A History of Safeguarding Adults in Sport

As we celebrate the 100th issue of the ACT Bulletin, Nicola Dean thought that it would be a good time to reflect on the impact that ACT has had on the issue of safeguarding in sport.

ACT received funding from Sport England for the specific Safeguarding Adults in Sport post in November 2015 but has been working to raise awareness of the issue for many years.

2002 – Annie Kerr Article

In April 2002 ACT produced the 10th Anniversary of the Bulletin. This featured an article by Annie Kerr. At the time of writing, the understanding of safeguarding children was in its infancy, the Child Protection in Sport Unit run by the NSPCC had been operational for a year with the aim of co-ordinating the approach to safeguarding children.

In the article Annie reflects on the issue of abuse of disabled people in sport, noting that disabled people are abused outside of sport and that as non-disabled people are abused in sport, it is fair to assume that disabled children and adults are abused in sport. Annie comments ‘The CPSU is mainly concerned with the protection of children however many Governing Bodies appreciate that there are additional issues surrounding the protection of disabled adults in sport’.

2008- Safeguarding Adults in Sport Steering Group

In 2008, the Safeguarding Adults in Sport Steering Group was founded. It was initiated by the National Governing Bodies of Sport who were concerned that adult safeguarding issues were not being addressed within the sector.

The group has changed in its membership but has always aimed to bring together a number of organisations from across elite and grassroots sport to focus on safeguarding adults. The members include; National Governing Bodies – currently represented by British Rowing and Badminton England, County Sports Partnership Network, Sport England, UK Sport, Sport Resolutions UK, the Child Protection in Sport Unit, the British Athletes Commission, English Federation of Disability Sport and the Sport and Recreation Alliance.

The Ann Craft Trust (ACT) is a founding member of the group to provide expert safeguarding advice. Deborah Kitson brought her expertise in the subject to work with the group to drive forward the safeguarding adults in sport agenda. Additionally Deborah often provided advice to organisations on a variety of safeguarding adults issues.

The group has always recognised that the area of work is both different, and in many ways more complex, than that of safeguarding children. It is not straightforward to identify an adult at risk because of the complexity around the Mental Capacity Act and the adult’s right to self-determination. The group’s concern is that organisations are not informed enough to ensure that complaints/concerns about adults are properly identified and acted upon, which puts them at risk of failing to meet their duty of care and leaving the individuals concerned at best disillusioned with sport and at worst vulnerable to harm.

2017 – Increasing Recognition of Safeguarding Adults

So it is very pleasing that fast forward 15 years from Annie Kerr’s article that the issues of safeguarding adults are increasingly being recognised by organisations. There is a dialogue now about what safeguarding adults looks like, with a growing recognition that the issues do not just relate to disabled adults.

ACT’s funded Safeguarding Adults in Sport Project is in its infancy but we are very proud of our work to date, both with the steering group and the work funded by Sport England. Over the next few years we hope to have a clearer picture of what safeguarding adults in sport and activity looks like – including the recurring themes and issues and from this develop clearer guidance to organisations so that they have the confidence to address them and create a safe and welcoming environment