Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services
I am pleased to update Assembly Members on the steps I am taking to move forward with the play policy agenda for Wales. My intention is to further deliver on the Welsh Government manifesto commitment to “continue to improve opportunities for all children and young people to play in safety and, in particular, to support improved access to play for children with disabilities”.
The Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010, section 11, Play Opportunities, allows Welsh Ministers to place a duty on Local Authorities to assess the sufficiency of play opportunities in their areas for children in accordance with regulations. Having regard to its assessment, a Local Authority must secure sufficient play opportunities in its area for children, so far as reasonably practicable.
I am keen to take forward this duty for the benefit of children and young people in Wales and have decided to commence the duty in two parts.
For part 1, I have asked my officials to work with Legal Services, the range of other policy areas that affect children’s opportunities to play and the play sector, to develop the Regulations and Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities in complying with section 11(1) in conducting the play sufficiency assessments. These will set out the requirements for the assessments and the date by which they must be completed.
The assessments should cover the range of factors that affect children and young people’s opportunities to play and include demographic profiles of the area; an audit of open space and existing and potential play space; play provision; recreational provision and other factors that promote play opportunities including planning; traffic; transport; community initiatives, as well as workforce development. The sufficiency of provision and opportunities will be assessed against criteria set out in the Regulations and Statutory Guidance, which will include consultation with children and young people.
It is anticipated that the Regulations and Statutory Guidance covering the play sufficiency assessments will go out for the 12 week consultation process in February 2012. After the necessary amendments, it is anticipated that, the Regulations will be laid and come into force in the summer of 2012. At this time we will publish a toolkit to support Local Authorities in conducting the play sufficiency assessments.
To support Local Authorities in conducting their first sufficiency assessments, I have agreed for Welsh Government funding to be allocated for this purpose for the financial year 2012 – 13. I will be contacting Local Authorities with further details of this allocation in due course.
Part 2, will cover the commencement of section 11(3), which is the duty on a Local Authority to “secure sufficient play opportunities in its area for children, so far as reasonably practicable, having regard to its assessment”. Commencement will follow after consideration of the completed play sufficiency assessments; the Local Authorities’ plans for securing sufficient play opportunities and the potential implications for the Welsh Government at that time.
I am very pleased to be moving forward on this important policy area, which is central to children’s enjoyment of life and their social, physical and intellectual development.