North Ayrshire Council: Stop Damaging Cuts Aimed At Our Children

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Following the decision to slash funds available for playparks within North Ayrshire, combined with the reduction of playparks from 106 to 60 we collectively ask decision makers to put yourself in the shoes of children and parents alike, just for one moment, to think about the effects of this decision from their perspective and ask if what is proposed is the best outcome taking the following into consideration:

Our play parks are important to us, young old and alike, even though there are very few of them left. Play parks:
• promote play aiding the goal in the reduction in childhood obesity which is a major problem on a national scale
• provide a haven of social interaction, to those who may experience social exclusion
• help our young people build confidence encouraging the mixing with other kids from different schools and backgrounds
• help teach common sense
• are hubs for young people burning off energy thus creating a community based area for parental interaction with young people and each other aiding discourse.
• last but not least, it is easy to forget that play parks create childhood memories that live with you forever and by these actions you are taking those away to be replaced by more young people becoming isolated within their homes.

It shouldn't be forgotten that as much as young people are the future of our society they are here with us now. Young people are increasingly being shunned by the very ones who should be leading by example. They are increasingly ostracized from our society leading to frustration and isolation. They do not deserve to have their basic rights of play and social wellbeing violated just because they have no-one speaking up for them or because they are not of voting age.

It was highlighted in a study (Irvine Bay 2009) that Kilwinning for example is regarded as 'not family friendly' and these actions only pave way for this issue to increase and not a legacy that we should be proud of. This policy signifies an increase in the area being even less family friendly, which will very probably have a negative impact on attracting families to live and work in the vicinity.

It is a concern that the proposed strategically placed sites are out of sight as well as financially and physically unreachable from parents - should they manage to find their way there. Almost certainly children will need a parent to accompany the, therefore reducing use and play free from parental hovering instead of play within reach of a watchful eye and safe harbour, all of which serves to diminish autonomy and resilience in our young people.

An example of your strategy in the removing of satellite parks (those within housing areas) to be replaced by superparks is Eglinton Country Park; this was the chosen site for one of these superparks which serves the communities of Irvine and Kilwinning. Those young people from many areas within Kilwinning would have to travel several miles across rivers, busy roads and through woodland in order to reach this park only to be greeted with no toilet facilities or lighting.

A play park located within our housing areas, even a small space that young people can call their own, should be embraced and we are asking those with decision making powers not to create an 'unreachable rainbow over an scary hill' with the view of ‘children should be seen (or not in this case) and not heard’.

My own personal experience echoes many parents’ experiences. My son whilst playing was moved on by neighbours for playing with his ball in the street. He then travelled to the town centre which is a short distance from our home only to be moved on by the police. When he arrived home he was visibly upset and asked "Where can I play mum?” I had no suitable response other than to take him somewhere and saddened that our society has come to this.

I have been informed by my local councillor within North Ayrshire that "This is not a priority” and struggle to see how saving £50,000 will make a huge difference to the council budget whilst SIX of the top North Ayrshire Council workers take home a collective sum of over £500,000 per year. 

To say that there will be opportunities for possible community ownership of several parks is fantastic news but there are many within society who would love to take on this responsibility but lack time, confidence or the necessary skills in order to make this happen.

In the most deprived areas where parents are often in very low paid work, working additional hours to make up the financial shortfall to live, or where there are drug and alcohol related social problems, the council should be looking to support young people who perhaps don't have a parent to ferry them to expensive out of school clubs or go on day trips. The potential that these young people will be missing out on is due to already complex social issues is heightened by a disregard for social welfare, and leisure time. These cuts contradict Willie Gibson's statement at the time whereby he stated - 
"we are resolute in our determination to target our resources at those areas of priority and helping the people who need it most." 

With the Blacklands and other areas being in the top 5% centile of deprivation in Scotland (SIMD 2009), the removal or relocation of play parks only increases the necessity to travel to other areas by using vehicles that not all can afford in these times of austerity. Many 'superparks' are not easily reached due to a lack of affordable public transport servicing many of these areas causing increased environmental concerns and economic impacts on those with the least to spare in having to find alternative entertainment for their young people.

In Kilwinning, and specifically in the Blacklands, Hawthorn Court and the Ladyford area, we have gone from 4 fantastic play parks that were hives of activity to a set of swings in one of those parks. The predecessors of our current decision makers would possibly find this remarkable at this damaging legacy when in the 1970s the country also saw a double dip recession but play parks were still abundant. We know times are hard but this is even more reason to ensure that our young people have at least a place of play that doesn't cost anything to use and is located within our housing areas.

So we the undersigned are asking you; our 'public servants' to not shun our young people to the outskirts of our society or into isolation. To stop these damaging cuts taking from what little play spaces there are left in North Ayrshire harming some of the most vulnerable and silent within our society.



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