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What follows are some of my own preliminary perspectives regarding the logistics of setting up a viable Healthy Play project. It’s intended to help concentrate minds, generate ideas, flag up potential problems and solutions. It’s in no way the finished article; clarification and criticism is openly encouraged. Paul Hill 18th June 2007

The Healthy Play Project

Healthy Play is an exciting new Hackney-based community project combining the best available health and nutritional education with innovative childcare & playwork.

Healthy Play is part of the education, nutrition and health charity The McCarrison Society.

In addition, providing key support, advice and project development are The Mother and Child Foundation, The Institute of Brain Chemistry & Human Nutrition at Metropolitan University, Albion Kids Show and Hackney Playbus.

The Project will be located in premises kindly donated by The Mother and Child Foundation in Well Street Market, Hackney E9 and is provisionally called The Healthy Play Centre.

In the first instance the Centre will open using start-up community funding.

It will begin by offering

  1. day-time pre-school mother & child play sessions augmented with nutritional advice.
  2. for 5 – 11 year olds, after-school play and healthy living sessions.

In between, the Centre will open as an informal drop-in point - providing relevant literature, advice and contacts for members of the public whilst creating general profile development.

This will allow the Centre to grow organically, attracting parents, carers, young people and volunteers, establishing a dynamic community project.

As well as being exciting and innovative the Centre should be meticulous in following best practice. It should get OFSTED registered as it will be providing creche-type care TBB, making sure the property is fit for purpose, health and safety etc. A preliminary survey with a small amount of voluntary assistance from a local architect is scheduled for this week TBB. All staff will be CRB checked. The Centre will incorporate essential documents like equal opportunities, a code of practice etc.

The initial staff team will be 1 coordinator/fundraiser/admin, 2 playworkers and a nutritional advisor. The health of the project will be reflected in how it is able to attract voluntary support. Local volunteers ground a project, keeping it suitable and relevant. A volunteer group should be set up quickly.

It will be essential to establish a reliable interface between the Centre and its host charity.

Suitable financial arrangements should be established enabling Healthy Play to access funding it has been granted, keeping clear demarcation from all other McCarrison Society finances, enabling prompt payment of wages & bills, efficient accounting and general staff & management committee issues.

Regular meetings should take place with the Centre and its key institutional supporters to keep everyone in the loop, up to date, pushing the project on, support chains etc.

It’s important the Centre looks and feels good. Unfortunately far too many community projects fail because they don’t connect with their target-audience - resembling waiting rooms or dusty offices. This project should from the outset announce itself as a nurturing and vibrant environment. Help should be canvassed from any sympathetic local architects, designers & visual artists. Initially, play resources for the Centre can be begged, stolen & borrowed from Albion Kids Show & Hackney Playbus & other sources (Hackney Scrap project, a toys wanted ad etc)

Once open the Centre can start to apply for project funding. This should be done in full consultation with users, but preliminary ideas include:

  • School holiday projects.
  • A Saturday project.
  • An 11-16 age range project.
  • A nutritional cooking project.
  • A mother and child home visit project.
  • Healthy living & lifestyle activity packs.
  • Grow your own vegetables project.
  • Funding for visits from local role-models e.g. artists, chefs, vets etc.
  • Funding for trips to nature reserves (Lee Valley, Epping etc), city farms etc.
  • An outreach project – playworkers and nutritionists delivering sessions in surrounding estates and parks.
  • A training project for playworkers in nutrition & vice-versa.
  • A project for a nutritional researcher and students.
  • Nutritional and play mapping.
  • A Healthy Play conference.
  • Applying for improvement of Centre play areas e.g. softplay, disability & inclusion.

Also development of innovative health education facilities in the Centre– an interactive brain zone!

The Centre will need to network & establish good relations within the local authority, voluntary sector and community. E.g. Surestart, The Learning Trust, local social landlords, Bangladeshi Cultural Association, Hackney Play Association, Hackney Community Voluntary Service, market traders, Police, new City-based Good Neighbours charity, NHS Primary Care Trust for liaison with School Nurses etc.

A timetable for beginning the project should be established, roughly 3 months from posting the first funding application.