Pay to play at our local parks? No thank you
Councils may be desperate for money, but charging children to play can't be right.
When I first heard that some councils were thinking of introducing charges to use play facilities at parks, I thought it was a joke.
Now that two different London boroughs have admitted that they are at least considering charging kids to play, I’m not laughing.
On Ready for Ten, our Parents for Playgrounds initiative has given communities the chance to win £15,000 to makeover their local play facilities. The response was overwhelming and demonstrated just how passionately so many of us believe in good quality playgrounds that are free for everyone to use.
Hitting poorer families hardest
What really upsets me about these charging plans is that it’s the kids who need facilities like this the most who will lose out. Children who may not have a garden at home to play in and whose parents rely on local parks for days out.
£2.50 a time isn’t a small amount of money, particularly if you have two or more children. Most families would be looking at a minimum of £5 per play session.
Children need exciting and safe places to play, particularly as they get older. I love to see older children and teens enjoying themselves on playgrounds where there are suitable facilities.
Are children old to enough to go to a park on their own actually going to pay £2.50 to burn off their energy on a playground? Of course not, they are going to hang around other areas of the park. Then, no doubt, people will complain that they are being a nuisance.
Keeping our kids fit
What about the fight against childhood obesity? Linda wrote about the role of parks in keeping kids fit when planned new play areas were axed last year.
Adventure playgrounds are great for keeping kids fit without them even realising it. Good play facilities where children can spend long afternoons at the weekends, are a great way of ensuring their future health and fitness. If these facilities are to become something that parents have to budget for, they will be used far less.
Popularity is a problem?
Currently, Wandsworth council only plan to charge at weekends, the argument being that at these times half of the children using the facilities come from outside the borough.
Doesn’t this mean that poorer Wandsworth children might end up using facilities in neighbouring boroughs at weekends? What happens if all boroughs start introducing similar charges on the same basis?
Perhaps the council should see all these visitors as an opportunity rather than a burden.
Only the beginning?
I can’t help feeling that once charges have been introduced it will be much easier to gradually start charging at other times and for other services. No doubt other cash strapped councils will also try to introduce such charges in their areas if they think they can get away with it.
What do you think?
Would you be happy if your council started charging for some of its play facilities?
More support for children's play
Post a comment
You must be signed in to post to Ready for Ten.
Haven’t registered? It’s really quick and simple.