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SLC Council Offices, Banqueting Suite, Almada Street, Hamilton

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Over the last decade in Scotland we have witnessed an increasing number of people and organisations using the outdoors for a variety of purposes both for work and recreation. The drivers for this change are varied; Curriculum for Excellence, Play Strategy for Scotland are two key drivers and a wealth of research, that has clearly identified the benefits of outdoor experiences, often underpinning our understanding of them through advances in neuroscience.

This in turn has led to a growing desire to integrate outdoor experiences into a range of programmes that in the past had been indoor based – for example in areas such as addiction, physical and mental health and play. In parallel there has been a growing awareness of our increasing disconnect from nature – often described as Nature Deficit Disorder – and the consequences of this.

Throughout the last decade South Lanarkshire Council Countryside and Greenspace (CAG) have been at the forefront in this area developing a variety of partnership programmes and providing Forest School training and supporting outdoor learning. In the last five years CAG has being integral in establishing the Lanarkshire Greenspace Health and Well Being Partnership and enabling the delivery of a range of outdoor focused projects as part of the Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership (CAVLP). We have also supported several partners in other sectors to use the outdoors effectively.

Our work through CAVLP, together with evidence from partners has demonstrated that it there is an unmet latent demand for outdoor free play across Lanarkshire. This can be met in many ways but we have found that working in partnership with local communities empowers them to continue this work as support is reduced. However, there is a need to increase capacity in communities and the organisations that work with them to understand how to facilitate outdoor play in ways that maximises the benefits and ensures that the outdoors is used sustainable. It is clear that with such a workstream, outdoor free play cuts across many sectors, organisations and geographies and we have joined forces with SLC Community Learning and Development Partnership to take this forward.

To capitalise effectively on the outcomes that outdoor play can bring we need to place it in a strategic framework that recognises and builds on work that is already happening around play in general but also brings together the wider partnership to embed values that will support the development of outdoor play. It is unlikely that a single approach will encompass all of these elements.

Play Scotland has responsibility for implementing the Play Strategy for Scotland and have worked in four local authority areas over the last year to do this. They are keen to work with us in South Lanarkshire.

To take this forward we have an event planned for Wednesday 22nd November, 2017 in the Banqueting Suite, Almada Street and would ask that you save the day in your calendar if you are interested in attending.

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