Councils ‘not expected’ to post staff to supervise playgrounds

Local authorities differed on interpretation of ‘supervision’ required to reopen facilities

Local authorities are “not expected” to post staff to supervise playgrounds in order for the children’s facilities to reopen as some councils initially feared, officials have clarified.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced on Friday that "outdoor facilities and amenities for children" could reopen under the acceleration of phase two of the Government's roadmap for easing Covid-19 restrictions. This would include reopening playgrounds as long as they are supervised, he said.

Playgrounds across the country have been closed since lockdown restrictions were introduced to combat the spread of the coronavirus in mid-March

Some local authorities had interpreted the guidance as supervision from parents, while others have taken it to mean supervision by council staff, which local authorities are not in a position to provide.

READ MORE

Dublin City Council (DCC) had said it does not "operate supervised playgrounds" and pending "further clarification" will not be reopening any of its playgrounds on Monday.

DCC operates about 100 playgrounds, almost 70 of which are in public parks with the remainder located in the grounds of social housing complexes.

The council has indicated at least three staff members would be required to supervise a playground, which would mean redeploying hundreds of staff, which is thought to be unfeasible.

Clarification

Waterford City and County Council also said it will not be reopening its playgrounds, as the local authority requires "clarification on what constitutes a supervised playground with controlled access," a spokeswoman said.

“Local authorities are not expected to supervise play activities or control of access” to playgrounds, a Department of Housing and Local Government spokesman clarified on Sunday.

“These are the responsibility of parents or guardians who are urged to adhere to the public health advice on protection from the Covid-19 virus,” he said.

The reference to supervision related to “the normal supervisory and inspection activities of local authorities and community groups of such facilities”, he said.

Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council has said all parks and playgrounds would be reopening over the week from Monday, "after a period of assessment and inspection checks on all equipment."

In a statement, the council said “parent and guardians of children using the playgrounds will be expected to supervise their children in line with existing physical distancing and hygiene guidelines”.

Fingal County Council are to begin a "phased reopening of playgrounds", a spokesman said.

Vital reopening

Similarly Wicklow County Council said it was working to reopen playgrounds from the start of the week.

“Each playground will have to be risk assessed and appropriate signage erected reminding users that all children should be supervised by an adult,” a spokesman said.

A spokesman for Galway City Council said it interpreted the supervision condition to refer “to the normal supervisory and inspection activities of local authorities and community groups of playgrounds”.

The local authority would plan to reopen its playgrounds during the week, with a schedule to clean each facility beforehand.

Tanya Ward, chief executive of the Children's Rights Alliance, said it was vital playgrounds reopened, particularly in Dublin "where children don't have the same access to green space" as other parts of the country, she said.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is a reporter with The Irish Times