POLITICAL allegiances were cast aside after councillors agreed to a motion which will ensure every new playground built in Barnsley in the future will be disabled-friendly.
Liberal Democrat Couns Hannah Kitching and Will Fielding submitted the motion, which was approved at last Thursday’s full council meeting, to ensure that all future playgrounds in Barnsley are designed to be inclusive.
It comes after a charity - Scope - urged the government to effectively ringfence cash for the changes following a study which found that current playgrounds were not suitable for children with disabilities.
Scope is calling on the government to introduce a new £37m inclusive playground fund, which will be used by councils to create inclusive playgrounds where all children, disabled and non-disabled, can play and form memories that last a lifetime.
As well as this, and alongside potential refurbishments of the town’s existing playgrounds to include more disabled-friendly items - future planning guidelines could change when it comes developers’ playgrounds at new housing estates.
Coun Kitching said: “I was inspired to bring this motion to council by a young resident of Penistone whose family I have supported and worked with since I was first elected in 2018, as they fight constantly for her rights to be considered in all matters of inclusivity and accessibility.
“She is a full-time wheelchair user due to cerebral palsy, which has affected her physical abilities since birth.
“It most certainly does not affect her intelligence, positivity or independent spirit, nor her desire to join in with everything that her able bodied friends do.
“One of the many challenges that her and her mum have faced over the last few years is around play, and the ability to join her friends on trips to local parks and playgrounds in Penistone.
“Her mum describes having to physically lift her out of her wheelchair to put her into a swing, take her down a slide or sit on a roundabout.
“This incredibly independent girl would be immensely frustrated at her mum having to constantly be at her side and hang on to her while her friends played independently.
“Even more frustrating than not being able to use the play equipment is not actually being able to get into the park.
“Mostly, gates are wide enough to allow wheelchair access, though I suspect this is because so many people take pushchairs and prams to these places.
“Once inside, the playgrounds in Penistone are mostly grass, which means that they’re often muddy.
“Of course this is just one family’s experience, but we know that it is illustrative of a wider problem - not just in Penistone, not just in Barnsley, but across the country.”
Council bosses said they recognised the need to improve playgrounds across Barnsley to achieve inclusivity for the community - and vowed to work with families of disabled children to guide the development of inclusive playgrounds.
“Playgrounds are important spaces for community engagement and childhood development, and these spaces should be built with inclusivity as a core principle,” a spokesperson added.
“The council notes, with concern, the findings from the disability equality charity Scope that half of families across England and Wales with disabled children have accessibility problems with their local playground.
“They should be improved to ensure they include accessible design and inclusive equipment that disabled children can engage with.
“All children have a right to play and this should be reflected in the community play spaces.
“We will embed principles of inclusive design to ensure that going forward every development or refurbishment of a council playground in Barnsley considers inclusivity.
“We will also consult with parents and carers of disabled children, and those with lived experience, to inform the design of inclusive playgrounds so they are appropriate for the community spaces.”