The Association of Play Industries (API) recently launched its Equal Play campaign based on new research which showed that access to public play spaces in the UK is unfair and unequal. A Freedom of Information survey revealed that some UK regions have almost five times the free-to-access play provision of others. Given the enormous variation in play provision across the UK, the API has been inundated with requests for local data. In response to these queries, the API are sharing maps outlining the state of play in each of the UK nations.

API Chair, Mark Hardy says: “The average number of children per playground in Northern Ireland is 447. However, a more detailed look at the data reveals as much inequity in play provision in NI as anywhere else in the UK.

“The data shows that children who live in the most densely populated areas in Northern Ireland have the worst access to outdoor play spaces. It is precisely these children who are the most likely to have limited or no private outdoor space in which to play and who need public, community playgrounds the most.

“This postcode lottery in access to outdoor play in Northern Ireland will have significant ramifications for the children there. Evidence for the crucial role that outdoor play has in children’s development and on their mental and physical health is overwhelming. Children who cannot regularly and frequently play outside are at a severe disadvantage.

“There is an urgent need for investment in play and in children’s welfare. We are urging the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities to deliver ring-fenced funding for play, to enable local authorities to provide e very child in the UK with a safe, local and high-quality playground nearby.”

Jacqueline O’Loughlin, Chief Executive of PlayBoard NI says: “As we emerge from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, access to high quality outdoor play spaces that meet the needs of a variety of ages has never been so important.

“Councils across Northern Ireland have a key role in ensuring that children and young people have access to play, and over recent years a number of councils, with the support of PlayBoard, have invested significant strategic capital funds aimed at enhancing access to play. Whilst progress has been made, this research undertaken by the API indicates that further work is required, and PlayBoard look forward to working with both the API and colleagues in local government to enhance access to play for all children and young people”.