Tuesday 14 June 2011
Play England's founding Director, Adrian Voce, has been awarded an OBE in the Queen's Birthday honours list, for services to children.
Adrian's career in children's play began as a student volunteer playworker in 1979. He worked in adventure playgrounds, holiday playschemes and after-school clubs throughout the eighties and early nineties. Having worked for a spell in residential care and special educational needs, Adrian returned to play in 1995 to work in communications and training for the influential adventure playground charity HAPA (later to become part of the disabled children's charity, Kids).
In 1998 Adrian was appointed as the first director of London Play, leading a major voluntary sector development programme, the establishment of a national quality assurance scheme for the play sector and the successful campaign to establish a play policy for the London Mayor. After serving first as vice-chair and then chair of the Children's Play Council at NCB, Adrian was appointed to succeed Tim Gill as director in 2004. Adrian then worked behind the scenes to help secure, design and support the Big Lottery Fund's £155m Children's Play Initiative in England. This led to the establishment of Play England in 2006. In 2008, largely as a result of Play England campaigning activity and the success of the BIG initiative, the government launched the national Play Strategy, making Play England its delivery partner.
These combined programmes saw Play England, at its peak, employing more than 75 staff and numerous associates as the country underwent what the Times called 'the play revolution'; establishing new benchmarks for design and risk management, producing a wealth of research, policy and practice resources and an unprecedented growth in new provision. Over the only year when such data was collected, from 2009-10, more than 7 per cent more children in England said they were satisfied with their local play facilities.
Adrian said: "I am very proud to have been recognised in this way but the honour is really for Play England: our partners, members, supporters and especially our staff - past and present - who have been simply magnificent. This is for them. Along with our colleagues throughout the play sector we have together made a real impact on the lives of many children and helped to put their right to play in the spotlight where it belongs. As many play services face a bleak or, at best, uncertain future those of us with leadership roles must redouble our efforts to press the case that play provision is an essential element of society's responsibility to children; not just a luxury to be indulged in times of plenty or enjoyed only by those who can afford to pay".
Adrian, who now shares the director role with Catherine Prisk, will receive the honour later this summer on a date yet to be confirmed.