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Let's Play Fair guide

The Let’s Play Fair guide gives advice on engaging with your Member of Parliament (MP) or Member of the Senedd (MS) on inclusive playgrounds.

MPs and MSs have the power to make playgrounds inclusive by putting pressure on decision makers to act. That is why it is important they hear your story and understand why playgrounds need to be accessible for disabled children.

All children should have equal access to play. We are calling on the English and Welsh national governments to introduce Inclusive Playground Funds.

Whether you have a couple of minutes or a day, you can choose a solution that best fits your situation.

About Let's Play Fair

Playgrounds: a devolved issue

Local authority funding comes from Westminster Government for England, and the Welsh Government for Wales.

If you live in England, playgrounds are an issue for your MP. In Wales, you will need to talk to your MS. This will make sure you are influencing the right people for your area.

We refer to MPs and MSs throughout this guide when talking about the English and Welsh Governments.

Warning Scope operates in England and Wales only

If you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland you will not be able to use our invitation maker to contact your local MP or MS.

Campaign briefing

Our invitation maker makes it quick and easy to invite your MP or MS to support inclusive playgrounds. Below are the different ways you can share your story with your MP or MS, depending on how much time you have.

Make your invitation

 
Time commitment Action
 2 minutes

Email your MP or MS with your child's story, asking them to support the campaign.

You do not need to meet or speak to your MP or MS after sending the email.

Please send the response to us at campaigns@scope.org.uk.

 20 minutes

Invite your MP or MS to arrange a phone call with you.

Use this call to explain your playgrounds experience in more detail.

It is ideal if you are busy but would still like to talk to your MP or MS.

 1 hour

Invite your MP or MS to meet with you.

This meeting can be online using Zoom or face-to-face at a constituency surgery.

Meeting and sharing your story face-to-face is a powerful way to share your experience.

Find helpful tips in our Meeting your MP or MS section.

 1 day

Invite your MP to visit your local playground with you.

You will need to contact your MP or MS's office to arrange a suitable date and time.

This option will take more time and planning. But it allows your MP or MS to experience the barriers you face, and find out how inaccessible your playground is.


Campaign briefing

Our invitation maker makes it quick and easy to invite your MP or MS to support inclusive playgrounds. Below are the different ways you can share your story with your MP or MS, depending on how much time you have.

Make your invitation

Time commitment Action
 2 minutes

Email your MP or MS with your child's story, asking them to support the campaign.

You do not need to meet or speak to your MP or MS after sending the email.

Please send the response to us at campaigns@scope.org.uk.

 20 minutes

Invite your MP or MS to arrange a phone call with you.

Use this call to explain your playgrounds experience in more detail.

It is ideal if you are busy but would still like to talk to your MP or MS.

 1 hour

Invite your MP or MS to meet with you.

This meeting can be online using Zoom or face-to-face at a constituency surgery.

Meeting and sharing your story face-to-face is a powerful way to share your experience.

Find helpful tips in our Meeting your MP or MS section.

 1 day

Invite your MP to visit your local playground with you.

You will need to contact your MP or MS's office to arrange a suitable date and time.

This option will take more time and planning. But it allows your MP or MS to experience the barriers you face, and find out how inaccessible your playground is.


The role of MPs, MSs and local councillors

The public elect MPs and MSs to represent their interests in the House of Commons and the Senedd (formerly the Welsh Assembly). The Senedd is the devolved body that makes laws for Wales.

A constituency elects an MP or MS to represent them. This means they are there to represent you and the issues you face.

They have the power to:

  • propose new laws
  • raise issues on behalf of their constituent
  • highlight campaigns in Parliament

The Prime Minister appoints some MPs and MSs in the governing party as ministers. They can make decisions over certain areas of policy.

What do MPs do (UK Parliament)

What do MSs do (Senedd Cymru Welsh Parliament)

Warning Local council funding

National governments decide how much funding councils receive to spend on public services. Without funding, local areas will not get the inclusive playgrounds they need.

