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A report published by the national deafblind charity, Sense, has revealed the ‘severe’ restrictions children with disabilities face in accessing play.
It identifies failings at every level that result in children missing out on play opportunities that are vital to their emotional, social and physical development.
The report follows a three month public inquiry into the provision of play opportunities for children with disabilities, aged from birth to five years in England and Wales, in response to parents’ concerns that they had few opportunities to access play services and settings.
Chair of the Play Inquiry, Lord Blunkett, said: “We know that play is vitally important for children with multiple needs and their families, bringing a wide range of developmental and emotional benefits. However, our inquiry found that all too often the parents of children with multiple-needs point to barriers they face in accessing and enjoying play.
“It means that children with disabilities don’t have the same chance to form friendships, and parents are prevented from taking a break from caring. Both children with disabilities and their parents are excluded from their own communities.
“I know that there is strong support across the political spectrum for addressing the findings of this report, and I look forward to working with colleagues from all parties to achieve real change for parents and families across the nation.”
The inquiry heard from the families of 175 children living with disabilities and found a lack of attention by the Government and insufficient funding at a local level as concerning barriers.
The report also revealed that 92 per cent of parents felt their child did not have the same opportunities to play as children living without a disability.
The majority of parents reported difficulties in accessing mainstream play groups and local play opportunities and 40 per cent of parents said that additional financial costs were a major barrier to accessing play opportunities.
Families also feel there is a lack of specialist support that can be accessed locally, and many make long journeys to access play settings.
The report calls for urgent action to address these inequalities and to enable the Prime Minister to deliver on his recent call to improve the ‘life chances’ of all children.
Richard Kramer, deputy chief executive officer for Sense, said: “Play is critical in giving children the best start in life and improving outcomes for children and their families. The report makes clear, however, that where a child has multiple needs, the barriers they face to accessing play settings and activities are also multiplied.
“We hope that local and national policymakers, as well as play professionals, reflect on the recommendations, and make the necessary changes that will make access to play a reality for all children.”
Sense will use the inquiry findings to campaign for changes to the way play services are designed and delivered and plans to produce a series of toolkits for parents, providers and commissioners of play.
The full report can be accessed at: www.sense.org.uk/play