The East Belfast Councillor was speaking after Belfast City Council agreed to begin work on how best to deliver inclusive play in the City, with officers now tasked with producing a full report into delivering this aim.
He added: “This is the first step in a long process to ensure children of all abilities can play in parks near where they live in Belfast, but I’m disappointed that it has taken so long to get to this starting point.
“All children need access to play – it should never be a negotiable. That’s why I was extremely concerned when earlier this year research from PlayBoard NI and the Mae Murray Foundation found compelling evidence that children and their families often face exclusion from parks across Northern Ireland.
“57% of families in NI who have a child with a physical, learning, sensory, medical, undiagnosed or complex need are unable to play in play parks as often as they would like. 40% rated the play experience on offer within fixed play parks as being poor or very poor. And 56% have to travel long distances to access a play park that meets their family’s need.
“It is extremely disappointing that in 2022 this is what’s facing many families and it was great to hear representation from both the PlayBoard and Mae Murray Foundation – who have worked with me to identity the need - at Council as we moved forward in our journey in creating inclusive play parks in each of the four quarters of the City.
“We need to address the current confusion, frustration, disappointment and denial of the right to play, which is why this motion will also see Belfast City Council adopt the Let Me Play report as well as definitions of ‘accessibility’ and ‘inclusion’ recently published by the UK Play Safety Forum and Children’s Play Policy Forum into Belfast City Council council policy and planning on parks.
‘In a week when hundreds of disability experts from around the world are in Belfast for the Harkin Summit, there is no better time for us to be drawing attention this issue and I’m delighted to see this issue addressed and plans put in place to deliver.”