Thursday, 18 February 2016

The Child's Right to Play[schemes]

The Child's Right to Play [schemes]

A child's right to play is enshrined in Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. To support this your local council probably runs half term and summer playschemes, giving children the opportunity to play in a safe environment.

Torfaen Play, the arm of Torfaen County Borough Council which deals with these things, delivered summer playschemes across 32 different sites last year. They were attended by around 2000 children between the ages of 5 and 15, plus 140 children and young people aged 5-18 with additional learning needs and disabilities.

These are open access playschemes, which mean children can come and go as they please - staff cannot legally stop them from leaving the site. This also means that they are not a suitable alternative to childcare for parents who are at work.

Torfaen Play half-term playschemes 2016

However in Cwmbran, Cwmbran Community Council also runs summer playschemes and has done for decades. I even went to one myself, many years ago! Last year the Community Council playschemes ran on eight different sites, and were attended by around 1000 children. These schemes are closed access, meaning parents have to book a place and children cannot leave the site. As you can imagine, this has long been a godsend to parents as for £5 per child you got twenty days of summer holiday childcare, from 9:30am to 4:00pm.

Then things hit a snag.

In Wales, childcare settings are regulated by the CSSIW (Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales), in the same way Ofsted regulate in England. So while those closed playschemes, staffed primarily by university students on summer break, were ticking merrily along, CSSIW was bringing in the decision to inspect all childcare settings providing more than two hours of care for children under 8. At its heart this was a move to improve the standards of home based childminders, but the knock on effect went much further.

They inspected Cwmbran Community Council's schemes for the first time in 2014 and were not happy with what they found. [Report HERE.] The volunteers were too inexperienced, all staff needed to be DBS (police) checked every year, not just the first year, and also needed two references before appointment, even if they had worked at the playscheme the year before. Care plans needed to be in place for all children with health problems or on 1:1 provision.

Cwmbran Community Council playscheme poster

More seriously, at least one member of staff to every ten children needed to be a qualified paediatric first aider. That, in practice, meant all staff would need to be qualified - the cost of which would be more than providing the whole scheme at one of the sites. Staff also needed to be better qualified in general. PICs (Person in Charge, i.e. the site manager) need at least two years experience working in a play setting and possess a level three qualification in either childcare or playwork. 25% of the rest of the staff need at least a level two qualification, then a further 25% need a level three qualification. That don't come cheap - you either train your staff who, you'll remember, tend to be university students who are only going to return once or twice, if at all, or you try to recruit people who are already qualified.

For the peak childcare season when you can't offer any of the perks.

Last year, for the 2015 playschemes, a plaster was stuck over the problem. All volunteers were dispensed with, and children under 8 could only attend for two hours to remove the scheme from the CSSIW requirements. This year that will not be an option: CSSIW inspection will cover all settings delivering more than two hours to children aged under 12 from April 1st 2016.

It's no joke!


There were three real options:

  1. A drastically reduced number of closed playschemes (two instead of eight).
  2. Reduce the playschemes from all day to two hour sessions.
  3. Cancel the playschemes altogether. 

The most palatable decision was to reduce the playschemes to two hours, thus relieving them of the CSSIW requirements. This year Cwmbran Community Council will pay Torfaen Play, who obviously have much broader experience, to deliver their new playschemes across 14 different sites - and they will be free because every cloud has to have a silver lining, after all. The full details still need to be hashed out, but it is important to note that the new playschemes, like the others run by Torfaen Play, will be open access.

So children in Cwmbran will still have access to play - but their parents will no longer have access to that cheap source of childcare. You can't help but feel that CSSIW has thrown out the baby with the bathwater.

Have you been affected by the new CSSIW regulations? What is the playscheme provision like in your area?


  1. Rediculous yet again all the goverment want is for us mothers to be in work but there goes the best help we have off them. The kids love it and it gets them out. Guess it's back to the poor long suffering and aging grandparents AGAIN

  2. It's a tough one, isn't it? I can understand the need for staff to be properly qualified and vetted... but it is so hard when you are a working parent and childcare is so expensive. When parents only have about 5 weeks holiday per year and schools are off for 13 weeks of the year, parents don't have many options, especially if there are no family nearby who can help.

    1. It just seems silly that you can have something on for two hours without any qualified staff - but as soon as it goes over you need so much extra. I suppose they'll tighten the regs on the shorter time periods eventually, but it is frustrating!

  3. We have not been affected as we home school but I can see how this would really affect others and it's so hard - childcare in my mind is way to expensive and more should be done to subsides it but at the same time people need to be qualified - wish the Government would put more funding into providing getting people trained up

    Laura x

    1. I wish we had something more like the Scandinavian model, where childcare is just something which is provided as a matter of course, rather than the piecemeal way we get it here. x

  4. It's always so interesting to me to read how differently things like this are handled in other parts of the world - thanks for giving us a little window!

    1. I'm so with you on that - we only see such a small glimpse of how things can potentially operate in our day to day lives! x

  5. Gosh, ridiculous and frustrating. There's just too much red tape sometimes. Let's hope the childcare issue gets sorted nationwide sooner rather than later. Great post.

    1. It really is - I mean, it's not as though they're not trained and qualified. Just not highly enough, I guess. x

  6. Great Post! I cant see why 1 in 10 need to have first aid are they expecting a multi head injury secession? So in schools they are saying that there are 3 first aiders in a typical class of 30???? The trouble is the cross between Childcare and playscheme banded all the same. I have always been happy and never heard of issues. I understand the culture of risk and blame but surely if the parents signed a contract to say they understand the way its a playscheme not typical childcare. I'm sorry but you cant be a man of all trades and 1:1 just isnt possible nor free dinners. Children thrive in these social environments and being sports outdoor based was more attractive then indoor classes.

    1. That's it - playschemes and straight up childcare aren't the same thing, but the regs are determined to lump it all together. x

  7. I can see why they feel the need to protect but it just seems like yet again they are taking away another resource available to families. When I was leaving London it was the one o'clock clubs, and the sure start centres that were slowly starting to close.


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