A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by ELHAP's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from ELHAP is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Highlighting best practice
Director Johanna Merry
Freedom, adventure
and community
Elhap, or Every Life has A Purpose, is an adventure
playground based in Woodford Green, providing adventure
play opportunities to disabled children and adults. They are
one of only eight specialist adventure playgrounds in the UK
and are committed to offering their users freedom to aid their
development. Their playwork employees come from a diverse
range of backgrounds and help to create a unique experience
for their users. Director Johanna Merry explores their extensive
experience in the sector and how they have adapted to the
changing social care landscape.
We are an adventure playground based on a 5.5-acre woodland site on the
edge of east London. We are a distinctly different charity, providing adventurous
opportunities to disabled children, young people and adults. Since 1976, we have
supported thousands of families and have learned that one size doesn’t always fit
all. Families of disabled people have diverse and changing needs, and we develop
our services to respond to these.
While working with local playgroups in the early 1970s, our founder, Mrs Diana
Casswell, felt that some of the children she was working with would benefit from
adventure play. This was the impetus to establish the first adventure playground
for children with disabilities outside of inner London. In 1976, we opened with a
committed and experienced management committee, and, as awareness grew, the
playground became increasingly popular. We were the third adventure playground
specially built for children and young people with disabilities in the UK, and the
demand for our range of services is greater now than at any time in our history.
»Directors: Robert Dighton and
Johanna Merry
»Established in 1976
»Based in Woodford Green
»Services: Adventure play
opportunities for disabled
children, alongside a specialist
adults service
»No. of employees: 20
permanent staff, 50 casual
playworkers, 40 to 50
»Our structures include a rocket
ship, a tree house, a Tardis
and a capsized pirate ship
Elhap Adventure
Combating an over-regulated,
sterile world
We provide inclusive adventure
play opportunities to children,
young people and adults who are
disadvantaged through disability,
adversity or difficult life experience.
The opportunity to get muddy and take
risks is disappearing from our over-
regulated, sterile world, and children are
not experiencing the kind of freedom to
play outside that previous generations
took for granted. Taking managed risks
helps children to learn their limits and
teaches them essential skills about how
to navigate their environment. This
process builds the resilience that is vital
to developing healthy self-esteem.
Through adventure play and its binding
principles of respect, choice and trust,
people are free to develop and grow
as individuals, regardless of their
background or disability. We celebrate
difference and value the unique worth
of the children and young people,
who are all too often socially isolated,
excluded oroverlooked.
The Orchard Project
Designed to be more tailor-made and
stimulating than a traditional adult
day service, the Orchard Project was
established in 2015 for adults with a
wide range of learning disabilities, mental
health issues and autism. It encourages
people to express themselves through a
programme of workshop activities. The
focus is on performing arts, conservation
and learning practical skills. We include
our members in all aspects of its design
and delivery and have embedded our
adventurous spirit into the project.
While various care in the community
initiatives have helped to integrate
people with learning disabilities into
mainstream society, we often find that
people with more complex needs are
misunderstood. We are a community for
the marginalised, instilling a vital sense
of belonging and offering a platform for
our members’ voices to be heard.
A unique blend of staff
We attract people from different
backgrounds but with a common passion
and determination to improve the quality
of life for every person who comes
through our doors. We have a dedicated
team of over 70 people in various
roles. Our beating heart is our play and
activity workers who are employed
directly on our projects. Our staff
members describe how their experiences
help to shape their world view, making
them more accepting, empathetic
Our playwork team is traditionally made
up of students, returning for school
holidays. We have a particularly large
number of future medics, in addition to
teachers, childcare workers, scientists
and even a couple of chemical engineers.
This creates a blend of playwork skills
that is potent and unique, and the
children and young people benefit
hugely from working with this mix
of people. One of the best outcomes
of employing students is that as they
move forward in their future careers,
they take our philosophy with them.
Like many organisations in our sector,
we are operating in a landscape where
funding opportunities are squeezed,
local authority budgets are severely
reduced and charitable organisations One of our playworkers
having fun with an Elhap
We are a
community for
instilling a vital
sense of
belonging and
offering a
platform for
our members’
voices to be
Highlighting best practice
are facing ever-increasing regulation
and scrutiny. We are traversing these
challenging times by streamlining where
possible and striving to continue to
develop responsive services that offer
a crucial safety net to those families
who need us most. We had hoped that
children’s services would be protected
from increased austerity, but the closure
of many similar charities has sadly led
us to realise that this isn’t the case.
Another challenge is attracting staff
members who have the right attitude
and approach to work with some of
society’s most vulnerable people. Our
children and young people can be
endearing and challenging in equal
measure. People have easier options for
part-time work, and we are looking for
extraordinary levels of commitment, far
beyond a usual Saturday or holidayjob.
The demand for our projects has
increased beyond what we are able to
provide, partly due to other services
closing. We need to help parents and
carers to understand the problems we
are encountering and encourage them
to be involved in finding solutions. We
also have to fight very hard against
an increasingly risk-adverse culture in
public services.
We are currently reshaping some of our
work to foster co-production with the
people who use our services, including
parents and carers. Embedding these
principles is essential if we are to
continue successfully in our field.
We are expanding our services to young
people who are navigating the difficult
transition between leaving children’s
services and moving into adulthood. This
is an ever-increasing group of young
people who are struggling to find their
place in the world. We will also be
including more care leavers, looked-
after children and young carers in our
hugely successful Transition Project.
In recent years, we have been working
proactively to raise our profile and
publicise the incredible work we do. This
is a shift for an independent, slightly
anarchic charity but a necessary one if
we are to attract funders and supporters
in the difficult economic climate social
care is currently operating in.
Adventure play, with all of its chaos,
mess and inherent risks, is a beautiful
but fragile entity, and our role as its
guardians and champions is more
important now than ever.
play, with all
of its chaos,
mess and
inherent risks,
is a beautiful
but fragile
Elhap’s magical


This article was sponsored by ELHAP. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister