The Association of Play Industries (API) recently launched its Equal Play campaign based on new research which showed that access to public play spaces in the UK is unfair and unequal. A Freedom of Information survey revealed that some UK regions have almost five times the free-to-access play provision of others.  Given the enormous variation in play provision across the UK, the API has been inundated with requests for local data. In response to these queries, we are sharing maps outlining the state of play in each of the UK nations.

API Chair, Mark Hardy says:

The average number of children per playground in Northern Ireland is 447. However, a more detailed look at the data reveals as much inequity in play provision in NI as anywhere else in the UK.

“The data shows that children who live in the most densely populated areas in Northern Ireland have the worst access to outdoor play spaces.  It is precisely these children who are the most likely to have limited or no private outdoor space in which to play and who need public, community playgrounds the most.

“This postcode lottery in access to outdoor play in Northern Ireland will have significant ramifications for the children there. Evidence for the crucial role that outdoor play has in children’s development and on their mental and physical health is overwhelming.  Children who cannot regularly and frequently play outside are at a severe disadvantage.

“There is an urgent need for investment in play and in children’s welfare. We are urging the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities to deliver ring-fenced funding for play, to enable local authorities to provide every child in the UK with a safe, local and high-quality playground nearby.”

Jacqueline O’Loughlin, Chief Executive of PlayBoard NI says:

“As we emerge from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, access to high quality outdoor play spaces that meet the needs of a variety of ages has never been so important. 

“Councils across Northern Ireland have a key role in ensuring that children and young people have access to play, and over recent years a number of councils, with the support of PlayBoard, have invested significant strategic capital funds aimed at enhancing access to play.  Whilst progress has been made, this research undertaken by the API indicates that further work is required, and PlayBoard look forward to working with both the API and colleagues in local government to enhance access to play for all children and young people”.



Background Information:
The Association of Play Industries (API) carried out FOI requests in 2017 and 2018 that highlighted an alarming decline in the number of playgrounds and in the amount spent by Local Authorities on play provision: Nowhere To Play Campaign

An updated API FOI survey was commissioned to find out how many play areas exist and what Local Authorities’ plans are for 2020 and 2021. The results show that the number of play areas is no longer reducing and that the decline seems to have ‘bottomed out’.  However, the data clearly shows that it is a postcode lottery as to the number and quality of play areas children have access to in their local area.

A 2019 API survey of over 1100 parents showed that the vast majority of parents say that playgrounds are vital in getting children outdoors and active again.  9 out of 10 parents who were not close to a playground said that having access would make their child play outside more. Play Must Stay Campaign

In 2019, the API released A Movement for Movement showing, for the first time, a strong link between recreational screen time and children’s inactivity.

Notes to Editors:
The Association of Play Industries (API)  is the lead trade body within the play sector and campaigns at the highest levels for policy recognition for play. Its members are leading manufacturers, installers, designers and distributors of both outdoor and indoor play equipment and safety surfacing. Founded in 1984, the API represents 85% of the play industry.

The API operates under the umbrella of the Federation of Sports and Play Associations (FSPA), the national trade body responsible for representing Sports and Play Associations in the UK’s sport and play industries.

Media Contact
Mary Lubrano, Head of Communications.  For further information contact Mary on e: [email protected]  m: 07999 550452