An Open Letter to PM Boris Johnson

The Right Honourable Boris Johnson, MP

Prime Minister

10 Downing Street

London, SW1A 2AA

 

16 February 2021

 

Dear Mr Prime Minster,

The Association of Indoor Play implore the Government to put children’s indoor play first when setting out the roadmap for reopening sectors. We are very aware of the pressure being put on the Prime Minister to open hospitality, however we ask that this time, children come before adults. Children must come first.

The indoor play sector was literally the last to open and first to close. We were forced to invest in the highest level of restrictions and COVID-safe measures to allow us to trade. During the few weeks that we were allowed to trade we had zero cases of outbreaks in our Centres. Children and their Parents Carers/Grandparents were overjoyed to be back. Many parents said they were desperate for their children to play.

Our industry faces annihilation

As an industry we have now lost our peak winter trading period, as well as the months of closure last year. We have already seen the closure of over 15% indoor play centres and the majority are now on their knees with no money left. Many are now in talks with insolvency practitioners and we are yet to see the full devastating impact of this pandemic. Not to mention the potential cliff edge on April 1st, as rent, landlord, business rates and VAT liabilities fall due.

Unless Indoor Play is given support, opened soon and allowed to trade, we will see the end of our industry. 

Why indoor play?

Play is stealth fitness – ‘exercise in disguise’. It’s about children ‘getting fit, without knowing it’. Play must be recognised as the primary form of exercise for children – we don’t take them to gyms, we take them to play, and healthy kids generally equate to healthy adults, thereby reducing the cost of care to the NHS in future. Children benefit so much from indoor play and we are the part of the solution to the issues we are seeing as a result of the pandemic.

We are not just a place to “let off steam” - play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them.

Play England state the benefits of play as follows

“Research shows that play has many benefits for children, families and the wider community, as well as improving health and quality of life”. Recent research suggests that children’s access to good play provision can:

  • increase their self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-respect
  • improve and maintain their physical and mental health
  • give them the opportunity to mix with other children
  • allow them to increase their confidence through developing new skills
  • promote their imagination, independence and creativity
  • offer opportunities for children of all abilities and backgrounds to play together
  • provide opportunities for developing social skills and learning
  • build resilience through risk taking and challenge, problem solving, and dealing with new and novel situations
  • provide opportunities to learn about their environment and the wider community.

How indoor play supports families

Evidence is also available that outlines wider benefits of play provision for families and communities, suggesting that:

  • parents can feel more secure knowing that their children are happy, safe and enjoying themselves
  • families benefit from healthier, happier children
  • buildings and facilities used by play services are frequently seen as a focal point for communities”

To summarise, the indoor play centres

  • Offer the Government facilities which costs them nothing to run.
  • Contribute millions to the economy and employ over 30,000 - the vast majority of whom are the 18-24 age group.
  • Are facilities which would cost the Government £200-£500k to build and huge overheads to cover to operate.
  • Are an invaluable asset which will be needed post pandemic by children and families, we appeal to you to support us and consider instead of “eat out to help out” you replace it with “play out to help children”
  • Should be reopened alongside retail and gyms, not alongside hospitality.

Children must come first.

Janice Dunphy

Chair

 

The Association of Indoor Play

The Association of Indoor Play (AIP) is a not for profit organisation representing the majority voice of the Indoor Play Sector in the United Kingdom and is run by a voluntary Committee of well-established indoor play operators.