Ready, Steady, Play! A National Play Policy
With the launch of Ready, Steady, Play! A National Play Policy in March 2004, Ireland became one of the first countries in the world to produce a detailed national policy on play. The reason for the development of such a policy by Government was to honour commitments made in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), the National Children's Strategy (2000) and the Programme for Government (2002). The publication of the National Play Policy was an acknowledgement that in the past children's play had not been given the priority or attention it deserved.
The National Play Policy covers the years 2004-2008. It raises awareness of the importance of play and contributes to the expansion of public play facilities over the implementation period.
The process leading to the publication of Ready, Steady, Play! started when almost 2,500 children were involved in the consultation on the National Children's Strategy. Children were asked about their views on Ireland – whether they thought it was a good place for them to grow up in, what was good about it and what would make it better. Their responses identified play and recreation as a major quality of life issue for them: they commented on how they had nowhere to play, how if they tried to play, adults often stopped them, and how adults did not realise how important play was to them.
This was an excellent example of how consulting with children can yield unexpected results: play and recreation was not identified so strongly as an issue by the adults involved in the consultation process, but it was the major concern for children. This National Play Policy is for them – they identified a gap in public policy and the launch of Ready, Steady, Play! was the first step towards closing that gap.
Objectives of the policy
The objectives of the National Play Policy are:
- To give children a voice in the design and implementation of play policies and facilities.
- To raise awareness of the importance of play.
- To ensure that children's play needs are met through the development of a child-friendly environment.
- To maximise the range of public play opportunities available to all children, particularly children who are marginalised, disadvantaged or who have a disability.
- To improve the quality and safety of playgrounds and play areas.
- To ensure that the relevant training and qualifications are available to people offering play and related services to children.
- To develop a partnership approach to funding and developing play opportunities.
- To improve on, and evaluation and monitoring of, play provision for children in Ireland.
Implementation of the policy
There are 52 actions in the National Play Policy that follow from the objectives outlined above. Responsibility for implementation of these actions lies with a number of Government departments, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA), local authorities, City and County Development Boards, the Health Service Executive and the Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education.
Integration, coordination and cooperation between Government departments, local authorities and the voluntary, statutory and professional sectors are vital to the implementation of the National Play Policy and to the delivery of high-quality play services for children. Implementation of the policy is monitored by the DCYA.