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Keeping young people safe from harm

Taking part in sport and physical activity can have a positive impact on children and young people for the rest of their lives.

Organisations have a responsibility to safeguard them from harm and create an environment where they feel safe and are able to report any concerns. 

By children and young people, we're referring to any person under the age of 18. 

This section sets out some of the ways your organisation can work to ensure that the children and young people who access your activities are safe and any concerns are responded to appropriately. 

What does safeguarding children and young people mean?

It refers to the actions an organisation takes to promote their welfare and protect them from harm.

It's important for organisations to provide a safe environment in which to participate in sport, be active and provide a positive experience.

All organisations must have processes in place to prevent children and young people experiencing harm or abuse. 

Why does your organisation need to do it?

If you organise or deliver activities for children or young people, your organisation has both a legal and moral duty to care for them.

This duty is set out in government legislation and is outlined within Working Together to Safeguard Children (2023).

Every organisation that works with children and young people has a duty to protect them against harm and abuse and must have arrangements in place to safeguard them.   

What are the different types of abuse?

The four main categories of abuse that may harm a child or young person are physical, sexual, emotional and neglect.

However, policy in England also refers to other types of abuse including bullying, grooming and child sexual exploitation and poor practice (the behaviour of an individual in a position of trust that falls below the organisation’s required standard).

For more information on each of these forms of abuse or mistreatment click here, while further details on other types of abuse are also provided by the NSPCC

Children and young people who experience abuse often find it difficult to speak out about it, so it is important that those who regularly work or interact with them are able to recognise the signs and understand the different types of abuse.

It's not the responsibility of a volunteer, coach or member of staff to investigate concerns, but it is their responsibility to report them to the appropriate person (e.g. Welfare Officer or Safeguarding Lead).

A disabled teenage girl pushes a walking frame as a care worker watches on

  • What are the safeguarding requirements?

    As a minimum, there are a number of requirements that organisations must put in place to ensure they meet their legal and moral obligations to safeguard children and young people.

    These requirements include: 

    • Having a safeguarding policy that has been agreed by the committee/board. 
    • Having a designated safeguarding lead (usually a Welfare Officer) with arrangements to cover in their absence. 
    • Ensuring that members of the volunteer and/or paid workforce (including the Welfare Officer) who regularly work with children or young people have attended a Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) or national governing body (NGB) recognised face-to-face ‘Safeguarding Awareness Workshop’ with refresher training every three years. The CPSU have more information about this course and other safeguarding training on their website
    • Undertaking safe recruitment of all staff and volunteers, including assessing the eligibility of roles for Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks
    • DBS checks should form part of an organisations safe recruitment processes which must also include taking up references, checking qualifications and interviewing. Your organisation should also consider whether it is appropriate to use self-declarations as part of your recruitment of volunteers and staff that may come in contact with children and young people. It is important to note that self-declarations do not replace the need for DBS checks but can provide additional information that a DBS check does not. It is good practice to use separate self-declaration forms rather than embed these within any application forms. More information can be found on the CPSU website.
  • Who's responsible for safeguarding children and young people?

    Safeguarding children and young people is everyone’s responsibility.

    Volunteers, staff, parents, carers, members and participants including other children and young people should all adhere to your organisation’s safeguarding policy and procedures.

    They must also behave in an appropriate way, as set out in your organisation’s Codes of Conduct.

    Everyone should be aware of and familiar with the safeguarding policies and procedures and importantly know how to report concerns or allegations of abuse or poor practice and who to. 

    Organisations providing sport and physical activity for children and young people must have a designated Welfare Officer in place.

    This officer should have a clear role description. Sample role descriptions which set out the duties, responsibilities, skills and knowledge requirements are available from the CPSU website

  • What's a safeguarding children policy?

    A Safeguarding Children Policy clearly sets out what an organisation is doing to safeguard children and young people.

    All safeguarding policies will vary slightly depending on the sport/activity or because of the requirements of the NGB they are affiliated to, but should include: 

    • the aims of your policy
    • who the policy applies to
    • what volunteers/paid staff, parents/carers and children and young people within your organisation will do to keep children safe 
    • the processes and procedures that your organisation will adhere to including responding to and reporting concerns or allegations
    • information about the recruitment of all volunteers and paid staff.

    To ensure the policy document is adopted and appropriate to an organisation, the following is recommended: 

    • The policy should be in the name of the organisation, approved, signed, and dated by the committee/board members. 
    • Policies should be reviewed at least every three years or: 
    • Updated to reflect changes in legislation and government guidance. 
    • Updated after a case or issue in the organisation 
    • Updated after relevant changes to the workforce e.g. the Welfare Officer. 
    • Organisations should record evidence of any policy review in meeting minutes or and add the dates of the review to the document itself. 
    • The policy should be written in a clear, jargon free way that is easy to understand and have appropriate information in a format suitable for children and young people, including what to do if they have a concern/worry and who the Welfare Officer is. 
    • The policy should be communicated to all participants, members, the paid and volunteer workforce, parents and carers so that they fully understand what to do if they need to report a concern or allegation. 
    • The policy should also be communicated to any partner agencies you are working with e.g. schools or local groups. 

