Disabled children “shut out of playgrounds”
Disabled children are prevented from making friends and enjoying playtime because playgrounds and playgroups are not accessible, a charity report warns.
The Sense report says most parents of disabled children also find negative attitudes from other parents a key barrier to accessing mainstream play.
Disabled children and their parents end up being excluded from communities in England and Wales as a result, it adds.
The government says disabled children must not be discriminated against.
The three-month Case for Play inquiry into the issue, chaired by former Education Secretary Lord Blunkett, found disabled children were missing out on play opportunities vital to their emotional, social and physical development.
It says insufficient funding at a local level, and negative attitudes to disabled children and their families are significant barriers.
Lord Blunkett said: “We know that play is vitally important for children with multiple needs and their families, bringing a wide range of developmental and emotional benefits.
“However, our inquiry found that all too often the parents of children with multiple needs point to barriers they face in accessing and enjoying play.
“It means that disabled children don”t have the same chance to form friendships, and parents are prevented from taking a break from caring.
“Both disabled children and their parents are excluded from their own communities.”
The inquiry heard from the families of 175 disabled children, with multiple needs, and received a further 175 pieces of evidence.
A snapshot survey of the families revealed nine out of 10 felt their child did not have the same chances to play as other children.
Two-thirds said they did not have enough information on accessible play opportunities in their area, while just over half had been turned away from play settings that had failed to meet their duties under the Equality Act.
The report also highlighted a lack of a strategic approach to funding play for children with multiple needs at a local or a national level across England.
A Department for Education spokesman said: “We are committed to ensuring disabled children can access early years education and that play opportunities are accessible to disabled children.
“We don”t want to see any children discriminated against and to help this we have introduced the biggest reforms to the Special Educational Needs and Disability system in a generation, focusing support on individual needs and aspirations.”