Children’s charity praised by council for work during pandemic

The children enjoy outdoor adventure playgrounds. Pic Johnny Cohen

A Hackney children’s charity has been praised by the local council for the positive impact they have made on the community during the pandemic.

Hackney Play, which is funded by organisations including Hackney Council and Children in Need and runs adventure playgrounds at Homerton Grove and Pearson Street, has remained a hub for activities for 6-15’s during the difficulties of the last 12 months.

The tweet by Hackney Council said: ‘Thank you to all our staff caring for children & young people throughout the pandemic, & providing them with places to play, including over the half-term break – bringing hope, creativity & a great sense of fun!’

Senior playworker at Hackney Play, Sianead Crawford said: ‘When we were able to open, Hackney Play was the only play centre to open in the borough. We had a responsibility to keep vulnerable children and young people feeling taken care of whilst giving them freedom to play’.

Since being instructed that they could continue running by the National Youth Agency, a charity working to support youth workers, Hackney Play has taken on a thorough cleaning regime which will continue indefinitely, to ensure all visiting the playgrounds remain safe.

When the playgrounds were unable to open at the beginning of the pandemic, Hackney Play ensured that children and young people in the area were still being looked after remotely.

Crawford said: ‘We had youth online Zoom sessions and also performed detached youthwork by cycling around the borough to check up on those who might need it’.

Hackney Play also provided many in the community with play bags for children with toys and balls and well-being bags for their older members which included colouring and tips on where to go if they were struggling with their mental health. A number of young people were also provided with laptops and tablets for online schooling.

Activities were provided for children at home. Pic: ponce_photography

Crawford said: ‘We helped many parents through signposting them to where they can receive financial support or to foodbanks if they are struggling at home’.

Before COVID-19, they often received surplus food deliveries provided by The Felix Project, a charity aiming to fight hunger in London. Crawford explained: ‘During half term and after school sessions we would use this food to have healthy eating cooking classes with the children and all sit outside to eat together’.

This community spirit can also be seen through London Plays Car Free Day which occurred last in 2019. Many in Hackney closed their roads to allow children to play freely and safely. Crawford said: ‘We definitely would like to have another Car Free Day when restrictions are lifted. National Play Day is on 5th August and we are hoping to have a celebration and get the Mayor of Hackney, Phil Glanville involved too.”

Hackney Play are to extend their opening hours in the summer and begin bike repair workshops to ensure that as many children as possible can be active.

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