected but the precise time was unannounced. This
gave a broad picture of what was happening. It would not be a good way of judging an
individual scheme as all schemes can have a poor day because of the weather or an
unexpected event.

It is a method which might be used by an officer with responsibility for children’s play.
Where there is cause for concern follow up visit(s) could then be made. It would indicate
support and help to ensure that the Council is getting quality and value for money.




                                                41
CONCLUSIONS

Opportunities for children’s play can be created and improved in a variety of ways, not
necessarily through the direct (or even indirect) provision of service. Though certain
facilities can provide particular opportunities the balance between different types of service
will vary according to local circumstances.

Children’s play in Basingstoke and Deane is the responsibility of a variety of Officers within
the Community Services Department and much useful work is undertaken. There is
however no officer with specific co-ordination for this area of work.

This has resulted in there being a lack of focus on children’s play within the Department
and lack of liaison with other sections of the authority and others outside the Authority who
have an interest in this area of work.

This has in part been the result of co-ordination of play being seen as Basingstoke Play
Limited function. Whilst Basingstoke Play Limited has in the past co-ordinated
playschemes it has not been an appropriate body to cover the whole range of play. In
recent years it has moved to having a service level agreement with the authority rather than
providing co-ordination or supporting new voluntary schemes.

The result has been that chances for improving play provision have not been grasped as
quickly as might otherwise be the case and that the relationships between play and youth
or sport for example have not had a dynamic that would have been beneficial to both.

There is a need to appoint a Senior/Principal Officer with specific responsibility for the co-
ordination of Children’s Play throughout the Borough.

The Play Officer should have an input into the policies of other departments where they
have an impact on children’s play.

The Play Officer should be the first point of contact with the County Council and major
voluntary organisations on issues concerning Children’s Play.

The Officer would not be directly responsible for all aspects of children’s play, but for the
co-ordination and liaison.

Areas within the Borough Council and with the County Council where the Play Officer would
be expected to make a significant contribution would be:

Education                          Planning
Transport                          Social Services

Within the department the Play Officer would have an input concerning:

Playgrounds                        Parks and Public Open Space
Community Development              Sport
Youth                              Arts
Playgrounds                        Playwork


                                               42
Outside the Council the Play Officer would liaise with:

Parish Councils
Community and Voluntary Organisations
Commercials Providers

In order that a more corporate view can be taken and to support the co-ordinating role of
the Play Officer it would be advisable to have an inter-departmental committee meeting
regularly, perhaps twice per year. It would review major issues concerning children’s play
and ensure that networks were still operating effectively. Representatives from HCC Social
Services and Education Departments as well as any Play Network for Voluntary
Organisations should be included.

Playschemes

There is an urgent need to review the support and provision of playschemes.

The following is suggested:

     Grants should be made directly to community based groups who wish to run schemes.
     These should be made if the group can demonstrate local support and the scheme is
     “open access”. This is now achieved through the Locally Managed Playscheme
     Grant Fund.

     A voluntary network should be encouraged so that schemes can share information
     and ideas. Some basic training should be offered through this network. (It is likely
     that some of the school based schemes would wish to be involved). An annual
     ‘Playscheme Forum’ and ‘Talk Back’ session are now in place, to share best
     practice, problem solving and training opportunities.

     If there is sufficient support from the members of the network then it should be
     encouraged to organise the training and co-ordination itself. This community
     development approach would leave the Play Officer free to take a more strategic
     supportive role. The network would require some funds for administration. In the
     early years this would be likely to extend to a part-time co-ordinator only and sufficient
     funds for delivering training.

     By retaining the grant giving the Borough would be able to maintain a reasonable
     degree of quality control and the ability to grant aid strategically. Members of the
     network’s relationship with each other would be likely to be supportive as they could
     share problems with each other without feeling that might reduce the chances of
     receiving the grant.

     There should be a reasonable expectation that within 5 years the number of schemes
     running for at least 2 weeks within the summer holidays, will have risen to 50.




                                              43
Care

HCC have identified Basingstoke as an area where there are insufficient “Care” places.
Their intention is to attract additional resources to the Borough and to do this at an early
opportunity.

       There is an urgent need for co-operation with the Early Education and Childcare Unit
       to ensure that these additional resources are attracted to the Borough. An early task
       of a Play Officer would be to seek co-operation in this regard.

       The Play Officer would need to be clear that new schemes were sustainable and that
       they did not discriminate against children who required “play” rather than “care”. This
       would require clarity of vision and purpose with the ability to think creatively.

