The Welsh Government has set seven core aims guided by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as the basis of all its work for children and young people. These aims inform decisions on priorities and objectives nationally and inform strategy and service provision locally.
The seven core aims ensure that all children and young people:
1. have developed a flying start in life and the best possible basis for their future growth and development
Providing young children and families with quality opportunities to play supports the development of positive early attachments. Play enables physical, emotional and mental development and the learning of skills that contribute to children's healthy development. It also supports the development of good parenting skills.
2. have access to a comprehensive range of education, training and learning opportunities, including acquisition of essential personal and social skills
Play is recognised as essential to children and young people's learning about themselves, others and the world around them. Playworkers facilitate play opportunities for children well into adolescence and provision such as outreach play projects and adventure playgrounds are proven to engage with even our most excluded children.
Providing playwork training within the 14-19 pathways and Extending Entitlement agenda provides work experience for young people. Young people and young adults who are given the opportunity to volunteer in local community play projects acquire a range of transferable children's service and social entrepreneurship skills.
3. enjoy the best possible physical and mental, social and emotional health, including freedom from abuse, victimisation and exploitation
Quality play opportunities provide considerable physical and mental health benefits to children. Playworkers can facilitate and enhance local play opportunities close to where children live. Their presence allows children to create an environment that fosters their play where they feel safe within their own communities. Outreach playworkers such as play rangers support children to reclaim open space for play. This supports children's health and levels of physical activity, whilst developing a sense of importance within their own communities.
Staffed play opportunities allow children to experience a sense of adventure and risk, with help on hand if needed. Where play provision does not exist, we know that children will seek out fun and challenge in areas and in ways that may be dangerous.
4. have access to play, leisure, sporting and cultural activities
Play is children's culture. Quality play settings that provide a rich play environment provide children and young people with opportunities that may act as a springboard into more organised sport and cultural activities. Additionally, they provide children who choose to avoid the structure of organised sport and cultural activities to gain experience in their own way on their own terms.
5. children are listened to, treated with respect, and are able to have their race and cultural identity recognised
When asked what is important to them, quality play opportunities are among children and young people's top priorities. When we value children's play we value children.
Quality staffed play settings are by nature participative and non-discriminatory. They provide an environment where children can experiment with and explore their identity (who they are and what they look like) and the identity of their peers.
Playwork by its nature encourages and supports participation. Playworkers create spaces and facilitate opportunities that allow children and young people to change and adapt their own environment to suit their own needs and wishes.
By observing children at play in a rich environment planners have the opportunity to learn from what they see and plan services which better meet children's needs and drive to play.
Providing a range of experiences and visits as part of participative exercises and events allows children to make informed choices; we must remember that children tend to have limited experience and will opt for what they know.
6. have a safe home and a community that supports physical and emotional wellbeing
Staffed play provision provides children with the opportunity to experience risk and develop their own risk management skills, as well as their own strategies for dealing with bullies.
As an integral part of a community, quality play provision engenders a sense of ownership in children and young people. There is a strong history of enhancing social cohesion by involving local people in play provision.
7. is not disadvantaged by child poverty
Open access staffed play provision is free at the point of entry.
The concept of play deprivation (where a childs health, well being and long term development is detrimentally affected by lack of opportunity to play) is still being debated, but it is clear that there is such a thing as poverty of experience, which may occur whatever the circumstances or social background of a child or young person.
Providing quality play training at community level upskills local community members and enables those with an interest in playwork, or similar career, to enter the workforce.