Nearly half people in Welsh county fear it is unsafe for children to play outside
Twm Owen, Local Democracy Reporter
Nearly half of people in one Welsh county fear it is unsafe for children to play outside, while more than 60 per cent of young people say they have been “told off” for doing so.
The findings are from a Torfaen council assessment of “play provision” in the county borough, which also found 43 per cent of children under 12 who responded to a consultation said they were able to play outside without an adult present.
But 39 per cent said they had been “told off” when playing in the community, while the figure from the consultation with young people, aged 12 and over, found 66 per cent had been reprimanded when playing or “hanging out” in the community.
The assessment sought to measure opportunities for children and young people to enjoy public spaces and organised activities in their communities.
Consultations and focus groups, as well as paper and online surveys, were held with more than 2,600 children, young people, play workers and the general public giving their views.
It found that parks, at 34 per cent, are where most children played, with other locations named as fields, friends’ houses, gardens, the street and shops and play schemes at eight per cent.
The major concern for children playing outside were “strangers” (33 per cent) and bullies (13 per cent), while dogs and “youths” were each a concern for 10 per cent of those questioned.
Traffic was cited as a concern by eight per cent which was a percentage point lower than those who feared “falling/getting hurt”.
The council’s report stated: “A high percentage attended staffed play and recreational provisions in their community”.
Of those aged over 12 a “high percentage” said they play and hang out the most at local parks and play areas, with many highlighting the need for equipment for older children/youth in parks.
Their concerns when out and about are strangers (32 per cent), bullies or other young people 27 per cent, with other answers including traffic (21 per cent) and dogs (16 per cent).
Of those young people over 12 who took part in the consultation, 81 per cent said there isn’t enough provision for them in Torfaen, while the work also identified a demand for more activities and “safe places to hang out” and those aged 16 and over wanted more leisure and sports facilities.
Of the general public 48 per cent felt it was not safe for children to play outside in their community and concerns were related to traffic (38 per cent), anti-social behaviour (31 per cent), strangers (26 per cent) and dogs (five per cent).
People also raised comments about vandalism, litter, anti-social behaviour and groups of young people in parks.
Comments from the general public also found a need for more staffed provision for children and young people over the age of 12, while 78 per cent used social media to search for activities and groups for children and young people.
Across Torfaen the council said it is aware of 76 play groups, 24 youth groups ranging from council services to church run clubs, 15 dance, drama groups or performing arts groups, 52 sports clubs and classes and 32 clubs providing disability provision and seven Welsh language groups from playschemes to youth groups.
It said the number of services shows a need to better promote existing clubs due to the “large amount of responses” from those who said they were unaware of any groups or activities within their community.
The council has said it will continue to work with schools to ensure play is a priority throughout the day and it will continue to run play sessions in schools and offer staff training as well as a range of free play opportunities in the community.
For young people it will continue to deliver staffed youth provision and will promote funding opportunities to youth providers while the council’s youth service will investigate the possibility of additional youth support in the north of the borough for (LGBTQ) children and young people.
The council’s findings and actions will be reported to the Welsh Government.
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