       The strong possibility exists of a few new schemes being started each year. The costs
       to the Borough are likely to be negligible.

Home Zones etc.

       The department should ensure that the benefits to children’s play opportunities are
       widely understood and publicised both by the public and within the authority.

Play Areas

       Changes have been made to existing to the existing play areas.

       All play areas now have impact absorbing surfaces

       Minor failures to comply with dimensional or HIC requirements should be regarded as
       low risk and monitored.

       Life expectancy of the equipment and or the surfacing should be taken into account
       when assessing whether modifications are reasonably practicable.

       This report has given suggestions on criteria which might be used for making strategic
       decisions.

FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS

There is a need to ensure that existing resources are being used efficiently and effectively.

With the appointment of the Community Development Officer (Play/Youth) it is likely this will
generate renewed interest in children’s play. That renewed interest is likely to lead to
increased expenditure as children’s play moves higher up people’s priorities.

If a community development approach is taken, there is more likely to be a sense of
ownership and a feeling of partnership with the Borough.

The use of the resources is than likely to be more effective than solutions supplied from the
top down.



                                               44
Whilst an increase in resources for children’s play is always welcome the recommendations
in this report do not necessarily lead to any dramatic increase in departmental expenditure.
The report has primarily identified approaches which will improve the effectiveness of
existing resources.

The grants to playschemes could be met in the initial years within the current budget. It is
possible there might be a reduction in costs in the first year as groups are not used to
applying. It will be important to set the support level which is sustainable for some years
into the future and with an increase in the number of playschemes. The level will be best
set in consultation with the groups. Experience has shown that schemes are usually
modest in their requests and having to raise some themselves, appreciative of the value.

The traffic-calming or “Home Zone” measures would fall outside the departmental
responsibility. There can however be significant expenditure in this regard dependent on
the size and complexity of the schemes.

Co-operation with County Council on the provision of care schemes which also provide play
will require a significant input from the Play Officer to ensure the full benefits of that co-
operation. Some use or modification of council facilities may be an option to be considered
at a particular scheme however this is not foreseen at the present time.

There is in place a rolling programme of improvements to the existing play areas and the
council is receiving further advice in this regard and is being considered separately.

The “Special Needs” report contains recommendations of approach. The extra support for
playschemes could almost certainly be met within the existing budget in the first year
although this is likely to grow in successive years. The Council may wish to consider some
additional funds for the enhanced/modified playgrounds which are developed in
consultation with the local special schools.

PRIORITIES

In the first year the Play Officer would need to concentrate on two areas of work.

1. Playschemes

      i)     Encouraging local schemes

      ii)    Starting to develop the Play Network and setting up training and other support

      iii)   Advertising and administering the grant aid

      iv)    Monitoring the effectiveness of the schemes and proposing future strategy.

2. Liaison with Hampshire County Council to ensure that:-

      i)     Basingstoke and Deane attract the resources for “care” schemes

      ii)    That the schemes enhance the provision for children’s play

      iii)   Monitor and Review the schemes with H.C.C.


                                             45
After the initial period it would be hoped that the Play Network would take an increasing role
in supporting the playschemes. Also with the “Care” schemes it should also be the case
that once the strategy and practicalities have been finalised and the schemes have been
running then the input form the Play Officer should be reduced.

The Officer should then be able to devote more time to an overall responsibility for
Children’s Play. A high priority will need to be given to having a specific “Play” input into
matters of Planning and Transport.



Other tasks would include

-   Developing the mediation approach to conflict in places where children play.

-   Liaison with the Youth Service in developing opportunities for the over 11s.

-   Co-operation with Sports, Arts, (LA, Voluntary and Commercial) to enhance children’s
    recreational opportunities.

-   Work with communities to assist them to assess the children’s play needs and look for
    solutions rather than merely requesting a facility.

-   Reviewing the initiatives for children with special needs and developing the strategies.

-   Reviewing the developments made to the fixed equipment playgrounds and making
    recommendations.

The Officer would be keeping him/herself aware of developments in other authorities and of
any national initiatives so that Basingstoke and Deane can benefit from this information in
managing the Officer it would be vital that his/her focus is kept on children’s play. The
experience of Basingstoke Play limited, and of similar circumstances in other authorities,
has shown that it is possible to get diverted by external forces and fashions. A policy shift
away from children’s play can happen incrementally, without being noticed.

The review of his/her work should consider the benefits to children’s play opportunities of
(the outcomes) rather than grants attracted or facilities provided (the outputs).




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