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Volume 114: debated on Thursday 9 April 1987

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment (1) what initiatives his Department has taken since the inception of Playboard to promote and develop its responsibilities;(2) what alternatives he considered for the future of Playboard prior to September 1986; and why he rejected them;(3) if he will make a statement about the representations he received from organisations interested in the future of Playboard.

Playboard itself was set up to pursue initiatives for children's play through funding from this Department. since 1983 the Department's contribution has amounted to £2·4 million. In addition, the Department has maintained support for children's play through the urban programme (over £6 million each year). since 1983, the Department of Health and Social Security has spent £6·5 million on initiatives for the Under-fives while maintaining its financial support, with the Department of Education and Science, for other voluntary organisations concerned with children's play.Apart from the preferred option of merging Playboard's role and functions with the Sports Council's, a number of other options were considered, including maintaining support for Playboard, ceasing support altogether, and transferring the resources to the urban programme. The representations I have received from interested organisations about the "merger" primarily have been concerned with two issues: the case for the independence of play from sport, and with the scale of future funding.I understand those concerns, but do not believe that the merger proposal preclude a separate identity for children's play. Nor does it affect in any way the support for play through the urban programme or from other Departments. Following Playboard's decision to go into liquidation, I am pursuing urgently with the Sports Council how best early arrangements can be put into place for achieving greater benefits for children's play in a more cost-effective way.