Positive approach to risk in play

The Care Inspectorate is showing its support for nurseries, childminders and other early years care services that take a positive approach to risk, by setting out its position on regulating for risk in play. We launched our  position statement with the support of Play Scotland at their event Playing with risk: embracing the benefits with positive regulation, held in January 2016.

The Care Inspectorate’s position statement
“The Care Inspectorate supports care service providers taking a positive approach to risk in order to achieve the best outcomes for children. This means moving away from a traditional deficit model that takes a risk-averse approach, which can unnecessarily restrict children’s experiences attending registered services, to a more holistic risk-benefit model. For example, we encourage services to use risk assessment to support children to enjoy potentially hazardous activities such as woodwork using real tools, exploring nature and playing in the mud and rain. We do not expect written risk assessments to be carried out for daily play activities.”

Context
Embracing a risk-benefit approach is part of changing our regulatory culture. For example, when we inspect we now assess the experience of the children attending and try to help services to improve. Traditionally the regulator would have just measured inputs and ensured that all services complied with the expected standards.Risk in Play article image

A positive approach to risk in play is being taken by specialist outdoor-based services for children. Since the UK’s first full-time forest nursery was registered in Fife in 2008, outdoor-based services have flourished in Scotland. At this event, the Care Inspectorate celebrated the growth of these services and their contribution to developing a proportionate approach to risk. 

Play Scotland support
Cherie Morgan, Play Development Officer, Play Scotland says: “We want to see a common sense approach to risk in play, where practitioners weigh up the benefits, as well as the risks involved with activities. The opportunity to face challenges in a supportive environment helps children and young people learn to assess and manage risk for themselves, and this is vitally important for their development. We’re delighted to work with the Care Inspectorate to highlight this message to those who are responsible for the day to day care of children.”

Ministerial support
Aileen Campbell MSP and Minister for Children and Young People supports this new approach with the following statement.

“In June 2013 the Scottish Government published the Play Strategy for Scotland, which seeks to improve the play experiences of all children and young people, including those with disabilities or from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Strategy aims to ensure all children and young people can access play opportunities in a range of settings which offer variety, adventure and challenge. They must be able to play freely and safely while learning to manage risks and make choices about where, how and when they play according to their age, stage, ability and preference.

“A huge part of this is giving regulated services the confidence to provide good quality, challenging play opportunities for children in their care. Real life experiences for children cannot be free of risk; from the very beginning children learn from trial and error, falling and getting up, testing their own boundaries and this enables them to develop their own coping strategies and resilience.

“It is important too that children with additional support needs also have the chance to experience challenging play – and that quality play opportunities are offered to all children, according to their needs and preferences.

“Myth busting in terms of what ‘safe care’ is for our children is also important. Scotland’s children deserve to be cared for in a loving, nurturing environment that includes hugs and the comfort of touch, which is even more important now that children are in care environments from a younger age and for longer periods of time.

“I am delighted that the Care Inspectorate is supporting care service providers to adopt a more holistic risk-benefit model to help them achieve the best outcomes for children. This positive approach to risk emphasises confidence in providers using their professional judgement to support, nurture and challenge the children and young people in their care.”