Preliminary Findings From Our Sport Participation Forums

Safeguarding Adults in Sport

An update from Dr Anne Patterson, School of Social Work and Sociology, University of Nottingham.

The Safeguarding Adults in Sport and Activity project is funded by Sport England to help National Governing Bodies, Active Sports Partnerships, regional partnerships and sport and activity organisations to develop best practice in safeguarding adults.

As part of this project we have been holding discussion forums (focus groups) with sports participants and staff to develop shared understandings of what safeguarding means and what individuals, clubs and organisations can do to keep people safe.  Amongst other things we discuss possible safeguarding risks, whose responsibility it is to keep people safe and explore good practices for ensuring this happens.

The data we collect from these discussions is being collated in order to provide the evidence base that will inform and support the development of effective policies and procedures to ensure all of those involved in sport are empowered to keep themselves and others safe.

We have collated the information gathered so far in the discussion forums and have some resounding messages coming out of these from both sports participants themselves and from staff.  We have summarised these below.

Messages from Sports Participants

Safeguarding is “feeling safe while having fun” and “speaking out if you’ve been abused”.

On a practical level it is “knowing who’s in charge”, “knowing you’re being listened to”, being informed about how sessions work and “being understood by people in charge”.

Tricky situations might include not being told there’s a fire alarm test, or that there will be a change in the regular routine.

They might also include your parents/carers being late to collect you, or being bullied by a coach, another athlete or a parent

People in tricky situations could tell police, parents, carers, social workers, coaches, friends, doctors or nurses. This should be confidential, and people should be told how their query is being dealt with and should “know that it is being taken seriously”.

If they are spending time away from home, people need to feel they are being kept safe at events.

Tricky situations can be minimised by:

  • Looking out for each other.
  • Knowing what’s right and appropriate for you.
  • “Avoiding situations you know may get violent or upsetting.”
  • Communicating any personal care needs beforehand.

Some good practices are:

  • Having rules and codes of conduct.
  • Teamwork, and having defined roles and responsibilities.
  • Giving simple guidelines from the start.
  • Trying not to be over familiar, and not sharing rooms inappropriately at events.

Some poor practices are:

  • Not checking facilities are fully accessible, and not having appropriate clothing.
  • “If coaches shout and throw things, and there’s physical abuse.”
  • Poor training, or not enough training on keeping people safe.

Messages from Staff

Safeguarding is everyone’s business. Coaches and volunteers should know what is good practice, and who to contact for advice.

Well-written policies and guidelines should be in place. “Make it visible, don’t put them away in a drawer”.

Practical steps should be taken to prevent ‘tricky situations’ e.g.. “not finding yourself 1-1 in changing room”.

Up to date qualifications and DBS checks are vital. We should work with wider organisations for support and guidance, as well as for relevant training.

Everybody has a responsibility to keep people safe. We should respect and look out for each other, and we should not use a position of ‘power’ to manipulate.

Practical steps are required for checking equipment, reviewing how things are going with players, and also encouraging debriefs among staff and colleagues.

Have your say!

We are still running discussion forums all over the country with all sorts of sporting groups. We would like to hear from anyone interested in hosting a forum.

To organise a forum in your area, please contact Nicola Dean:

Don’t have time for a full participation group? We are also launching a survey during National Safeguarding Adults Week. These will be available online, as paper copies, and in an easy-read format too. These will be available at the ACT conference on the 21st November, or we can arrange to send them out to you if you let Nicola know your address.

There are two surveys.

For Sport Participants: Find it here

For Sport Staff and Volunteers: Find it here.