Every child and young person has a right to have fun and enjoy taking part in activities without the risk of being harmed or abused.
Sports clubs and physical activity providers offer children an amazing experience which promotes their self-esteem, socialisation skills, plus emotional and physical development. We also know that physical activity can be a great healer for those experiencing mental health challenges. So, naturally we are keen for our children to start enjoying sport which we hope will last their lifetime.
When parents and carers choose their child’s school or college, they devote a lot of time reviewing OFSTED reports, asking parents and children who attend the educational setting for their lived experiences and continue to remain vigilant about their safety whilst attending. Does the same level of due diligence get applied to sports clubs and physical activity providers? Children are often taught the importance of not going off with strangers yet children are frequently left with sports coaches and staff in extra-curricular provisions without parents and carers checking key safeguarding measures are in place.
Sport and physical activities often place individuals in a position of significant influence over other people. A high level of trust is placed on such individuals by parents, carers and the participants themselves. In most cases that level of trust is more than repaid through the commitment, dedication and selflessness of people involved in organising and delivering sports and activities, but occasionally that trust can be abused. All organisations and individuals involved in sport should be aware of the risks and act promptly to deal with any concern. Safeguarding must remain a priority for all those who run, book, manage and oversee sports and extra-curricular clubs and activities.
Sadly, we are all aware of traumatic stories by survivors of childhood abuse at the hands of some sports coaches and adults in extra-curricular settings. The impact of abuse stays with a victim their whole life. There is also significant reputational and financial damage for these settings. The importance of ensuring effective safeguarding practices in these settings cannot be over-estimated, failure to do so could lead to abusive adults being placed in positions of trust, power and influence with children.
That is why we are working in partnership with Active Essex and NWG to launch the NWG campaign ‘Safe to Play’ here in Essex. The campaign has been funded by Sport England and aims to raise awareness of exploitation in sport and physical activity to increase safety for children. We are supporting this campaign by including some of the useful materials from the campaign that you can use in your club/setting, plus some videos to assist in developing your staff awareness and ongoing development.