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Not-for-profit organisation champions the power of play for children at Downing Street

Not-for-profit organisation champions the power of play for children at Downing Street

According to a new report, if the UK is to truly succeed in this rapidly changing world led by advancements in AI, we will need to prioritise children’s opportunities for creativity through free play. Presented by the national not-for-profit organisation Children’s Alliance on the steps of 10 Downing Street, ‘The Power of Play: Building a Creative Britain’ underscores the vital role of free play in childhood development, promoting imagination and creativity that endure well into adulthood.

As featured on regional ITV Evening News programmes on Tuesday (16th), the report outlines 10 key recommendations for policymakers. These include recognising play as a fundamental right, integrating play into educational policies and investing in provisions to bolster the play sector at both national and local levels. By delivering the report to Downing Street, the Children’s Alliance aims to prompt politicians to prioritise children’s best interests across the UK.

“Play is universal and taps into children’s natural enthusiasm and curiosity to explore and learn about the world around them,” said Tamsin Brewis, Director of Children’s Alliance. “Our latest report emphasises the importance and highlights the long-term benefits of prioritising early childhood play in our society to build a creative Britain for the future.”

Since 2022, the Children’s Alliance has been advocating for evidence-based policy recommendations to government and community funds to empower children to become resilient members of society. The latest report, featuring real-life quotes from children reflecting on their experiences of play, highlights the need for increased playtime across all ages, the importance of providing spaces for play in every local community and ensuring the quality of play experiences for all.

With the UK boasting a vibrant history of creative thinkers, Children’s Alliance believes that to sustain the UK’s creative legacy and ensure children have access to opportunities for future career paths, society should adapt to the changing social, cultural and economic landscape and recognise play as a vital component of education and societal development.

“We recognise that without prioritising play, and if it’s perceived as a low priority across all ages within our community, children’s health, learning, behaviour, emotional states and creativity are at risk,” said Dr Amanda Norman, Chair of the Children’s Alliance Early Years Working Group. “Therefore, we aim to listen and build on existing successful play initiatives. By acknowledging the rapidly changing digital age with advancements in AI, we must prioritise children’s opportunities for creativity. It’s imperative to nurture flexibility of mind and adaptability through play if we want the UK to truly excel in this evolving landscape.”

The report, which was led by Amanda and includes contributions from the Children’s Alliance Early Years Working Group and a wide range of professionals across the sector, emphasises the need to perceive play as not just a leisure activity but a fundamental aspect of childhood development – fostering creativity, problem-solving skills and emotional wellbeing.

“I sincerely hope that decisions makers at Downing Street will take these findings to heart and shape policies to nurture a brighter and more creative future for our society through the power of play,” concluded Amanda. “As George Bernard Shaw once said – ‘We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.’”

For more information about the Children’s Alliance, visit https://childrensalliance.org.uk/

Mental Health Experts Call On All Political Parties To Back A 10-Year Plan Press Release

A group of academics, health practitioners, charity bosses and ‘lived experience’ experts have called on the Government to reinstate the cancelled 10-year Mental Health Strategy.

This follows the publication of a new Report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on a Fit and Healthy Childhood: The Major Conditions Strategy: A 10-year failure for Mental Health.

In a letter to be hand-delivered to 10 Downing Street on Thursday 20thJuly, 40 mental health leaders have asked Rishi Sunak to reverse his Government’s decision to scrap the 10-year Mental Health Strategy that was scheduled for publication this year.

In 2022, the Government launched a call for evidence to help them produce a long-awaited 10-year strategy to address an alarming rise in mental illnesses across the UK. However, in January 2023, Health Secretary Steve Barclay, in a shock announcement to the House of Commons, stated that the 10-Year Plan was being scrapped. Instead, mental ill-health was to be rolled into a new ‘Major Conditions Strategy’ which would address several physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, muscular skeletal diseases and respiratory diseases.

This move disappointed the mental health sector, who objected to the abandonment of a much-needed strategy to level up mental healthcare; long considered a ‘Cinderella service’.

In February, 14 mental health charities wrote an open letter to the Prime Minster calling for a dedicated strategy for mental health. Now, this Report provides the evidence that shows why this is needed.

“Good mental health is essential if everyone in our living and working society is to thrive and prosper,” says Chair of the APPG Steve McCabe, MP for Birmingham, Selly Oak.

“This was the resounding message from over 5,000 individuals and organisations in response to the Government’s recent Public Consultation on wellbeing and we are proud to present that case in our Report. 

Abandoning a ten-year Mental Health Strategy and making mental health just one among others in a new Major Conditions Strategy leaves people who have a mental illness with under-resourced and under-staffed services, and subject to diagnosis and treatment that do not benefit from the well-funded research base supporting many physical illnesses. 

Our six-point Plan for Mental Health addresses the inequalities and disparities in mental health provision; banishing centuries of stigma and laying the foundations of a truly ‘whole person’ health service.

There could be no better way to mark the 75th birthday of our beloved NHS and no better tribute to the ambition of our 21st century United Kingdom if all its citizens, whatever their circumstances, unite in resolve to make that fresh start happen.”

 

The report, authored by 23 experts, makes six recommendations to the Government for what a 10-year strategy to improve mental health should include:

  1. Prioritising prevention and increasing public awareness.

As 75% of lifelong mental illnesses begin before adulthood, the provision of evidence based mental health support from a professional in every school can help prevent lifetimes of suffering.

  1. Facilitating early intervention and timely access to services.

Reduction of waiting times and improving access to practice and evidence-based treatments and therapies are essential to avoid the escalation of mental health conditions.

  1. Promoting integrated, holistic services and addressing health inequalities.

It is essential that a 10-year Mental Health Plan should be cross-governmental and include co-ordinated action to reduce child poverty and inequality.

  1. Guaranteeing sustainable funding for research, mental health services and workforce development.

By ringfencing funding for mental health services and research, we can ensure the long-term availability of vital mental health provisions.

  1. Growing the workforce and capacity building.

The authors of the report make the case for a focused expansion of the mental health workforce to sit alongside the newly proposed NHS workforce plan announced by the Government.

  1. Partnership working and dynamic collaboration between government agencies, healthcare and education service providers and other organisations.

Such a plan will only work if it wins the collective support of policymakers and all stakeholders working together to make it happen.

 

MQ’s CEO Lea Milligan says, “The scale of the impact that scrapping the 10-year mental health plan will have can only be seen as equal to the very scale of the problem it was meant to tackle! Today, I, along with colleagues from across politics, research, frontline services, lived experience and the NHS, call for a response to the state of mental health and the urgent need for a comprehensive and effective 10-year Mental Health Plan in the UK.

Our nation is facing a crisis, with a significant decline in mental well-being over the past decade. To this end, we have set out to comprehensively present the key recommendations for a 10-year Mental Health Plan that can serve as a blueprint for transformative change.”

The letter to the prime minister

Read the full letter to the prime minister here.

The major conditions strategy

Read the full major conditions strategy here.

The Family and Community Report identifies the need for a change in approach so that children and young people are at the forefront of policy. This is a great opportunity for a new government to make this a priority. Check out our press release or read the report here.