Are your children going to a summer sports activity, if so will they be Safe to Play?

For the last couple of years, I have written articles aimed at parents as the summer holidays are in sight and parents are struggling again with trying to balance work, home life and keeping children entertained. This year however with the ongoing health crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic there is more pressure on parents, with lockdown measure easing but many children still not allowed to attend school parents are getting desperate to let their children out to “play” as the pressure grows in many households, research from many quarters has indicated the stress and anxiety that many children and adults are experiencing is increasing especially as the warm weather has finally returned. During the last few years, we have seen a significant increase in childcare activities based around sport that many parents have been using whilst trying to juggle a healthy work life balance for themselves and their children.

The NWG and its safeguarding partners from the CPSU have always advised parents to ask the right questions before allowing their children to attend their chosen summer activity club, however this year we are very concerned about the number of clubs that may pop up offering activities based outdoors, many I’m sure will be “bona fide” clubs with all the relevant Covid 19  secure regularity frameworks in place as well as the required safeguarding and health and safety standards openly available to view and in place. However, there will be some who take the opportunity to exploit the current situation and offer summer camps in parks and other green spaces, the offer of “cheap” child care may appeal to already stressed parents and particularly for parents who may be on reduced incomes due to being furloughed and more recently with the high numbers of redundancies that have been announced in the media 

So before parents take the plunge and send their children to summer activities think about the questions you need to be asking to ensure your child will be safe to play, what level of “due diligence” are you taking before your most treasured family members are sent into the company of strangers, have we forgotten the messages from  our school days about  not  talking to  strangers, but we are quite happy to leave our children in their company?  Is the place where your sending your children “Safe to Play” and are you confident that they will be looked after properly? 

So, this is a “call to arms” for all parents, please take a more proactive role in researching the summer sporting child care activities that you may be considering for your children. When parents research nurseries and school  for placements  far more curious enquiry takes place

. Here are some things to think about: 

  • Firstly,  scrutinise their web sites  or  the information that you have been sent, do not be influenced by “glossy “pictures and  reams of  quotes from “satisfied” parents. Look for safeguarding policies, are they fully accessible and visible or are they  just “referred” to on the web site, if this is the case ask yourself a question as to why they are not visible and would you really send your child there not knowing what their safeguarding arrangements are??   
  • Where is the sporting activity taking place, is it Covid 19 secure?  If it’s in the grounds of a school or a leisure centre ask the Head teacher or centre manager about what due diligence has taken place to ensure that the clubs providing activities have the appropriate safeguarding procedures in place.  
  • In some brochures, leaflets and websites reference will be made to staff members having coaching badges such as FiFA or FA Badges or that they are fully qualified to national standards, a good web site will show you pictures of the staff alongside their qualifications and what their coaching badges are in and who issued them, check these out.   
  • DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks will be mentioned but you should be asking about the last time that they were renewed, are the club’s part of the DBS update service. Does the club have volunteers, and do they have a full DBS disclosure?  
  • What safeguarding training has the staff received and can you see the evidence of when the training was delivered, did all staff attend, what about new staff as we know coaches do move around quite frequently. 
  • First aid, what happens if a child is injured or taken ill, what are the club’s policies on these issues and how many at the club have full first aid certificates, this point is often missed by parents. 

These are just a few points that you need to consider, however your first point of call should be to ask direct questions of the staff running these clubs, please do not be afraid to ask challenging questions, a good club will welcome such questioning and provide you with the answers that you require. If a coach or club owner are defensive about safeguarding questions ask yourself why, we have seen so many media stories recently about children being abused by coaches that I would expect to see more transparency  from  within the industry regarding  the  safeguarding  of  children. Safeguarding  children  is everyone’s business  and it starts with parents so please do your homework  with summer sports activity clubs. 

For more information about how to keep children safe in sport please click on the link below and see how you can ensure your child’s summer activity is Safe to Play 

If you have any concerns or would like to have a discussion with me about this article, then please do contact me on the numbers listed below, 

Kev Murphy 

Response Unit; Safeguarding in Sport Lead 

NWG Network 

01332 585371/07399 449045