A national charity is urging parents to ask five simple questions to make sure their children are safe when they attend out-of-school sports clubs.
Growing numbers of after-school and holiday clubs are being set up across the country to help parents deal with childcare demands, but families often do not realise that many of them are unregulated and staff may not be subject to stringent checks.
NWG Network, which supports survivors of child sex abuse, has today launched a new campaign, with the backing of Sport England, which aims to get parents – and clubs themselves – to talk more openly about safeguarding.
Abuse in sport has hit the headlines in recent years after a number of high profile football players came forward to talk about their experiences of being attacked by coach Barry Bennell.
But abuse often takes place at a much lower level and people may not report it until many years later when they have the courage and confidence to talk about what has happened. Operation Hydrant was set up in June 2014 by the National Police Chief’s Council to coordinate responses to historic child sex abuse and has already recorded allegations against more than 320 different sports clubs nationwide.
Kevin Murphy, NWG Network’s Safeguarding in Sport lead, said: “We want parents to be more aware of the need to check exactly who they are leaving their children with.
“Treat these clubs in the same way you would when researching your child’s school. You do all the research before you decide which school to send your child to and that’s what we want parents to do with these clubs.”
There are five key questions NWG Network recommends parents ask before their child joins any club:
1. Does the club have a comprehensive safeguarding policy and where can I see it?
2. Who is the point of contact at the club that I or my child can speak to if they have concerns or worries?
3. What kind of training have the staff received on safeguarding, health and safety and first aid?
4. What happens if there is an accident or injury during the session?
5. Does the club have a clear safer recruitment policy for club staff and volunteers which includes a comprehensive vetting (DBS) process?
The campaign is being supported by former professional footballer Ian Ackley, who was abused by football coach Barry Bennell.
He said: “You wouldn’t just leave your wallet or your car keys with a stranger without asking some questions, make sure you are doing the same thing for your children and ask the right questions.”
Ian now uses his experiences to help tackle the issue of abuse in sport and is a member of the Sport England Safeguarding Advisory Panel. He is also a founder member of the SAVE association which aims to effect positive change in safeguarding and victim engagement through football and other sports.
NWG Network’s latest campaign is part of a two-year £470k Safeguarding in Sport project that they have been funded to deliver by Sport England. The charity will be working with local authorities, police services and providers of sporting activity across the country to ensure there is a joined-up approach to tackling the problem of abuse in sport. They will also be developing a number of resources to support clubs, including an online training course on safeguarding for grassroots coaches.
Mr Murphy said: “We know there are many clubs out there doing great work around safeguarding, and we want to see more of that. This is about encouraging a dialogue between clubs and parents.
“We want safeguarding to be embedded as the number one priority of all sports clubs, above performance and results. The children’s wellbeing needs to be at the forefront of everything they do.”
* If you have concerns about inappropriate behaviour by anyone involved in a sports club you can contact NWG for advice on 01332 585 371 or your local police force on 101.
Notes to Editors:
For more information or to arrange interviews please contact Sarah Matthews at BakerBaird Communications on 07917 385 833.
NWG Network helps organisations across the UK to prevent and respond to child sexual exploitation.
Its expertise and leadership have led to involvement and influence in policy-making at senior government level. It was a core participant at the No10 Child Sexual Exploitation Summit, chaired by the Prime Minister, in March 2015.
Based in Derby, NWG Network began as a small cross-sector network of practitioners from various organisations such as the police, people working in care, health and youth services.
In just a few years its membership has grown to over 14,500. Its work is largely behind the scenes, supporting practitioners with training, events and information, offering confidential specialist guidance on cases of exploitation and trafficking and supporting major reviews around the country.
Barry Bennell worked for football clubs in the UK and in USA and was sentenced to 30 years in jail in February 2018 for multiple counts of abusing young boys.