Children’s social skills are being affected by the poor state of Britain’s community spaces – with youngsters nationwide lacking self-confidence because there’s nowhere to mix outdoors.

That’s according to home improvement retailer Wickes, which set up its community programme last year, and, as of 30th September, supported just over 2,000 community projects nationwide.

The new study asked parents about the state of their local outdoor recreational areas and how it affects their children – and it reveals that two-thirds of parents (63%) want to see new or improved facilities in their area as they would be of ‘great benefit’ to their kids, while over half (52%) want to see more funding put into community spaces.

Mums and dads also say they are beginning to see the knock-on effects of community spaces being left uncared for – with a quarter (25%) claiming their children’s social skills have been stunted by the poor state of Britain’s parks because they can’t mix there, with 16% saying children are scared to visit them. 

And almost a third (29%) say outside of school, there are no places their children can go and play at all. A lack of adequate public places for children to play means they are deprived of opportunities and according to the research, the benefits of improved community spaces in the UK would be vast.

The Wickes Community Programme was launched in January last year and local groups and organisations are working with Wickes to improve community space by getting involved in the programme. Participating good causes receive a donation from Wickes of relevant tools and materials required that will go towards improving an existing community space or help build a new one.

52% of the organisations that have used the programme have been schools with almost half (48%) of their projects outdoor based. From playgrounds to allotments and sensory gardens, the demand for outdoor and nature-focussed spaces, specifically for children, is overwhelming.

Across the country, Wickes’ donations have already made a significant impact on a variety of community groups.

Case study: Dales School, Blyth, Northumberland.

The Dales is a school for children aged 4-11 with additional educational needs and disabilities. Located in southeast Northumberland, an area of significant economic deprivation with a long history of multi-generational unemployment and associated social issues, the school has many children who are affected in daily life by issues of poverty in addition to living with SEND.

An ongoing and unusual project spanning three years has been undertaken by the school with the support of Wickes.

The Dales School received a unique donation of a class 144 Pacer train in August 2020. School teacher and train project manager James Groundwater had the vision to convert the two-pacer train into an amazing and inspiring learning environment.

With the help of The Wickes Community Programme and other charities, the project was completed after much hard work and planning.

The first carriage has been converted into a wonderful library, the space designed to help children read for enjoyment. An added incentive for the children to go to the library is a train simulator in the driver’s cab where children can pretend to drive the train and press buttons.

The second carriage has recently been transformed into a STEM classroom (science, technology, engineering, and maths) to encourage innovation, problem-solving and critical thinking. This carriage has a multifunction used by Network rail to deliver practical railway safety to schools across the Northeast using VR technology.

The train is not the only learning resource connected with the project, as they also have a railway crossing to help teach railway safety, and a ticket office to help children access speech and language and maths skills.

James Groundwater, project lead at Dales School, said: ‘Wickes has gone above and beyond to help the school deliver this fantastic project. We are so grateful for the community programme they have set up; it has had such a significant impact on generations of children only one year after being established. Not only have their generous resource donations helped us create the Dales train, but the staff at Wickes Wallsend branch also volunteered their time to help turn it into a fantastic learning resource by cleaning, painting, and repairing the train.’

Naomi Woodstock, Community Programme Manager and Charity Chair at Wickes, added: ‘We see our role in society as much more than a home improvement retailer. Wickes helps the nation feel house proud and this includes the communities we operate in.

‘The programme has been established for just over one year now, and we’re so pleased to have seen the impact it is having on projects such as the Dales school, specifically focussed on improving the livelihood and wellbeing of children that so desperately need addressing. We’re looking forward to seeing what can be achieved in the next few years.’

The Wickes Community Programme is open to all local community groups seeking help for improvement projects, and any groups interested in applying for a donation should go online or head into their local store to speak to the manager.

For more information visit