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Update on our safeguarding work

With safeguarding issues making the headlines in recent weeks, we recap how we're working with partners to address it in the sport and physical activity sector.

25th March 2021

Safeguarding in sport has been in the spotlight in recent weeks, following the publication of the Sheldon Report and Interim Report from the Whyte Review, which was jointly commissioned by us and UK Sport to examine issues facing gymnastics.

We believe everyone involved in sport should feel they can take part in a safe, positive and trusted environment, and this is especially important when it comes to our children and young people.

Although the vast majority of sports and activities do create safe, positive and enjoyable experiences and safeguarding issues are relatively rare, when they do occur they can have a long-term and devastating impact on people’s lives. That’s why it’s a priority area for us, as set out in our new strategy, Uniting the Movement.

Although we’re not a regulator of sport, we have an important role to play in ensuring that safeguarding, effective governance and workforce best practice are at the forefront of the work our partners do in delivering sport and physical activity.

We welcome the government’s proposed changes to the law around positions of trust, which seek to add sports coaches and other positions supervising sport and physical activity to the existing list of positions of trust.

If the proposed legislation is passed by Parliament, it’ll make it illegal for people in these positions to have sex with 16 and 17-year-olds in their care.

This is an incredibly important step forward in tightening safeguarding procedures, but there’s more for us all to do, and we recognise this work requires ongoing support and investment.

A coach puts tag rugby straps on a child

Our current work is focused on the following areas:

The Code for Sports Governance

Introduced in 2017, the Code for Sports Governance sets out the levels of transparency, accountability and financial integrity required from organisations who request government and National Lottery funding from us and UK Sport.

The safeguarding of vulnerable groups, including children and young people, is one of the mandatory requirements of the code, with organisations required to have appropriate policies and procedures in place, including adhering to the Standards for Safeguarding Children and Young People issued by the NSPCC’s Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU). 

A joint review of the code was launched in July 2020, with the expectation that the safeguarding requirements will be further strengthened. More details will be set out shortly.

Investing to support organisations with their own safeguarding work

We understand that partner organisations and national governing bodies (NGBs) require further support and expertise, so we’re making several important investments into specific programmes.

This includes rapidly expanding our successful Safeguarding Case Management Service, which was established in 2019 to help organisations access expert support in relation to safeguarding concerns and referrals. Overseen by Sport Resolutions, with support from LimeCulture Community Interest Company – one of the UK’s leading sexual violence and safeguarding companies – it’s so far provided nine organisations with access to expert safeguarding support services. We’re planning to invest a further £1m into this programme so that, by April 2022, we can offer it to up to 50 more NGBs.

We’re also continuing to invest in other key organisations in this area, including the CPSU, which we helped to create in conjunction with the NSPCC in 2001, the Ann Craft Trust, a registered charity which leads on safeguarding adults at risk and disabled children, and the NWG Exploitation Response Unit, a registered charity specialising in child exploitation and trafficking and the only one of its kind in the UK.

These organisations not only provide expert support, they also develop resources that are free to access on a wide range of areas, such as online safety and supporting disabled children. The CPSU resources are available here.

Improving the way coaches are supported and regulated

Alongside the Chartered Institute for Management in Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA) and UK Sport, we’re undertaking a consultation with our partners to understand what would be required to regulate more effectively the coaching and fitness professional workforce.

The first phase of the project has now concluded and a full summary of the findings and recommendations is available to view, and we’re rapidly moving on to the next phase. This will include exploring learning from other sectors and countries. Importantly, it’ll also consider whether we can create a sector-wide register enabling participants, parents and guardians to easily check on the status and qualifications of any individual coach.

Following the conclusion of these stages, we intend to have a report produced by the autumn.

Providing resources to participants and coaches

We’ve dedicated resources to ensure people understand how to report or respond to a concern. We’re also exploring a variety of pilots with individual sports to support their work to raise awareness.

For example, in partnership with the Lawn Tennis Association and the NWG, we’re delivering the Safe to Play campaign which aims to raise the awareness of everyone involved in the game of tennis. This started in February 2020 and involved the use of innovative technology via augmented reality cards. Should the pilot be a success, we’ll look to work with more sports to roll this out further.

Implementing the Safeguarding Code in Martial Arts

Developed through close consultation with representatives from martial arts governing bodies, the NSPCC’s CPSU, Ann Craft Trust and the NWG Exploitation Response Unit, the code recognises clubs and providers who’ve demonstrated they’ve reached and maintained good safeguarding standards.

Currently, more than 700 local clubs and providers, operating in over 1,100 settings, have achieved the code.

Learning from and working with people with lived experiences of abuse in sport

We’ve established an Advisory Panel made up of individuals with lived experiences, as well as representatives from organisations with experience working in this field.

By establishing this panel, we aim to ensure people who’ve suffered abuse and exploitation within sport not only have a voice, but can also help to improve safeguarding provision.

The five-person panel is chaired by Shelia Taylor, the chief executive of the NWG, with Professor Mike Harthill, director of the Centre for Child Protection & Safeguarding in Sport at Edge Hill University. The panel meets quarterly.

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