Stephen Cable – play officer
Where do you work?
I work as the Children’s Play Officer for the City and County of Swansea, managing the Children’s Play Team, which develops play opportunities for all children across the Swansea area.
How did you get into playwork?
Like most people, I fell into it when I was offered two weeks on a playscheme following work experience at a leisure centre. I worked each summer until I got a placement with the Local Authority during my university degree. The Play Officer left and I took on their role. I have been in play ever since.
Is it important to get qualifications?
These days, yes. With new statutory requirements and the push for professional status for Playwork, we are fortunate that Play Wales has developed new playwork material which is being rolled out across Wales. I have taken the introductory course, as well as delivering it to community playworkers.
What does your job involve?
Predominantly, I manage the team, address strategic issues and act as the lead officer on the Children’s Play Strategy and the Play Partnership for the local authority. Additionally, the team and I support and advise community playworkers and projects and ensure effective networking and a joined up approach to play locally.
What do you find most challenging about your job?
Other people’s perceptions. Our agenda is 100% about a process which is child-led and on their terms. As such, it tends to go against other agendas and ultimately we are fighting for a section of the community without a voice, so find that life is a constant battle.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I have always loved the fact that my job is to provide opportunities for children to play, but the more you find out about play theory and the impact of your practice, the more you realise what a fundamental impact it has on children’s lives.
What advice would you have for someone considering a career as a playworker?
Don’t go into it lightheartedly! A true playworker is someone who encourages children to make decisions for themselves and to experience challenge and risk. While some playschemes are about fun activities where you will have the chance to play games, a playworker needs to weigh up the impact that their involvement has in aiding or inhibiting the play experience - there’s a lot more to playwork than rounders and arts and craft!