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Insurance for street play – some thoughts 

We are often asked by residents whether public liability insurance is needed to protect them in the case of any damage or claims related to their ‘playing out’ sessions. It’s a tricky one to give a definitive answer on – we have talked to insurers, legal experts and other organisations and the upshot is that it’s really for individuals to decide if it’s needed or worthwhile. The majority of councils use an indemnity clause and many strongly recommend insurance, but very few insist on it. Here are some thoughts (with thanks to Streets Alive) on why this might be a good idea.

The cost of the premium is prohibitive to many communities (£80+) and may not deal with the liability and ‘duty of care’ issues that councils may be concerned about. In 2012 for the Jubilee about 2m people took part in street parties. Some of them had insurance cover but there were no claims at all made in the country, according to the insurance companies.

The authority is not responsible for the event. By making a road closure order the authority is not itself licensing or approving any aspect of the event itself. To meet their ‘duty of care’ many councils ensure that residents are aware of their responsibilities and minimise any risk or attempt of a claim against the council, by requiring residents to agree by signature to conditions, written in plain English, on behalf of the other residents.

Any event PLI does not indemnify the authority from anything it may be negligent of. For example, in cases of slipping or tripping on faulty pavements or as a result of the road closure order itself. Indeed, in any serious cases there could be a risk of ‘double insurance’ with the authority’s own PLI.

The risk of liability is low. Playing Out has not heard of any claim for liability being made as a result of a playing out session, with over 1200 streets having played out across the UK (winter 2021). The organisation Streets Alive that promoted street parties also had not heard of any claims being made for street parties. The nature of street play sessions means that they are very low risk in terms of the potential of a claim being made on the council or authority, for the following reasons:

  • There is a clear process and guidelines in place to ensure the sessions are as safe as possible.
  • Residents are encouraged to do a risk assessment.
  • The road is legally and physically closed to through traffic
  • The activities are simply children playing in an everyday way, with adults present.
  • All activities are very visible, and there are always stewards at either end of the street making it easy to see what is going on.
  • It is made clear in all publicity that parents are responsible for their children as normal.
  • This self-organising approach means that there is a very high sense of self-responsibility taken by residents because they share the arrangements between them.
  • Rarely do people from outside the street attend as there is no external publicity.

Blanket requirements for insurance and inflated levels of cover are counter to the Health & Safety Executive’s guidance on risk and play, “Children’s Play and Leisure, promoting a balanced approach. September 2012.

The principle that liability shouldn’t prevent people doing things that would otherwise be beneficial is recognised in law. (The Compensation Act 2006: Section 1)

Deterrent effect of potential liability

A court considering a claim in negligence or breach of statutory duty may, in determining whether the defendant should have taken particular steps to meet a standard of care (whether by taking precautions against a risk or otherwise), have regard to whether a requirement to take those steps might—

(a)prevent a desirable activity from being undertaken at all, to a particular extent or in a particular way, or

(b)discourage persons from undertaking functions in connection with a desirable activity. (Compensation Act 2006: Section 1)

Important – This advice does not constitute a complete analysis of the issue, nor provide a complete list of organisational arrangements, responsibilities or liabilities for planning street play sessions. If any person has any doubts or questions about the need for public liability insurance for a street party, or any other event, they should seek independent professional advice. We do not accept any responsibility for any event that we are not directly responsible for organising.