My name is Louise Jago, I am the owner and Manager of Barney’s Playbarn the children’s softplay/roleplay centre in Uckfield.
My husband and I have owned and operated Barney’s for 8 years, building it from scratch with a dream of becoming a vital community hub for parents and their children.
Unfortunately with the current Covid 19 pandemic we have been told we are to remain closed until the government say we can open. We have been closed now since March 15th 2020 and have no indication of an opening date.
Sadly with no opening date or funding in sight many children’s indoor play centres across the U.K. are closing; with 65% predicted to close permanently by October. We employ 3 full time members of staff and up to 6 part time and 6 casual. We have taken advantage of the furlough scheme for our staff but with the furlough scheme coming to an end and no income for 137 days we will be unable to keep our staff and perhaps our business.
Whilst we are doing everything we can to hang on to our business, with loans, overdraft, the initial leisure grant, we have had no income and our overheads remain very high. We have had no rent relief from our landlord and have paid 2 quarters rent as well as other bills and are due another rent quarter in September. Our insurance will not pay out, like many they claim Covid is not covered.
Whilst I understand the reasoning why some play areas can not open with the current ongoing pandemic, I’m am concerned that there is a prejudice towards play areas of being dirty when we are not, inflatable play areas and trampoline parks and climbing wall have been allowed to re-open. Yet we have been ordered to remain closed with no timeframe; rumours are it will be the end of this year or early next year we will be allowed to reopen. We don’t know if these are just rumours as we have had no government feedback. With the focus this week by the government being on obesity and exercise; we are pleased to be a place that children play safely, where they exercise in disguise and have adventures, where they develop social and cognitive skills. Did you know that 1 hour of indoor play can burn 150 calories and 16.6g of fat?
I’ve listed below some hidden benefits of our play area that you may not be aware of:
Exercise - meets governments daily recommendations
Mental health - play has never been so important
Cognitive development - that is, your child's ability to think, understand, communicate, remember, imagine and work out what might happen next!
Aids coordination and proven to assist children with motor skills disorder -DCD
Valuable resource for children with SEN
Social skills - learning how to interact and communicate with other children
A place for loneliness to be tackled and where parents can meet friends and seek support
A safe space for those in domestic abuse situations
We feel as a local family business, and I know other centres in the industry, feel forgotten about and worthless. Despite the benefits we bring to our communities and children we have been cast aside.
We are asking for our communities support to weather through this. We understand you may not be in a positron to contribute and this pandemic has sadly impacted so many people. If you cannot contribute please do sign and share the petition for our industry to seek financial support from central government. If you can contribute even the smallest amount will be welcomed.
Thank you for reading this, I hope that you can help our family, our staff, their families and our business survive this pandemic ; so we can continue to be the joyful community play centre.
With Kindest Regards,