New tool to tackle cottonwool culture

New practical tool challenges the cotton wool culture


Tool paves the way for more adventurous playtimes

The Play Safety Forum, a leading safety body of which Fields in Trust is a member, on 12 November launched a new practical tool that tackles the cotton wool culture head-on and makes a positive case for risk, adventure and challenge as vital ingredients in children’s play. The initiative is supported by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the UK Government.

The document, entitled ‘Risk-Benefit Assessment Form’ is an easy-to-use tool to support play providers to balance the benefits of an activity with any inherent risk, taking into account the risks while recognising the benefits to children and young people of challenging play experiences. It will be invaluable for all those who manage spaces and settings in which children play, and for those involved in designing and maintaining them.

The Risk-Benefit Assessment (RBA) Form is available in two formats: as a blank form, and as a hypothetical worked example based on a tree swing. It was commissioned and developed by the Play Safety Forum, which brings together all the leading UK agencies with an interest in play safety, and is co-authored by Professor David Ball, Tim Gill and Bernard Spiegal.

The RBA Form builds on over a decade of work by the Play Safety Forum to promote a more balanced approach to risk in children’s play. It is based on the Government-funded publication ‘Managing Risk in Play Provision: Implementation guide’ first published by Play England in 2008 and republished as a second edition in 2013.

Robin Sutcliffe, Chair of the Play Safety Forum said:

Children need and choose exciting places to play, which inevitably means managing situations that are inherently risky. The RBA form will help providers assess how this can be reconciled with a natural desire for children’s safety.”


Judith Hackitt, Chair of HSE said:

 “Play - and particularly play outdoors - teaches young people how to deal with risk. Without this awareness and learning they are ill equipped to deal with adult life. Outdoor play and learning is an important part of our children's education.”

 “HSE endorses the proportionate advice in the RBA Form. We should all make sure that needless health and safety excuses do not get in the way of activities. Of course take sensible and reasonable precautions, but let young people play.”

The RBA Form is published by Play Scotland in partnership with Play England, Play Wales and PlayBoard Northern Ireland. It was sponsored by, and the copyright belongs to: Play Scotland; Play England: Play Wales and PlayBoard Northern Ireland.

Download the form here.




Notes to editors

About the Play Safety Forum
The Play Safety Forum (PSF) is an independent body supported by Play Scotland, Play England, Play Wales and PlayBoard Northern Ireland as part of their work to research, develop and advocate effective policies and good practice for play provision. The PSF focuses on two key areas: Defining the role of risk and challenge in play and play provision; and advising on policy in relation to risk and safety in places where children play.

Government support for Risk-Benefit Assessment

The UK Government supports Risk-Benefit Assessment. It accepted in full the recommendation of the report “Common Sense, Common Safety” [The Young Review] published in October 2010. This stated: “with regard to children’s play we should shift from a system of risk assessment to a system of risk–benefit assessment, where potential positive impacts are weighed against potential risk.”

Press Contacts

Play Scotland
Marguerite Hunter Blair, Chief Executive 07795 954856