Play streets update

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The next stage of the journey

June 2024

Playing Out’s vision is for all children to be free to play out near home – any time, every day – for their health, wellbeing and sense of belonging.

Over the past 15 years, alongside growing the grassroots play street movement, we have done a huge amount of campaigning, lobbying, policy and project work towards this long-term aim. We now look forward to collectively taking this work further as the next government comes to power and new opportunities for positive change open up.

From September, driven by this mission, we will be re-focussing our work to allow more time for all of the above, and changing the way that Playing Out supports play streets nationally.

This means that hands-on support via our small, dedicated play streets team will end in August. However, play streets themselves will continue to be strongly supported by the huge range of information and resources on our website, and by the ever-growing expertise that is now ‘out there’ in the UK-wide network of residents, community groups and councils who have been doing and supporting play streets over the past 15 years. You can find more information about current and ongoing support for play streets here. Alongside this, we will continue to promote and advocate for play streets nationally, improving the context for them to happen and signposting to more direct and local support.

It’s 15 years since we, as parents wanting to change things for children, organised the first ever playing out session in Bristol and began supporting this successful catalyst for change to spread and grow across the UK and beyond. We are very proud of where play streets have got to and will be doing all we can over the next year to ensure this movement continues to thrive, enabling even more children to play out.

Why this change and why now?

To date – with Playing Out’s central support, the backing of our funders and many other people and organisations working locally – at least 1,600 street and estate communities across the UK have held regular play streets, with over 48,000 children benefitting and more than 24,000 adults helping to make these happen. Over 100 councils have put supportive policies in place to enable all this community action. Together we have created more than one million extra child playing out hours and demonstrated the strong desire for children to have safe space to play out on their own doorstep, with all the deep benefits this brings.

As a social change movement, our aim was always to empower others to take action and to embed expertise in local communities. We saw our role as getting play streets to a tipping-point where the model was widely known about, more self-sustaining and no longer dependent on direct, on-going centralised support from Playing Out (with all the funding, capacity and delivery work that this entails).

For various reasons, internal and external, the time to go for this is now. A major factor is our need and desire as co-founders to focus more energy on big picture policy and social change for children, which is what is needed long-term. The success of play streets and the point we have got to is another factor. We have also, over several years, fully explored other routes for the current play street programme to continue. And we have regularly consulted our board, members, expert friends, funders and key play street allies within the network.

As a result, we now want to release this idea into the world, supported by all the information and resources on our website and all the play street expertise, experience, knowledge and motivation “out there” in thousands of individuals and hundreds of organisations across the UK.

What are the changes to play streets support?

From now until the end of August, our wonderful team will continue to provide direct support and advice on play streets for anyone who needs it, with the aim of enabling action and activity into the future. Please get in touch if you would like help or to talk anything through, and check our practical support offer.

Also from now, we will be doing all we can to help the play street movement evolve to its next stage. We will be creating an updated, future-proofed website and resources and enabling a clear way forward for the brilliant networks of residents, professionals and community organisations already doing and supporting play streets, especially where communities face more disadvantage.

We will also continue to work to improve the context for play streets, calling for better national guidance for local authorities and continuing to work across many relevant areas (housing, sport, public health), building on the recent parliamentary inquiry into children and the built environment and contributing to a new national Play Commission.

From September our wonderful play streets team move on to their next adventures (including a new baby for Lucy!) but Playing Out as an organisation, network and voice for change will continue, with the co-founders, board, expert friends and allies – including all of you! – working towards children’s right to play out where they live, and for their wider freedom.

Can you help play streets to grow?

As play streets move to the next stage of their journey over the next few months and the year ahead, we hope you will join us in helping the movement to thrive and grow as a brilliant intervention for children and communities, and one that also shifts the conversation about children, play and streets. Please do get in touch if you have ideas or thoughts or want to be involved.