Child Friendly Spaces provide a welcome relief this bushfire season

SAVE the Children Tasmania is ready to respond to the needs of children and families ahead of the state’s bushfire season.

Following the catastrophic January 2013 bushfires, the Tasmanian Early Years Foundation (TEYF) provided Save the Children with funding to purchase a new tent, equipment and materials, including age-appropriate games, toys and activities, for its Child Friendly Spaces.

This follows the launch on Monday of Save the Children’s report Don’t Leave Me Alone, which found there was more planning for animals than children in emergencies like bushfires and floods.

Child Friendly Spaces are set up in evacuation and recovery centres when emergencies take place.

Operated by trained and pre-screened staff, the spaces ensure children have a safe area to play, learn and develop while their parents begin the process of recovering from a disaster.

Save the Children Tasmania program manager Lisa Cuatt said Child Friendly Spaces improved children’s psychosocial wellbeing by working to re-establish routine and provide support, a sense of stability and an opportunity to play.

“With children witnessing so much destruction around them, it is essential to consider the emotional and development needs of children following a disaster, and to deal with the trauma children are facing,” she said.

“The spaces also provide respite for families under stress, so parents can focus on rebuilding their livelihoods while knowing their children are in safe hands.”

TEYF chief executive officer Mark Green said Child Friendly Spaces could help alleviate the chaos caused by an emergency or disaster.

“Children are able to cope psychologically better in a disaster if structure and routine can be created,” he said.

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