Yes Ball Games!Watch our webinar
Yes Ball Games!Watch our webinar
All the evidence shows that children desperately need more time outside, more physical activity, more social contact, more sense of belonging in their communities, more freedom – and more play! Playing out or “doorstep play” – having access to the space right outside your home, whether a street or housing estate – can give them all these things, for free.
Play streets and playing out sessions on estates provide clear evidence that children want to play out together and readily do so when given access to safe space on their doorstep. But many children are unable to play out on an everyday basis due to a combination of physical and social barriers. The good news is that housing providers (councils, housing associations, private landlords or management companies) are in the perfect position to address many of these barriers and restore children’s freedom to play out.
We are already working with several housing organisations, encouraging them to think about the particular opportunity and responsibility they have around this due to their relationship with tenants and with the communal space outside people’s homes. Councils and housing associations also have a clear social purpose to improve the health and wellbeing of tenants, increase community cohesion and empower residents. Enabling children to safely play out together in shared space and building community support for this would hugely help to achieve these aims.
However, based on our direct experience of supporting social housing tenants over the years, we know that there is a lot that needs to change. Unfortunately, all too often, housing providers are inadvertently preventing children from playing out rather than supporting them to do so.
Over the years, we have regularly been contacted by parents living in council, social or managed housing, asking for help and advice. Often, this is because they have been sent a formal letter from their housing provider telling them that children are not allowed to play out in the space immediately outside their homes. Sometimes, they have even been threatened with eviction if they continue to let their children play out. Usually, these letters are sent in response to complaints from residents – or even a single complaint – about the sound of children playing or other concerns.
No Ball Games signs – or even the more extreme “no playing” – are still ubiquitous on housing estates, sending a clear message to children that they are unwelcome in the space outside their own homes.
Happily, a number of councils and housing associations have committed to removing these – or even replacing them with more positive “please play here” signage. Things are moving in the right direction – they just need to move faster!
In 2021, our board member Ellen Weaver undertook some informal research with housing providers, aimed at understanding why organisations implement policies and practice which restrict or discourage children’s play on their doorstep – and what would enable them to implement more play-friendly policies. She found that the main reason was simply a lack of understanding or consideration of the importance of outdoor play for children. It is our aim to change this! Contact us for a copy of the research summary.
Based on Ellen’s research and our direct experience of supporting parents all over the UK to push back against ‘play bans’ since 2013, we are now developing a guide for housing providers on how they can support children to play out, alongside some forward-thinking housing organisations who are already implementing their own pro-play policies.
We will be launching this in autumn 2022 but in the meantime, below is a summary of what we think a pro-play housing policy should include. Ultimately, we want all housing providers to sign up to prioritising children’s need for outdoor communal play near home and to make any changes necessary towards enabling this.
Some more positive examples
Wrexham Council is looking into supporting play streets and removing ‘no ball games’ signs as part of an overall approach to supporting children to play out.
Major housebuilder Redrow has launched a “please play here” campaign.
If you work for a housing organisation and are interested in any of this, get in touch. We would love to hear from you and help you to make your communities more child-friendly. We are also developing a pro-play housing network and would love you to join!