Open Access Play - a definition

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Open Access play provision can be permanent or short-term provision, located in a variety of settings with or without premises including play centres, adventure playgrounds, playschemes and parks.

Whilst the term Open Access applies to registered provision for children under 12 years old, such provision usually caters for a wide age range of children, including those over the age of 12.

The purpose of the provision is to provide staffed play opportunities for children, usually in the absence of their parents. Children are not restricted in their movements, other than where related to safety matters and are not prevented from coming and going as and when they wish. Children have the freedom of choice as to what range of play activity they wish to undertake and with whom they play.

The Welsh Government defines play as behaviour which is: freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated and performed for no external goal or reward. That is, children and young people determine and control the content and intent of their play, by following their own instincts, ideas and interests, in their own way for their own reasons.

As a consequence of the implementation of the 1989 Children Act play provision for children under eight years became defined by the level care provided and play provision generally became described as open access provision. The upper age range for the registration of childcare in Wales was extended from 8 years to 12 years on 1 April 2016.

As a result of the confusion with respect to play and childcare, Open Access is often used incorrectly to also describe play provision that is un-staffed. But the term Open Access only applies to the level of care provided to children within a staffed setting.

Play Wales believes that in Wales the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) Article 31 should be upheld and that as a right children's access to provision should not be determined by ability to pay and that there should be no other entry conditions other than these pertaining to safety and welfare of self and others.

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