Will Cardiff Bay speak up for play after election day?

Tomorrow is set to be a bumper election day in Great Britain! 

In England alone, there will be local council elections, mayoral elections, Mayor of London elections, London Assembly elections and Police & Crime Commissioner* elections. Some of these are elections that were postponed in 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19. 

*Police & Crime Commissioner elections will also be taking place in Wales. Did you know that Wales and England share a single jurisdiction but have two legislatures? Something unique in the world. 

As if that wasn’t enough elections for one day, there will also be a Senedd Cymru/Welsh Parliament election and a Scottish Parliamentary election. This article will look at the Senedd elections – fellow Trustee, Ann-marie, has written a piece on the Scottish Parliamentary election which you can read here. If you’re unfamiliar, this short video explains the powers of the Senedd. 

This year’s Senedd election is nothing short of historic! Thanks to the ‘Senedd Election Act 2020’, 16 and 17 year-olds will be able to vote for the first time as well as an estimated 33,000 foreign nationals gaining the right to vote – this represents the biggest expansion of the franchise since 1969, when suffrage was extended to 18 to 21 year-olds, and will undoubtedly impact on the results of the election. 

So, what do the parties say about play and playwork for #Senedd2021?

Whilst a number of parties have progressive manifesto promises for children and young people, only the Wales Green Party and Welsh Liberal Democrats specifically reference “play”, albeit in the context of early years education in both cases. Questions to Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price, on play, also returned responses linking to education and early years. Despite no mention of it in their manifesto, it could be argued that, as it was a Welsh Labour Government that produced The Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010, that gave us the Play Sufficiency Duty, and their record in supporting play in recent years, that Labour will likely continue this commitment.  

Whatever the party-political make-up of the new Welsh parliament and government next week, a number of organisations have made it clear to all of them what they believe should be done to protect the rights of children in Wales, including their right to play.

First, we look at our national play board, Play Wales, and their manifesto “Wales – a play friendly place”. The headline asks are for the continuation of the Play Sufficiency Duty and for the opportunities for children to play to “increase and improve”. The dominance of the motor vehicle is addressed, with recommendations for default 20mph speed limits in built-up areas and government-mandated guidance for street play projects. Looking at schools, Play Wales propose a mandatory minimum time for “play breaks” within the school day and also ask for consideration, wherever practical, to making outdoor school grounds available for play after school and at weekends.  Play Wales also call for a public campaign that not only explains what play is but also communicates the health and wellbeing benefits for children and wider society. 

The Children’s Commissioner for Wales’s Manifesto briefly mentions play, asking for “more youth and play services that anyone can use, for free”. However it does go a little further by giving a vision of the future with “free adventure playgrounds all over the country”! This year will see the end of the current Commissioner’s tenure – we hope that the next Commissioner will be just as welcoming to play and playwork as Sally has been. 

Clybiau Plant Cymru Kids’ Club appear to be the only organisation making very specific representations on behalf of playworkers. Specifically, they call for: the “continued investment in professionalisation of the sector” via funding, CPD and access to training and qualifications; recognition of playworkers’ influence on children’s lives and the Welsh economy to be “recognised in all government communications and policy decisions”; parity with Early Years workers through an “active and effective sector skills council”; and a call for more initiatives that support fair remuneration for playworkers (e.g. tax-free childcare, the childcare offer and 100% rates relief). 

The Play Sufficiency Duty and legislation like the world-first Well-being of Future Generations Act, are indicative of how progressive governments can make a real difference to children and young people’s lives in a meaningful and sustainable way and on a national scale. However, any incoming Welsh Government will still be restricted by the allocation of funding set by the UK Government and by the reservation of powers over aspects of media, health and safety legislation, employment and regulation of charities. 

In the coming months, The Playwork Foundation will be revisiting ‘A Manifesto for Play: Policy proposals for children’s play in England’ that was written in partnership with Play England and IPA England ahead of the 2019 UK General Election. Taking into consideration the composition of the new parliaments and governments in Wales and Scotland following national elections, and the shifting of the political map in England as a result of local elections, we hope to present a vision for the future of playwork that can influence and encourage each nation of the UK to not only recognise the profession but utilise our expertise and practice to the benefit of children and young people in every corner of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. 

If you’re living in Wales and wondering who to vote for, the BBC have put together this guide, or, for those in Scotland and England voting this Thursday, you can find out about all the elections, candidates and parties by visiting https://whocanivotefor.co.uk/

Siôn Edwards

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