Written evidence submitted by Scope [PFU 018]

Definitions used in this response

The below are the definitions Scope is using for accessible and inclusive play spaces. These definitions come from the Joint Children’s Play Policy Forum and UK Play Safety Forum Position Statement on Including Disabled Children in Play Provision.

An Accessible Play Space is a space which is barrier-free, allows users access to move around the space and offers participation opportunities for a range of differing abilities. Not every child of every ability will be able to actively use everything within an accessible play space.


An Inclusive Play Space provides a barrier-free environment, with supporting infrastructure, which meets the wide and varying play needs of every child. Disabled children and non-disabled children will enjoy high levels of participation opportunities, equally rich in play value.


1.      What has been the impact of the pandemic on parks and what should the priorities of central and local government be during the recovery?


1.1               Throughout the pandemic, families with disabled children saw a huge reduction in the support they received and in vital activities such as physical therapy. According to research done by the Disabled Children’s Partnership nearly half (45%) of parents surveyed said their disabled children's physical health has declined[i]. When parents were asked about what would be most helpful to them, 46% answered “outdoor play and leisure equipment”[ii]. Without support from health professionals and the choice to meet indoors, being able to take a child to a local playground became imperative to keeping disabled children active and stimulated.

1.2               According to ‘Making Parks Count’, a report by The Parks Alliance, 2.6 million people do not live within a 10-minute walk of a park. This leads to an increased risk of poor physical and mental health. The importance of play cannot be underestimated. According to recent research from the University of Cambridge, children who learn to play well with their peers by the age of three are likely to enjoy better mental health later in childhood. Scope has heard from families with disabled children that, even when they live close to a playground, those parks are inaccessible and not inclusive. The lack of parks with accessible and inclusive playgrounds shows a significant barrier for families with disabled children to be included in their communities.

1.3               As we recover from the pandemic, the priority for both central and local governments must be to make these community spaces accessible and inclusive to families with disabled children. Scope surveyed 1000 parents and carers of disabled children and found that less than a third (28%) currently feel part of the community while at their local playground[iii].


2.      What has been the impact on parks and green spaces, including in bolstering access for disadvantaged groups, of Government initiatives such as pocket parks and the Levelling Up Fund?


2.1              The Government’s Levelling Up White Paper announced a £30 million parks fund that ‘will deliver up to £1m to at least 30 local parks in England for refurbishment with an emphasis on facilities for young families’[iv]. We await further detail on how the fund will be delivered and call on the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to include specific reference to disabled children and their families, inclusion and accessibility in fund guidance and supporting information.  The parks fund offers an opportunity to improve communities but as it does not specifically focus on accessibility, we do not believe it will sufficiently address the concerns we have outlined above.


2.2              Scope believes that current Government initiatives do not go far enough to ensure that free, local playgrounds are accessible and inclusive across the country. We surveyed 1,000 parents of disabled children and half said they face accessibility problems with their local playground. Parents of disabled children also told us that privately owned accessible play spaces, such as soft play or adventure centres, can be difficult for families with disabled children to find and can be prohibitively expensive – making free, local playgrounds all the more important. Scope research before the pandemic found that on average a family with disabled children face on average extra costs of £581 a month[v]. The cost-of-living crisis has hit disabled people the hardest, making any free activities for families vital.


2.3              We are calling on the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities to lead on creating a £37 million Inclusive Playground Fund to coproduce new and improve existing playgrounds with disabled children and their families. Scope has launched a public-facing campaign around this fund which includes an open letter to Government. Within six weeks of launching (May 2022), the open letter has over 17,000 signatures from the public and has been co-signed by 14 organisations. We would be happy to provide more detail on our fund proposal if helpful.


4. How have local authorities engaged with their communities, including friends group forums, about the planning, effective resourcing, and managing of parks?


4.1              Following the launch of Scope’s Let’s Play Fair campaign, calling on central government to create a dedicated inclusive playground fund, many local authorities have contacted us asking how they can improve their play areas as there seems to be a lack of guidance on what good looks like.

4.2              We also believe that a lack of funding is stopping local authorities from making playgrounds inclusive as reduced budgets continue to put them under pressure to prioritise the demands on the funding they do have. According to a report by The Association of Public Service Excellence, parks funding is in further decline from £500 million lost between 2010 and 2016 to a further £190 million in 2021. A total of £690 million over the past decade[vi].

4.3              One local authority parks and green spaces manager pointed to a lack of resources and skills being a barrier to local authorities engaging with their communities to plan and deliver inclusive playgrounds. So, we have included funding for a staff member in our Inclusive Playgrounds Fund proposal. This staff member would be experienced in community engagement and facilitate coproduction with disabled children and their families. Parents of disabled children have told us that they are very keen and willing to engage with local authorities and would welcome the opportunity to do so around this issue. Some have tried proactively


About Scope

We’re Scope, the disability equality charity. We won’t stop until we achieve a society where all disabled people enjoy equality and fairness. At home. At school. At work. In our communities.


We’re a strong community of disabled and non-disabled people. We provide practical and emotional information and support when it’s needed most. We use our collective power to change attitudes and end injustice.


We campaign relentlessly to create a fairer society. And we won’t stop until we achieve a society where all disabled people enjoy equality and fairness.

[i] Disabled Children’s Partnership research. https://disabledchildrenspartnership.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/LeftInLockdown-Parent-carers%E2%80%99-experiences-of-lockdown-June-2020.pdf 

[ii] Ibid p.6.

[iii] Opinium polling of 1,000 parents and carers of disabled children aged 12 or below in England and Wales. Fieldwork 25-31 March 2022.

[iv] HM Government (2022) Levelling Up the United Kingdom. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/levelling-up-the-united-kingdomthe United Kingdom

[v] Scope research. Available at https://www.scope.org.uk/campaigns/extra-costs/disability-price-tag/

[vi] The Association for Public Service Excellence report, ‘State of UK Public Parks 2021‘ available at https://www.apse.org.uk/apse/index.cfm/research/current-research-programme/state-of-uk-public-parks-2021/



June 2022