All children have a biological need and a legal right to play, recognised in Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on Children’s Rights, now incorporated into Scottish Law. This need and right is under sustained threat in most contemporary urban contexts, and no where more than in areas of chronic deprivation.
Baltic Street Adventure Playground is an open access outdoor space in the heart of Dalmarnock, East Glasgow, where children can play freely, without direction, undue adult intervention or fear for their own safety. The children that Baltic Street serves are some of the most deprived and vulnerable in Europe - 55% are defined as living in poverty, 22% in over crowded homes. Alcohol use in the area is 291% higher than the Scottish average. There are precious few green spaces in the area, and nowhere else that it is safe to play.
Our supervised, playworker led model not only gives children somewhere safe to play, but allows children to have on-going relationships with a group of caring and consistent adults who are always on their side. The organisation actively addresses hidden barriers to play - providing hot food, warm clothes and an approach to outreach which recognises children as active and important members of the community they are growing up in.
Baltic Street believes that change is possible, and that breaking a cycle of chronic deprivation requires more than short term interventions and programs which address basic needs. Baltic Street invests in children, and trusts them, making space for them to grow, learn and thrive, giving them respect and freedom they can act upon.
At Baltic Street, children have the right to make significant decisions and act upon them without seeking permission from playworkers, provided their actions do not consistently or seriously compromise other children’s ability to do the same. This approach builds confidence and resilience at an individual and community level, and enables children and staff to develop a deep-seated conviction in their capacity to make sustained change the world around them.
This approach is supported by robust evidence. A 2015 Cabinet Office Study of Children’s social and emotional welling being showed that children who, at age 10, scored highly on Locus of Control indicators, essentially the belief that what they do affects what happens in their life, where likely to score higher than their peers on a broad spectrum of indicators of well-being at age 42, from mental well-being and salary to political engagement, with higher statistical significance after controls than any other indicator.
If it is to realize its full potential, it is vital that Baltic Street Adventure Playground remains a reliable provision that is an integral part of children’s day-to-day lives, with a stable and supported staff team.