Opinion Former Article

Big Lottery Fund: Big play dough shapes childhood legacy across England

The Big Lottery Fund is bringing play to life for thousands more children across England with the final tranche of a multi-million pound investment in children's play rolling out today.

More than £3.6 million in good cause funding is being awarded, part of BIG's investment in children's play legacy of close to £124 million (Notes to Eds*). BIG's play initiative is one of the largest-ever investments in play infrastructure for England.

Today's 13 further awards [see LIST PAGE 2] brings to 351 the number of local authority areas across England funded to provide children and young people with free local play spaces and services.

Sanjay Dighe, Chair of the Big Lottery Fund's England Committee, said: "I am delighted with the Big Lottery Fund's investment into the play sector, which will leave a lasting legacy for millions of children and young people across England for years to come. Many of the local authorities already awarded funding have already got their projects up and running, which are proving to be popular community assets, particularly during the summer holiday period."

He added: "The Children's Play funding is providing essential new opportunities for young people, bringing play to life and improving their physical, emotional and social wellbeing."

Among today's awards is £881,208 for Wirral Council and Wirral Play Partnership to create seven new play projects including an extensive Community Play Ranger scheme to provide outreach play sessions in the natural beauty of local parks and open spaces. The programme will benefit 15,000 children and was developed with 60 local schools.

Cllr Chris Meaden, Wirral Council's Play Champion, said: ''This money means that more children and young people will be able to access free play and socialise with friends on their doorstep. Children need space to play in the community and play is nature's training for life, which is essential for a healthy and happy childhood. We want Wirral children to be afforded the best possible play opportunities and facilities and the award will enable a number of play projects to come to fruition.

"I am delighted with Wirral's successful bid for BIG Lottery funding which will increase children's access to play across the borough, and I would also like to take the opportunity to thank all the staff involved for all their hard work."

£322,000 has been awarded to Slough Borough Council to create exciting challenges for everyone from toddlers to teenagers. Children up to age eight will be able to play till their heart's content in a gentle and creative landscape with moving water, boat themes and enchanting trails to fire the imagination. While older youngsters up to late teens can look forward to a more challenging adventure, complete with obstacle course featuring rope ladders and tree walks.

Steve Wicks, Cultural Operations Manager said; "Slough Borough Council is extremely pleased with the award of £322k from the Children's Play funding. This money will enable the Council to install two major play areas which will become flagship play facilities for the town and which will kick start an ongoing play improvement process as highlighted in Slough's Play Strategy.

"Additionally the grant will provide the Council with a Play Ranger who will start to work with the children and young people in Slough to promote the new facilities that will enable them to explore play safely while parents enjoy the surrounding park and open space."

The Children's Play programme has put an emphasis on building the capacity of the play sector as a whole, to ensure its long-term sustainability. A multi-million pound grant to the Children's Play Council (part of the National Children's Bureau) established a five-year regional infrastructure support scheme, called Play England. This project is promoting long-term strategic and sustainable provision for play beyond the life of the Big Lottery Fund's Children's Play programme.

Play England worked closely with the local authorities and other agencies to ensure they have the necessary skills and resources to develop and implement their local play strategies as part of their applications for funding.

Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 020 7211 1888
Out of hours contact: 07867 500 572
Public Enquiries Line: 08454 102030
Textphone: 0845 6021 659

Full details of the Big Lottery Fund programmes and grant awards are available on the website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk

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