This case study describes the partnership working arrangements which enable play development in Conwy.
Conwy’s Play Development Team consists of the Principal Play Officer and one Play Development Worker, both of whom work full time. The Play Development Team is funded through a Welsh Government Families First grant which is administered by the local authority. The Play Development Team is employed by the Voluntary Services Council, Community and Voluntary Support Conwy (CVSC), thus the Families First Grant is paid to CVSC. This arrangement combines the third sector, local authority and Welsh Government in partnership working.
The Play Development Team delivers numerous projects including (but not limited to):
- Playwork training
- Developing policies and training for Social Services
- Rich Play Award – quality assurance scheme which improves play opportunities in schools and childcare settings.
- Playday celebration event and other play provision such as Pop Up Play Shop.
- Playful parenting courses
- Strategic play development with partners such as road safety, planning and playground inspection
- Supporting community groups to improve opportunities for playing.
The Principal Play Officer also has responsibility for conducting Conwy’s Play Sufficiency Assessment and creating and delivering the resulting action plans.
There are numerous benefits to the Play Development Team being part of CVSC and therefore the third sector:
- Independence from local authority
- Ability to respond quickly to changing needs of the sector
- Freedom to try out exciting and innovative ideas
- Highly efficient project
- Best placed to engage with community groups and volunteers
- Best placed to offer support to community groups and volunteers and draw on expertise of colleagues
- Ability to apply for charitable funding for additional activities such as Playday, accreditation or extra parenting courses.
Our position with CVSC means we are reliant on partnership working and finding common aims to help us to work with other organisations. The third sector, and particularly CVSC is very used to proactively making contact with other organisations and is highly skilled and well connected to do so. We currently have joint projects or work with the following (list not exhaustive):
- Communities First
- Strategic Planning (local authority)
- Housing associations
- Early Years and Childcare Development (local authority)
- Road Safety (local authority)
- Bangor University – Widening Access
- Environments, Roads and Facilities (local authority)
- Childcare settings
- Forest School settings
- Community Groups
- FE College
- Strategic Lead Officers (local authority)
- Social Services (local authority)
- Family Information Service (local authority)
- Youth service (local authority)
- Youth Council (local authority)
- Children’s commissioner for Wales.
It is of central importance to us to keep these contacts informed about the importance of play and we use professional discussions, meetings, training and conferences to do so.
The Play Sufficiency Assessment is conducted by the Play Development Team on behalf of the local authority. Despite not being part of the local authority we faced no barriers in consulting with the relevant departments and creating actions with them. We found that being able to be responsive and flexible with how we dealt with issues or barriers to playing meant we were able to commit, with the local authority, to innovative new actions that might not otherwise have been possible. For example, creating and piloting Play Value assessments that combine playground inspections, benchmarking standards, open space qualitative assessment and the recommended sufficiency play value assessment.
The Play Sufficiency Assessment still went through the local authority’s internal processes and the Principal Play Officer presented it to Core Outcome Groups and Council Scrutiny.
The current structure for play development in Conwy should be understood in the context of the history of play in the county. As with many counties, the BIG Lottery Play Programme enabled the growth of playwork provision. Conwy local authority hosted the North West Wales BIG Lottery Play project, which was known as Play Rangers. This hosting was enabled through the strong strategic support offered by lead officers and by the support of Play Wales and Conwy’s Principal Play Officer. The Play Rangers project, along with Conwy’s Principal Play Officer, worked well in conveying the importance of play to professionals within the local authority. This advocacy meant that the importance of Play Development work was understood and supported and resulted in Families First funding being identified for the play development Team.
In 2009 funding was identified through a combination of Cymorth and Flying Start funding for the Principal Play Officer. The specific objective of this funding was to develop and implement a Play Strategy for Conwy. Whilst a previous play officer post had been located within the Leisure Department of the local authority, it was felt that hosting the post within the CVSC would bring other opportunities including: an objectivity from the local authority, access to different funding sources and take advantage of good relationships with community groups. Furthermore, it built on a good partnership arrangement with CVSC who already provided desk space and support for a regional play officer post as part of the BIG Lottery Child’s Play project. The Principal Play Officer would go on to line manage two posts under the BIG Lottery project.
When the Families First programme was introduced in 2011 funding was continued to support the Principal Play Officer post and the continued implementation of the Conwy Play Strategy 2010-2013. At this time a second round application to the BIG Lottery Child’s Play programme was successful following a lead from Conwy and the Principal Play Officer which established the Play Rangers Project.