    Organisations affiliated to an NGB should adhere to their NGB’s specific policy templates and guidance.

    Most NGBs provide information on their website and will have a specific safeguarding lead. 

  • Reporting and responding to concerns

    The process of reporting and responding to safeguarding concerns should be outlined within your organisation's safeguarding policy.

    To ensure everyone knows what to do and who to report or raise a safeguarding concern with organisations should ensure that information on reporting channels and key contacts (internally and externally) should be accessible to all and readily available. 

    If an allegation is made, organisations have the responsibility to act on this and report it to the appropriate bodies.

    All concerns and allegations must be recorded and stored confidentially to take account of data protection regulations

    For more information on responding to, reporting and recording safeguarding concerns visit the CPSU website or follow the procedures outlined by your NGB.

    If you think a child or young person is in immediate danger then call the police on 999.

    More information and contact information can also be found on the CPSU website.

    Adults can also call the NSPCC helpline if they have concerns about a child 0808 800 5000.

  • What other procedures should an organisation have in place to support the implementation of your Safeguarding Children Policy?

    In addition to having a Safeguarding Children Policy, organisations should have a clear set of guidelines relating to other aspects of safeguarding to further minimise the risk of abuse or poor practice.

    If not already outlined within an organisation’s Safeguarding Policy, additional guidelines include: 

    • Whistleblowing – it's important that everyone has the confidence and knows how to report dangerous or illegal activities and wrongdoings, including safeguarding issues or concerns. A Whistleblowing Policy outlines the process to follow should there be an allegation of abuse or poor practice at your organisation.
    • Photography/videos – organisations must obtain consent to take photographs and videos of children and young people (CPSU sample consent form) and should  have a Photography Policy which includes the steps that they will take to protect against inappropriate use of images, what the organisation will use photographs for and guidance for the wider membership on use of photography. 
    • Bullying – organisations must have an Anti-Bullying Policy to promote an inclusive culture and prevent bullying. The policy should outline how they will respond should incidents occur (CPSU Anti-bullying Policy). 
    • Online and social media – organisations should consider the potential safeguarding risks when operating online and using social media. There are a number of risks for children and young people when using online platforms or interacting online. These range from forming inappropriate relationships and grooming to cyberbullying. Find out more about the potential risks and how to create a safer online environment on the CPSU website. Organisations may also want to consider the procedures they have in place for running virtual sessions to ensure safeguarding is at the forefront of this.
    • Trips away – with the appropriate consent from parents, guardians and carers, organisations may take children and young people away from their usual facilities to away fixtures, social events, competitions or tournaments, including overnight stays. All organisations must make sure that there are procedures in place to cover the extra considerations for these trips. Check out the CPSU checklist to make sure you have everything covered.   

    As with Safeguarding Polices, NGBs are likely to have requirements, guidelines and procedures around other aspects of safeguarding for their affiliated organisations to follow. 

    Contact your NGB to find out what their specific requirements are and what tools and policies they have to support organisations. 

  • What safeguarding policies and procedures need to be in place?

    The CPSU have developed a safeguarding self-assessment tool. This enables organisations to check what they currently do to safeguard children and young people.

    The completion of the self-assessment tool helps to identify areas for improvement and highlights actions that organisations need to take to ensure they are as safe as possible for children and young people.

    Organisations can also use this template implementation plan to help address areas of improvement as highlighted within the self-assessment tool. 

  • Embedding safeguarding policies and practices

    Safeguarding policies, procedures and practices should be implemented and embedded throughout an organisation.

    It's important that everyone who attends, supports the running of activities or is a parent or carer of someone who attends is familiar with the procedures that are in place.

    The CPSU have set out the key principles of putting safeguards in place

  • Organisations that can support you

    There are a number of bodies that provide information and guidance on safeguarding children and young people to further support delivery organisations. These include:

    • Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) – The CPSU offers a range of resources, help and advice for delivery organisations to ensure that sport and physical activity stays safe and enjoyable for all involved.
    • National governing bodies (NGBs) – Your organisation may be affiliated to an NGB who are likely to have their own tools and resources to support you to ensure that you are appropriately safeguarding children and young people.
    • Active Partnerships – There are 43 Active Partnerships across England, who work to increase sport and physical activity levels in their local area. Each partnership has a designated Safeguarding Lead who can provide some guidance, should your organisation not be affiliated to a national governing body. 
    • Safeguarding Code for Martial Arts – If you're a martial arts organisation then pay particular attention to this. 
    • Local Safeguarding Partnerships – The local authority your organisation is located in will have a dedicated safeguarding partnership. It is important for organisations delivering sport or physical activity to know about their Local Safeguarding Partnership arrangements.