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Sheldon QC report: A year on

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As safeguarding continues to remain a hot topic and with the imminent Anne Whyte QC report which will look into the culture of British Gymnastics, now is a good time to take stock and reflect whether your organisation has made progress over the last year.

Although the Sheldon report was published for the FA, its safeguarding message and recommendations apply to all sports, from grassroots to elite.

Sheldon made 13 recommendations in May 2021:

  1. Make arrangements to encourage all parents/carers to receive safeguarding training;
  2. Make arrangements for players and young people to receive safeguarding training;
  3. Board and senior management team members should receive safeguarding training;
  4. Board of directors should receive safeguarding training and should encourage Club Boards to encourage safeguarding strategy and implementation;
  5. All those engaging in Regulated Activity including managers and coaches of junior and open age teams, should receive safeguarding training;
  6. Members of the Board should be assigned the role of Children’s Safeguarding Champion;
  7. Develop a 5-year strategy with specific intervention to support the voices of children and monitor it;
  8. Require all grassroots Clubs to make safeguarding policies and contact details for Welfare Officer readily available;
  9. Annual spot checks for grassroots Clubs to review safeguarding policies and practices;
  10. Ensure the safeguarding officer in Clubs report on a regular basis to their Club’s board on safeguarding matters;  
  11. Online and social media campaigns to direct all those involved in the sport towards information and advice on safeguarding and minimising risk;
  12. Publish a safeguarding report on an annual basis which would include a statement from the Chairman covering trends, key developments and work done in safeguarding; and
  13. Devote a day to National Day of Safeguarding.

As we look to Anne Whyte QC’s report, we expect this report once again to be outcome focussed and to make recommendations which will apply across all sports.

Anne Whyte will be specifically looking at:

  • Whether gymnasts’ wellbeing and welfare is and has been at the centre of gymnastics;
  • If safeguarding complaints and concerns have been dealt with appropriately by British Gymnastics; and
  • If gymnasts or their parents/guardians have felt unable to raise complaints with the appropriate authorities and if so, why.

It is as important as ever to drive safeguarding and to ensure that it remains on the agenda. One of the main trends we see is that safeguarding policies and documents although in existence, are not properly disseminated, accessible and understood by staff and volunteers. Could this apply to you? Have you tested your training and reporting systems?

As most safeguarding disclosures or concerns will be from those people working closely with children, young adults, and adults at risk, it remains important that your organisation has clear, user friendly, easily accessible safeguarding documentation and training. Induction training is not enough; refresher training is essential and will drive the culture within your organisation to highlight the importance and priority that safeguarding is given.

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