From Social Work to Safeguarding in Sport: Reflecting on the Past

Ann Craft Trust 30 Year Logo

This year we celebrate 30 years of the Ann Craft Trust. As part of Social Care Month, we’ve been thinking about how social work shaped us as a charity.

We asked our Safeguarding Adults in Sport Manager Nicola Dean to reflect on how her role’s evolved over the years, and to explore how working as a social worker has influenced her role in safeguarding in sport.

Starting a career in social work

Nicola qualified as a Social Worker in 1998. Her first role was in a children and families assessment and reception team for a local authority. This was nine years after the Children Act 1989 was passed, which aimed to strengthen protections for children through clarifying and simplifying the existing patchwork of legislation. It emphasised that the child’s welfare is paramount.

During this time, she recollects teaching families about night time routines, responding to sexual abuse cases in local schools and learning how to knock on a door correctly.

Nicola remembers the handwritten paper trails and filing systems. Plus there was only one office computer to check if the Local Authority knew of the child. The digital filing system was only introduced in 2002.

In the old files, Nicola could see that formal language was always adopted in correspondence. Meetings would even be held without parents being present; they were simply informed of outcomes. The views of children were rarely logged.

Social Workers provided family support as well as undertaking child protection investigations. Unlike today, there were few support services to refer families to. The Local Authority ran a Family Centre that would conduct assessments on families, but they only received support if they were referred to it.

The HomeStart service, founded in 1973, stood out in offering support to families. Their local volunteers were lifelines for many families.

There is a way to knock on a door!

Nicola reflects on working with health visitors, local schools and families. “Neighbours would often pop out and say things like ‘you’re from the social, they’re not in’ but how did they know I was a Social Worker?!”

Nicola says that working with Police Officers was a real education. They even demonstrated the right way to knock on a door. “My knock was too weak initially, apparently. The police were also a source of local knowledge and would go with me to talk to families that they knew. There was a real sense of them having respect in the community back then. Even if people didn’t really like them.”

Working with The Ann Craft Trust

I became aware of the Ann Craft Trust when I went on to Family Support with disabled children and their families. I loved getting the bulletin through the post and would photocopy articles for the team. The work that Ann Craft and Pam Cook did really inspired me. I went on to become a trainer for the ACPC, focusing on safeguarding disabled children  – an area that Ann Craft specialised in and was so important to my training.

Nicola joined ACT as an Associate Trainer and worked with the Safeguarding Children’s Manager. Rachael Clawson. She trained a variety of teams, from child minders to Ofsted Inspectors.

I was nervous running training at first. But then at one event a delegate said that they were attending the training as it was being run by the Ann Craft Trust. So they knew that it would be excellent. In 2015 I was proud to become a Safeguarding Adults in Sport Manager. The Ann Craft name certainly brought credibility to the role and I was able to work with the CEO Deborah Kitson and learn from her years of experience.

With Nicola’s help, and with funding from UK Sport, Sport England Sport Wales, we have since gone on to create a Safeguarding Adults in Sport Team.

Throughout my work with The Ann Craft Trust, I have been able to apply my social work skills and knowledge. I enjoy discussing safeguarding situations with people at all levels in sport and activity, it is satisfying to help people work to find solutions. I also love to network and make connections with colleagues across the sport and activity sector. By working together we can embed safeguarding adults in organisations.

Moving away from ticking boxes

Nicola highlights her frustrations, in particular “the ‘tick box’ approach to safeguarding, where the focus is on organisational processes, rather than making safeguarding personal and putting the person at the centre.

She also talked about how people and organisations can ignore unsafe situations in order to maintain the status quo, allowing ‘personalities’ to dominate organisations. Finally, some people still seem to believe that safeguarding adults is something that others do.

Nicola is currently focusing on delivering the #SaferCultureSaferSport campaign. This initiative encourages organisations to create environments where all adults can participate, free from abuse and neglect.

This is what the Ann Craft Trust is all about. Everyone has a right to be treated with respect and dignity. Everyone deserves to be safe.

Help us mark 30 years of safeguarding adults and add your story to our safeguarding time capsule.

Add your story to our time capsule