Your local councillor

A councillor is a member of a local council. They are elected to wards, which cover a smaller area than constituencies.

Their main role is to represent their ward and the people who live there. They investigate people’s concerns and represent the local community’s views at council meetings.

The role of a councillor (Local Government Association)

Local councils

Councils provide and maintain public services, including playgrounds. 

They also set the plans, budgets and designs for public playgrounds in the area. You can speak to them about a specific playground in your area.

Note Let's Play Fair's focus

MPs and MSs are the focus of Let's Play Fair right now, as we are asking for funding from the national government.

Local councillors also play an important role in making sure playgrounds are inclusive, but this will come later in the campaign.

Meeting your MP or MS

Most calls or meetings with your MP or MS last between 15 and 30 minutes

Once you have sent your invitation asking to meet or speak with your MP or MS someone in their office should respond to you. The response should give you more information about setting up a meeting, phone call or playground visit.

Constituency surgeries

MPs and MSs hold constituency surgeries where they meet local people. These are great opportunities to meet in person.

Surgeries are usually held every week on Fridays. For up to date information look at their website or call their office.

Find your MP

Find your MS

Preparing for your meeting

Think about what you want to say. You might want to talk about the following:

  • the importance of play for your child
  • inclusion or exclusion from the community and how this felt
  • dangers you have faced at playgrounds
  • travelling and finding accessible playgrounds
  • any extra cost you have faced

Making notes can help you structure what you want to say, as well as help calm the nerves.

Structuring your conversation

Tell your story

Use your personal story to show the effect inaccessible playgrounds have on you and your family.

You should choose 2 or 3 crucial points that show why inclusive playgrounds are important to you.

Statistics can come after, to show them how widespread the issue is.

Our Facts Kit can help you find the numbers you need.

Keep it focused

Try not to go off on a tangent about topics not related to inclusive playgrounds. Your MP or MS should be able to walk away knowing 2 things:

  • How inaccessible playgrounds have affected your family
  • What you want them to do to fix it

Use photos

Show them personal photos of your family at the playground. This is a powerful way of showing how much inclusive play means to your child.

Refer them to Scope

Your MP or MS might ask for more information on the campaign or a political briefing. Let them know they can get in touch with Scope for more information at campaigns@scope.org.uk.

Get your MP or MS to support inclusive playgrounds

Ask your MP or MS to raise the issue of inclusive playgrounds with the relevant minister. You can tell them to:

  • Ask the minister whether they have considered an Inclusive Playground Fund in their plans.
  • Tell the minister what impact inclusive playgrounds will have in their constituency.
  • Ask the minister to outline what the Department is doing to support local authorities in ensuring all children have equal access to play.

If you're in England, the important minister is the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. If you're in Wales, this is the Deputy Minister for Social Services.

After meeting your MP or MS

Campaigning is hard work and sharing personal stories can really take it out of you. Celebrating the wins is just as important as doing the tough bits!

If you can, take a moment to enjoy a treat of your choice.

Send a thank you

This will help you form a relationship with your MP or MS and let them know how much their support means to you. If you forgot to tell them something in the meeting, this is the perfect opportunity to fill any gaps.

Let us know how it went

We'd love to know which MP or MS you met with and what they said in your conversation.

Following up with your MP or MS

If your MP or MS has committed to raise the issue with the minister, they should update you with the minister’s response within a few weeks. If you have not heard from them in within a month, feel free to follow up with them about it.

Responding to things your MP or MS might say

The government has given £3.2 billion this year to councils

Local authorities have a duty to take reasonable measures to make play areas accessible for disabled children. They often have tight budgets, meaning they have to prioritise other issues. Having a dedicated fund for making playgrounds inclusive would help councils meet this duty.

The costs of living crisis means that we need to prioritise other issues

Families with disabled children face extra costs of about £581 a month on average. Some private play areas are accessible, such as soft play. But it’s expensive and requires travel to get to them. This makes access to free, local play spaces even more important.

