The 2020 Safeguarding in Sport & Activity Seminar – Summary

ACT Online Safeguarding in Sport Seminar 2020

On Tuesday October 6 2020, we held our first online Safeguarding Adults in Sport & Activity Seminar.

The online seminar was a collaboration between ACT and The CPSU. Other organisations took part, including Sport England, Sport Wales, UK Sport, Lime Culture, The NSPCC and the National Working Group.

The seminar included six presentations and six workshops. Below are short summaries of the day’s presentations and workshops.

Safeguarding Adults in Sport – Deborah Kitson, ACT

Deborah Kitson, CEO of the Ann Craft Trust, gave a short history of safeguarding adults in sport, from 2008 until now.

She listed some of the challenges for sports organisations. These include understanding how raising and reporting concerns about adults and children vary and how sport needs to be able to deal with concerns from both inside and outside the sport setting.

Finally, she offered some practical steps that everyone can take to champion safeguarding adults in sport. For example, you could follow ACT on Twitter, or get involved in Safeguarding Adults Week.

The Child Protection in Sport Unit – Michelle North, Service Head

The CPSU is a partnership between the NSPCC, Sport England, UK Sport, Sport Northern Ireland and Sport Wales. Their mission: To build the capacity of sports to safeguard children and young people in and through sport and to enable sports organisations to lead the way in keeping children safe from harm.

Michelle introduced the wider CPSU team and described some of the services they offer. Next, she looked at what the future might hold for the CPSU. Their goal is to continue supporting organisations with their safeguarding responsibilities particularly in light of Covid-19 and financial restraints.

Safeguarding in Sport and Physical Activity – an update from Sport England – Alex Moore

Sport England’s mission statement is that everyone in England regardless of their age, background or level of ability should feel able to take part in sport and physical activity.

Alex began by explaining Sport England’s safeguarding strategy, their partners, their priorities, and the progress they’ve made. She stressed the importance of collaboration, and provided multiple examples of how good collaboration can lead to positive change.

Next, Alex described their case management pilot project. This includes nine NGBs who are collaborating in numerous ways to effectively manage safeguarding cases. After this, Alex described their training methods pilot project. This is a collaboration with UK Athletics to test and evaluate the most effective method of delivering safeguarding training.

Finally, Alex looked at some of their ongoing and future projects. These include the Safeguarding Code in Martial Arts, official recognition that clubs or providers have demonstrated a commitment to maintaining excellent safeguarding standards so everyone participating and engaging in Martial Arts can have a safe and enjoyable experience.

Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation in Sport – Sheila Taylor, National Working Group (one of Sheila’s colleagues stood in for her on the day).

They began by defining child sexual exploitation, and describing the many forms it might take, from targeting to grooming to coercion. But sexual exploitation is just one type of exploitation. So next, they explored the various forms of exploitation that exist:

They then described the structure of the National Working Group, and the work it carries out, with special focus on their Response Unit. Finally, she anticipated some of the challenges the future might hold, and how we might overcome them. The key is collaboration. Together we can make a difference!

Racism and Safeguarding in Sport – Ineke Houtenbos, Senior Training & Development Consultant, NSPCC

Ineke’s presentation covered key terminology, the current state of racism in sports, its impact, and the implication this might have on safeguarding. She explored ways in which organisations might commit to becoming more diverse, and ways in which the sport and activity community might encourage increased BAME participation.

How can we overcome racism in sport? Through teamwork. Ineke shared Lencioni’s Trust Pyramid:

Finally, Ineke suggested some actions that people might take on an individual level to combat racism in sport. The key here is to listen: To accept the discomfort and explore feelings and to explore needs.

You can read a more detailed summary of Ineke’s presentation here.

Lime Culture – Annabel Timmins

Lime Culture specialise in sexual violence and safeguarding training. They work with sports organisations to support their safeguarding response. Annabel shared a powerful Nelson Mandela quote:

Next, Annabel invited us to consider the difference between thinking about sport and thinking about safeguarding. This creates a barrier. So what can we do to break it down? Finally, Annabel shared details of Lime Culture’s Lead Safeguarding Officer Development Programme, which will launch in January 2021.

Online Safeguarding in Sport Workshops

There were also six safeguarding in sport workshops:

Safer Cultures in Sport – Key elements in creating and sustaining sports and activities where everyone is safe – Cerri Dando (CPSU) and Ruth Ingram (ACT)

What needs to change and how can we change it?

Cerri and Ruth explored Serious Case Reviews (adults) concerning abuse in care settings. Do they identify any common features? Yes. Among other things, there are invariably low staffing levels, a lack of training, poor management, and a lack of good governance.

Cerri and Ruth invited participants to consider how this sort of culture could also exist in a sport setting. They explored duty of care in sport. Next, they examined how we might adopt a high-risk industry’s “total safety culture”. This includes creating an environment where anyone can raise any concern over any issue, no matter how small.

After this, Cerri and Ruth looked at elite athletes. They referenced to ACT’s Elite Athlete Vulnerability Guidance, and our podcast with the athlete Charlotte Gilmartin.

Finally, Cerri and Ruth invited participants to think about their organisations. They asked: What do you already do to help create a safe environment? What one thing do you pledge to do to create a safer culture in your club or organisation?

