Providing children with places to play

It's not just the attraction of technology which is resulting in children playing outside less.....
15 August 2022

Interview with 

Helen Griffiths, Fields in Trust


Families and groups of people sitting on the grass in a park.


Andrea has outlined how important physical activity will be to any improvement in the mental and physical health of our youngsters. To facilitate this, kids need places to play. Unfortunately, we don’t always make it as easy as we should. “Fields in Trust” is a charity which aims to legally protect our parks and green spaces, working with landowners and local authorities to ensure these sites are reserved for public recreational use indefinitely. Helen Griffiths, chief executive and a member of the government’s Parks Access Group, told me why their work is so crucial…

Helen - So at Fields in Trust, we've done some research into this to try and look at what the overall provision of parks and green space access looks like across the whole of the country. And we know that approximately 3 million people live more than a 10 minute walk from a local park or green space. And that 10 minute walk metric is a really important one because if it's within a 10 minute walk, then you are more likely to use that space on a regular basis. And that's also particularly relevant when we are thinking about access for children, as they begin to forge some independence. the fact that those spaces need to be within a safe and walkable distance from where they live. There is lots of variation across the piece. And that's really interesting when we also start to think about where those inequities of provision are, because we know again from our green space index that those areas that perform worse in terms of the amount of green space provision that they have, 40% of those are in the highest priority areas for the government's levelling up agenda. So we know that there is a correlation between those areas of deprivation, those more challenged communities, and not having good access to outdoor green space, which is really important when we think about the fact that one and eight households also don't have access to a private green space. So if you don't have a garden or a yard at home, the park is so much more important. It is your back garden.

James - What you are saying is that it's not all down to the pull of being indoors, to the pull of the games console or the iPad, but being pushed away from playing outside because of the limitations on access to parks and green spaces. It worries me as well, what you were saying about the inequalities - families from lower incomes who are bearing the brunt of this, those without access to gardens, which follows because they're the ones who are suffering at the moment, those children with the poorest physical and mental health. We can all agree that having access to green space must have some health benefits, but quantifying that must be tricky. Have you tried?

Helenn - You're completely right in that it is a very difficult issue to be able to put some numbers on. How do you value that service that by its very nature needs to be free at the point of of access. So we have done some studies to try and be able to create a more robust business case. So what is the value of our parks and green spaces - how can we quantify that value so that we can make a better case for investment in them? We've looked at the wellbeing value that is generated by parks and green spaces, and it is enormous. So the wellbeing value is a whopping 34.2 billion pounds a year. And we arrived at that by looking at the ONS questions around subjective wellbeing. So what would it cost us to replace that wellbeing with the whole of the population, if we needed to, if we didn't have access to those spaces? I think there's also a question around making sure from a behavioural perspective that we are encouraging children to be able to use those spaces and that they feel safe in those spaces. And obviously parents are a big part of that in encouraging their children to participate in play and to take risks as part of that developmental piece that is so important as part of children's play.


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