Does Scope have advice on how to make playgrounds inclusive

Scope does not have official guidance on making playgrounds inclusive. However, Scope is open to working with national governments to put guidance in place. This will ensure councils can create truly inclusive playgrounds.

Facts kit

The importance of inclusive playgrounds

Play is a fundamental part of a child's development

Play is an opportunity for children to use their imagination and explore the world around them. Playgrounds offer cognitive, social, physical, and sensory experiences.

These experiences are crucial to all children’s development. Every disabled child should have the opportunity to play.

Exercise improves physical and metal health

Playgrounds give children the important opportunity to exercise. This improves their physical and mental health.

During the coronavirus pandemic, many disabled children could not access vital therapies that provide exercise. On top of this, families could not take their children to the playground. Many disabled children saw their conditions get worse.

Bring communities together

Playgrounds can be the heart of a community. They are a gathering place for families and can give a sense of belonging in the local area.

Children can also learn how to interact with others in a playground. Inclusive playgrounds allow disabled and non-disabled children to play together, breaking down barriers.

Legal rights

Knowing your legal right can help you when advocating for inclusive playgrounds.

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act protects disabled people and other disadvantaged groups from discrimination. It says that disabled people have the right to reasonable adjustments to make services accessible to them.

What is reasonable depends on:

  • cost
  • effectiveness
  • disruption
  • health and safety

Local authorities must take reasonable measures to make a play area as suitable for disabled children as possible. And they must consider the safety of other users when making playgrounds accessible.

Equality Act 2010 - Discrimination and your rights (Citizens Advice)

Public Sector Equality Duty

The Public Sector Equality Duty was created to help enforce the Equality Act. This duty legally requires public organisations to take steps to:

  • eliminate unlawful discrimination
  • promote equal participation for disadvantaged groups, including disabled people
  • foster good relations between groups who have protected characteristics and groups that do not

Public Sector Equality Duty (Citizens Advice)

Playgrounds owned by local councils are covered by the Equality Duty. Yet, many of these playgrounds have inaccessible equipment and exclude disabled children.

This is because councils do not get dedicated funding for inclusive playgrounds, stopping them from making simple changes that can improve accessibility and inclusion.

Inclusive Playground Funds is a way of giving councils the money needed to make these improvements.

Rights of the child: UN Convention

Article 31 states that all children have the right to play. According to the UN, governments should make it easy for all children to play by ensuring play is accessible.

UN Convention on the right of the Child (International Play Association)

Statistics

Research we carried out with over 1000 families with disabled children shows:

  • 49% had some accessibility problem with their local playground
  • 11% had minimal or no access to their local playground
  • 11% said their child hurt themselves because of inaccessible equipment
  • 12% said their disabled child felt unsafe using the equipment
  • 16% said their disabled child felt upset and disappointed because they could not enjoy the playground
  • 13% could not enjoy the playground as a family because siblings were unable to play together

Some families did not experience accessibility issues.

  • 36% the whole family could enjoy time together
  • 33% disabled children could mix with their peers
  • 28% feel like part of the community

It would be great if every family of a disabled child could feel like this.

Beyond the money

We recognise there are other barriers to address once funding has been secured. So we are also influencing English and Welsh governments on improving the guidance around playgrounds.

Inclusive and accessible playgrounds: the difference

An accessible playground allows everyone to get in and move around the playground. For example, making sure there are drop curbs and smooth paths.

An inclusive playground is one that all children can play in and enjoy, regardless of ability and age. This allows friends and siblings to experience play together.

Scope is calling for playgrounds to be both accessible and inclusive. It’s important to note that not every playground will be able to meet everyone’s needs. Local authorities should work with their local community to design a playground that best suits their needs.

Acknowledgements

We want to thank the following parents and carers of disabled children who contributed their insights to this guide:

Anna Bird

Becky Maddern

Esther Bahler

Lorna Fillingham

Neil Man

Rowena Tassell

Ruth Chamberlain

Samantha Bowen

Silvia Possetto

Vaila Morrison.

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