A new report due to be launched in parliament on Wednesday, reveals that disabled children with multiple needs face severe barriers to accessing play services, which effectively means they are often being “excluded from their own communities”.
The report – Making the case for play – by the national deafblind charity Sense warns that multiple needs children are missing out on play opportunities, due to insufficient funding and negative attitudes towards disabled children and their families.
It follows a three-month public inquiry into the provision of play opportunities for young disabled children in England and Wales, which was launched in response to concerns expressed by parents that fewer play services are available to disabled children than non-disabled children.
Chaired by Labour’s former Secretary of State for Education and Employment, Lord Blunkett, the inquiry calls on the Prime Minister to deliver on a promise to improve the life chances of all children in the UK.
Commenting on the findings of the inquiry, Lord Blunkett warned that “disabled children and their families are being excluded from their own communities”.
Lord Blunkett, said “We know that play is vitally important for children with multiple needs and their families, bringing a wide range of developmental and emotional benefits. However, our inquiry found that all too often the parents of children with multiple-needs point to barriers they face in accessing and enjoying play.
“It means that disabled children don’t have the same chance to form friendships, and parents are prevented from taking a break from caring. Both disabled children and their parents are excluded from their own communities.
“I know that there is strong support across the political spectrum for addressing the findings of this report, and I look forward to working with colleagues from all parties to achieve real change for parents and families across the nation.”
Sense Deputy CEO, Richard Kramer, said: “Play is critical in giving children the best start in life and improving outcomes for children and their families.
“The report makes clear, however, that where a child has multiple needs, the barriers they face to accessing play settings and activities are also multiplied.
“We hope that local and national policymakers, as well as play professionals, reflect on today’s recommendations, and make the necessary changes that will make access to play a reality for all children.”
The report has now received the full backing of Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, who has called on “politicians from all parties to do everything they can to remove barriers” to play services.
She added: “Our party was proud to launch a deaf manifesto (pdf) at last year’s general election with the aim of achieving better lifelong education and wellbeing for all D/deaf people and we are steadfast in our belief that young people must be supported outside school as well as in.
“There are many sensible proposals within Making the case for play, none more so than the call for play to be a feature of the Minister for Childcare’s portfolio. Our party will do everything we can to make this happen.”