Significantly more attention should be given to coordination across services and geographic areas to achieve inclusive opportunities
A recent report from Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People (Stalker, K., 2013) observed that:
"There is a need for far more social and recreational opportunities for disabled children and young people, including those with life-limiting conditions. Local area co-ordinators, who have a capacity building remit, could support mainstream organisations to include disabled children and young people."
There was little reporting of coordinated approaches across an area, neighbourhood or local authority to support inclusive approaches to children's play. While there were excellent examples of partnerships for projects, and cooperation for the same children for activities other than play, we received no reports of thoroughly comprehensive approaches which put children and young people's play at the centre.
There was some reporting of opposing directions taken within the same local authority for example where inclusion was emphasised on a practice level while the overall direction maintained the status quo.
"(there is a) question around what inclusion is. There are social and financial, transport and access issues. Gaps in provision for children with disabilities. Services are separate not inclusive and this is values driven"
Indeed, it was noted that there is a lack of baseline information:
"Taking childcare as an example, the current inadequacy of provision for disabled children in Scotland is extremely troubling. There is currently no legal duty on Local Authorities to undertake any childcare sufficiency analysis and some 40% of local authorities in Scotland do not know if they have sufficient childcare for working parents and only 18% say that they have sufficient childcare for disabled children. This is further compounded by the difficulties in reaching parents of disabled children with little or no availability of data on disabled children living in local authority areas." (Source: Lugton, D. Rutter, J., (2014) Out of School, out of mind?, Family and Childcare Trust)
One respondent felt that:
"the (out of school care) clubs having been so competitive have only just started to network with each other".
He felt they were making tentative steps towards this and that could only be a good thing in relation to inclusion: with dialogue and sharing of information and specialism, children with additional needs were more likely to get the club that was most suited to their needs.
Another respondent suggested:
"It would be good to be able to work alongside trained play leaders who have experience of working with children with complex additional support needs. This would help to ensure we are offering fully inclusive programmes."
Where examples were given of local partnerships and particularly of local Play Associations and Play Forums, they seemed to be more effective in bringing about inclusive opportunities.
More coordinated approaches may also be helpful in addressing the frequently reported problem of meeting the needs of all children in a family (in various circumstances).
"non-disabled children who have a brother or sister with a disability can find it hard to access play opportunities because their parents are not able to take them out or to clubs etc. because they need to stay in with the disabled child."
"bring in community input for leaving/creating space - by community I mean departments of local authority, e.g. planning, environment, housing, people who live in a specific area, schools, nurseries, childcare facilities, sporting clubs, church, social work, NHS, police. Joined up working e.g. new housing areas create 'open space' that is within view of homes, park cars away from homes, light up, open space doesn't mean green space that local authority has to cut, but a places where the community can claim ownership for play, conversation, engagement."
In answer to the question: How effective are current commissioning practices in ensuring inclusive opportunities are available?
"With personalisation and SDS (Self Directed Support), people have, in theory, more choice regarding the services they access. However, in practice this is hindered by whether the budget they are given allows them to afford the specialist support their children need, and the process of assessment is currently very slow in some local authorities. Appropriate services also need to be available in their area."
If you could design inclusive services from start to be just the way you would like them to be, what would that be like?
"Purpose built, spacious. Quiet space, info sessions for everyone. Free at point of delivery, accessible transport available (and built in to the service)"
"The involvement and consideration of disabled children and young people is crucial from the outset"
"Staff and resources that can be adapted to meet the needs of all children, putting thought into how to adapt them for individual children's physical, sensory and communication needs."
This is the vision
"We want Scotland to be the best place to grow up. A nation which values play as a life-enhancing daily experience for all our children and young people; in their homes, nurseries, schools and communities". Play Strategy for Scotland: Our Vision (2013) Scottish Government.
These are some of the things that could help achieve this.
It would help if:
- Coordinated approaches were put in place so that the services offered in local area were properly mapped, assessed and coordinated.
- Exercises to map services, skills and opportunities were carried out regularly.
- Local Authority Play Strategies were developed to underpin such an approach and support given to Local Play Associations or Forum (see also Section 8).
- The 'play sufficiency' model was investigated in order to apply lessons learnt in Scotland. (Section 11 of the Children and Families (Wales) Measure 2010 places a duty on local authorities to assess and secure sufficient play opportunities for children in their area.)
- Across a geographic area or group of settings, systems were established to support 'banks' of skills, information and expertise with regard to specific skills and understanding that support inclusion in play.
- Increased support was available to those organisations which have contact with disabled children and their families very early on in the child's life.
Email: Deborah Gallagher