New report reveals disabled children are missing out on play that’s vital for development

This is according to a new report by the charity Sense, which reveals the severe restrictions facing disabled children in accessing play opportunities that are vital to their emotional, social and physical  development. A lack of attention by government, insufficient funding at a local level and negative attitudes towards disabled children and their families are all barriers highlighted in the report.

Former Secretary of State for Education, Lord David Blunkett meets Ruby aged 8 at the launch of a public enquiry conducted by National deafblind charity, Sense revealing the huge inequalities in play opportunities available for children with multiple needs. Credit: SenseThe report calls for urgent action to address these inequalities and to enable the Prime Minister to deliver on his recent call to improve the “life chances” of all children. Due to be launched in Parliament this afternoon, the report follows a three month public inquiry into the provision of play opportunities for disabled children aged 0-5 with multiple needs in England and Wales. Chaired by former Secretary of State for Education and Employment, Lord Blunkett, the inquiry was established in response to parents’ concern that they had fewer opportunities to access play services and settings than families with non-disabled children.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 92% of parents felt that their child did not have the same opportunities to play as their non-disabled peers, and 81% of parents reported difficulties in accessing mainstream play groups and local play opportunities
  • 51% of children had been turned away from play settings by providers, failing to meet their legal duties under the Equality Act 2010
  • 63% of parents said they didn’t have enough information on accessible play opportunities in their area, and word of mouth is commonly used in place of official sources of information


Lord Blunkett, Chair of the Play Inquiry, 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.”

Richard Kramer, Sense Deputy CEO, commented: “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.”

Blunkett added, “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 will use the inquiry findings to campaign for changes to the way play services are designed and delivered. They plan to produce a series of toolkits for parents, providers and commissioners of play. The full report can be downloaded at: www.sense.org.uk/play

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