Safeguarding in sport: why it is so important

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Safeguarding in sport is the process of protecting children and young adults from harm by providing a safe space in which they can participate in sport. 

Having an effective and robust safeguarding framework in your organisation promotes the welfare of children and protects them from harm by creating a safe and inclusive environment for participants and volunteers. It is necessary for all sporting organisations involving children and young adults to have a safeguarding system in place.

Does your organisation have the correct safeguarding policies and procedures in place?

All sporting organisations should have the appropriate and relevant protective safeguards in place to provide a safe space for children and young adults participating in all levels of sport.

A key aspect of safeguarding is having the appropriate and relevant written policies and procedures in place and training these out to everyone involved. It is crucial that all participants, staff and volunteers are aware of your safeguarding procedures and are trained in your safeguarding practices. Compliance with your policies and procedures is key. 

Safeguarding policies and procedures are detailed guidelines and instructions that will support your organisations overarching safeguarding policy statement.

The five safeguarding Rs

The NSPCC and Sport England encourage all sporting organisations to follow the five safeguarding Rs:

  1. Recommendation
  2. Respond
  3. Report
  4. Record
  5. Refer

Your policies and procedures should support the five Rs and nominate Directors and Officers who have safeguarding responsibilities. There will be varying levels of controls needed depending on the size and type of your organisation.

Are your staff/ volunteers adequately trained in safeguarding? 

Safeguarding training will vary; there are numerous online and in-person training providers. The level of training your organisation offers to its employees and volunteers will depend on your organisation’s needs. IT is important to keep training fresh and relevant and for management teams and board members to also be aware of their safeguarding responsibilities. 

Does your organisation have the correct reporting systems in place?

A recorded reporting system is fundamental. It is widely accepted that having comprehensive reporting systems in place allow participants, parents and everyone involved to feel safer. It is important to establish an agreed reporting system so that if safeguarding referrals are made, everyone in your organisation is aware of the appropriate reporting system to follow. The makeup and complexity of your reporting system will be dependent on the size and type of your sporting organisation.

Do your board members understand their safeguarding responsibilities?

We recommend designated management responsibility for safeguarding. This may not mean an individual director but it could mean board level involvement in reviewing safeguarding issues. Most organisations have nominated safeguarding officers and they will need to report to the management team, where safeguarding issues and trends should be discussed, reviewed and analysed. 

If safeguarding investigations or enquiries are launched by either the police, governing bodies or local authorities, it is quite common that a nominated management board representative need to take charge of the investigation.

Are your safeguarding policies and arrangements specific to your sport?

There are common safeguarding principals that will be relevant to every sport. However, it is important that specific safeguarding policies and arrangements are developed for your individual sport. For example the safeguarding policies and procedures in relation to coaching individual young gymnastics will be entirely different to those that need to be in place for coaching grassroots football.

What happens when your organisation receives a safeguarding report/ concern?

It is important to have a set policy and procedure in place for how to deal with a safeguarding report or concern. Many investigations fall short right from the very beginning when nobody knows what they should be doing. If the police, governing body or local authority gets involved with your organisation following a report or concern, one of the first questions that you will be asked is how the initial safeguarding report or concern was dealt with. It will be necessary to have comprehensive written procedures around this and all staff and volunteers involved should understand the importance of record keeping.

Does your organisation need to do anything if it already has policies and procedures in place?

We expect most sporting organisations to have basic policies and procedures in place as this is and has been a hot topic for the past 10 years. However, it is vital that policies and procedures are regularly reviewed and kept up-to-date, that training is regularly refreshed and that everyone understands their roles and obligations in relation to safeguarding. You can’t pass the buck!

What happens if an external safeguarding investigation is launched?

An investigation can be launched following safeguarding disclosures being made to police, governing bodies or local authorities. If an investigation is launched then there will be considerations as to whether or not any individuals involved should be subject to suspension or immediate dismissal. In addition to the employment issues, you will also need to consider reputation management issues, this will include GDPR considerations and potentially publicity, brand and management advice.

We have a team of lawyers from across different disciplines at Gateley that can provide strategic support in relation to all aspects of safeguarding, from the preparation of policies and procedures to advice on the employment law implications of any investigation.

To assist organisations in ensuring they are fulfilling their safeguarding requirements we have developed a “Safeguarding Toolkit”. Get in touch with our experts or visit our safeguarding page to find out more.

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