Playwork in the UK is an approach to working with children in free play settings – and a body of theory and practice informing that approach – that emerged and has traditionally flourished in public play provision, funded to a greater or lesser extent by the state. After the ambitious 12-year play strategy (2008) of the last Labour government seemed to promise a bright future for such services, and for the professional development of the playwork community, the austerity measures of the coalition and Conservative governments since 2010 have greatly reduced the extent of staffed play provision in the public and voluntary sectors; and pushed this emergent profession into seeming decline. Conversely, there is evidence of playwork's growing influence and popularity in other parts of the world; but for the playwork community to withstand the dramatic downturn in its fortunes in the UK, it needs to unify, consolidate its resources, learn from its history and grow and retain control of its own support and representational structures. A new independent vehicle, emerging from a 2013 summit in Sheffield – called to find a response to the existential crisis facing playwork – may be the start of this fight-back.