Position of Trust – Across children and adults – Laura Whapham (CPSU) and Lisa Curtis (ACT)

With great power comes great responsibility. Laura and Lisa looked at the fine line between influence and control. They listed ways in which a coach’s influence on an athlete might be positive, and ways in which it might be negative. For example, setting goals is positive. But pressuring an athlete to take performance-enhancing drugs is negative.

Lisa and Laura next explored “the position of trust” and examined how it might be abused. Most coaches understand their duties and professional responsibilities. But coaches who overtly and persistently breach professional boundaries present clear risks to safety.

Finally, Lisa and Laura asked participants to consider three important points:

  1. What does a person in a position of trust mean for children and how does this compare with adults?
  2.  What does a good culture in a club/organisation look like? How can this be achieved?
  3. What role/responsibility do you have to set the culture in your organisation – what can you directly influence? What is out of your control?

Are Parents/Carers a Benefit to Athletes Participation in Sport? Paul Stephenson (CPSU) and Camilla Knight (Swansea University)

Paul and Camilla invited participants to consider the various ways in which parents and carers might influence the way one experiences sport. Of course, they can do a lot of good, in enabling participation and enhancing motivation. But they can also do a lot of damage, whether that’s through exerting too much pressure to perform, or through setting unrealistic expectations.

Next, Paul and Camilla shared a few example scenarios. They asked participants to consider, in each case, whether the parent’s actions would help or hinder the athlete. After this, they explored how coaches might experience “difficult” parents, and how they might deal with potential issues. Finally, they listed ways in which sport or activity organisations might optimise parental involvement. The key is to foster and maintain healthy relationships, and to adapt attitudes and approaches based on the athlete’s needs.

Safeguarding Challenges during the pandemic and returning to Sport and Physical Activity -Denise Richards (CPSU), Nicola Dean (ACT) and Kevin Murphy (NWG)

Denise, Nicola and Kevin began by reflecting on just how challenging 2020 has been for absolutely everyone. They explored some of the effects of lockdown on adults and children. Negative effects include stress, mental health, loneliness and a rise in cases of domestic violence, exploitation, and other forms of abuse.

They shared some shocking statistics: In April, May and June there were more than 22,000 contacts to the NSPCC helpline from adults with concerns for the wellbeing of a child. There were 8,287 contacts in May, the highest number made to the NSPCC helpline in a single month on record.

Throughout lockdown, many official bodies have stressed that “we’re all in this together”. Nicola, Denise and Kevin explored ways in which the lockdown might have affected different groups in different ways.

Next, they looked at how sport and activity organisations might encourage people to stay active through lockdown and beyond. Many organisations have attempted to host virtual online fitness sessions. Denise, Nicola and Kevin invited participants to consider the safeguarding considerations we might have to make in an online fitness setting.

Finally, as we gradually move out of lockdown, many will return to sports and activity. The three facilitators asked participants to think about the safeguarding and child protection issues that might arise during this transition. For example, would you be able to recognise if an athlete experienced harm or abuse during lockdown?

Catching safeguarding concerns early – Liza Ware (CPSU) and Joanne Pell (ACT)

This workshop explored the various ways in which a culture of abuse might take hold in a sport or activity organisation. And once this culture takes hold, it can result in a cycle of abuse that can last for years.

Joanne and Liza invited participants to consider the various factors that might make an athlete at risk from abuse. These might include the “win-at-all-costs” attitude, over-training, away trips, body image issues, and a culture of hazing and initiation rituals.

Next, Joanne and Liza invited participants to think of examples of poor practice, and to consider how these might lead to abuse. They asked: Can we prevent abuse? What measures might make abuse less likely? Examples might include an athlete-first approach, a defined code of conduct, safer recruitment practices and clear reporting procedures. Finally, they listed some do’s and don’ts to consider when responding to a concern.

Preparing for Tokyo – Back into elite sport – Carole Billington Wood (CPSU) and Kimberley Walsh (ACT)

Carole and Kimberley shared best practice and learning regarding welfare planning for the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo. They also aimed to raise awareness of the additional safeguarding and welfare considerations that might arise as a result of Covid-19.

Clare Cunningham, Lead Safeguarding Officer at the British Paralympic Association, shared her organisation’s welfare plan for both the BPA multisport prep camp and during Games-time. She outlined their safeguarding procedures, their code of conduct, and their reporting process. She also listed the specific responsibilities that her organisation’s safeguarding officers will undertake.

Covid-19 presents additional safeguarding and welfare considerations. So Carole and Kimberley asked participants to consider several issues:

  • How do we assure team members they are safe in the Village given the number of people that will be there?
  • Impact on mental health if team members cannot leave the Village except to competition and training venues.
  • What if friends & family are not allowed to travel?
  • What if friends and family can travel, but they’re not allowed to see their athletes?

Finally, Carole and Kimberley explored the effect all of this will have on athletes’ mental health and wellbeing.

Want More Safeguarding in Sport Insights?

Our first online Safeguarding in Sport & Activity seminar was a huge success. So we wish to say a massive thank you to everyone who helped make it happen.

If you want more safeguarding in sport advice, take a look at our events page to see what we have coming up, or get in touch to ask about training for your club or organisation. You can also sign up for our monthly Safeguarding Adults in Sport email updates. Just head here to register.