Hampstead Heath play facility ‘job losses’ could lead to playground crime rise
- Credit: Nigel Sutton
Children’s play facilities on Hampstead Heath would no longer be staffed or supervised under proposed cuts to City of London services – leaving parents and staff “devastated”.
It is thought up to 10 staff members could lose their jobs under a proposal announced on Tuesday to stop staffing the popular playscheme the One O’Clock Club, the children’s playground, adventure playground and summer paddling pool in Parliament Hill.
The Ham&High has been told the move could lead to an escalation of youth crime as staff often have to break up fights between teenagers at the adventure playground.
Staff members, most of whom have worked at the play facilities for more than 10 years, are said to be “devastated”.
Parents spoken to yesterday (Wednesday) had concerns about children’s safety.
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Mother-of-two Sian Woods, 26, of Weedington Road, Kentish Town, who uses the One O’Clock Club, said: “It’s sad. I used to come here as a child myself and now my children come here. It would be difficult to maintain without staff. I can’t imagine it working.”
Kara Colclough, whose two children use the children’s playground, said it is “reassuring” to have staff present.
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“We get a lot of riff raff around, with the older teens,” said the 36-year-old, of Ellerdale Road, Hampstead. “In Hampstead, there’s a lot of thefts going on in the area, with mobile phones taken and mums being mugged.”
Mother-of-two Margarita Empel-Ferreira, 35, of Maitland Park Villas, Chalk Farm, also spoke in favour of keeping staff at the play facilities.
Staff members received letters yesterday from the City, telling them that they will be consulted over a four-week period.
In a letter to staff members working at the adventure playground, the City wrote: “As part of the service-based review, the division is reviewing the provision of an adventure playground facility, since this service does not represent a core function of our statutory legislation.”
It then outlines its cuts proposal, which includes:
- “Deleting” the three staff posts at the adventure playground,
- To create one new post of “learning project officer” who would supervise the adventure playground on a seasonal basis for a limited number of hours. The officer would be the sole supervisor of all the City’s play facilities,
- To employ a casual staff member to work alongside the officer and to provide cover during school holidays,
- To allow children to play on the adventure playground equipment unsupervised when the officer is not present.
Staff members are encouraged to come up with alternative ways to make savings.
The City said in a statement that it is considering the move to provide a more “efficient and effective” service for the public.
Belsize Conservative councillor Leila Roy said: “Staff are there for the children’s safety. Its very narrow-minded of the City of London Corporation and not very community focused.”
It is not the first time the play facilities have been threatened with cuts. In 2009, the Ten O’Clock Club morning playscheme was saved from closure by the Queen’s Crescent Community Association (QCCA).
And about five years ago, the City began charging schools to use the previously free adventure playground in order to make savings.
Sue Ireland, director of green spaces at the City of London Corporation, said: “Securing long term sustainability is key to achieving our overall purpose of preserving and protecting world class green spaces, like Hampstead Heath, for the benefit of our local communities and the environment.
“We are now running a four-week staff consultation on a range of options, asking for their views, ideas and suggestions on how we can deliver some services differently. We will then consider how any services should change in light of the staff feedback.”