Following approaches from a number of local councils PlayBoard have today issued the following guidance regarding public access to and use of fixed play areas during the current Covid-19 outbreak.
At the outset it is important to state that under normal circumstances PlayBoard, as the lead organisation for Play in Northern Ireland would never issue guidance that would result in the limitation or restriction of access to play opportunities. These are however uncertain and challenging times and we feel compelled to issue this guidance in response to wider Public Health concerns.
Whilst no specific national guidance has been issued at this stage relating to the use of fixed play areas; given the general guidance as it relates to social distancing combined with the closure of schools from Monday 23rd March, PlayBoard believe it would be prudent at this stage for councils to move to the closure of fixed play areas.
At present social mixing for all age groups is advised against by government and, when schools close levels of social mixing at fixed play areas is likely to increase substantially. This, combined with the risk of contamination of fixed play equipment indicates that closure should be the preferred option.
Whilst recommending the closure of fixed play areas, PlayBoard strongly urge councils to continue to provide access to parks and open spaces (in line with government advice on social mixing) to allow children, young people and families to access valuable play and recreation opportunities.
Further guidance on social distancing can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-on-social-distancing-and-for-vulnerable-people/guidance-on-social-distancing-for-everyone-in-the-uk-and-protecting-older-people-and-vulnerable-adults.
Amidst the uncertainty and social restrictions caused by Covid-19 it is important for us all to remember that play is a critically important part of children and young people’s lives, particularly during times of uncertainty. Through play children and young people are able to remain active whilst developing resilience, coping with stress and anxiety and importantly having fun. As social restrictions continue over the coming weeks ensuring children and young people continue to have access to play opportunities, whether at home or in the wider community will be essential.
PlayBoard will continue to monitor developments and issue further guidance as required.