1. THE POLICY
Everyone who participates in sport is entitled to do so in an enjoyable and safe environment. Sport South Devon have a moral and legal obligation to ensure that our activities support this entitlement.
Sport South Devon is committed to devising and implementing policies so that everyone in sport accepts their responsibilities to safeguard children from harm and abuse. This means to follow procedures to protect children and report any concerns about their welfare to appropriate authorities.
The aim of the policy is to promote good practice and to allow Sport South Devon representatives to make informed and confident responses to specific child protection issues.
A child/young person is defined as a person under the age of 18 (Children’s Act 1989)
1.2 Policy Statement
Sport South Devon is committed to the following:
- taking all reasonable steps to protect children from harm, discrimination and degrading treatment and to respect their rights, wishes and feelings
- taking all suspicions and allegations of poor practice or abuse seriously and responding swiftly and appropriately
- Ensuring all Sport South Devon employees who have contact with children are deemed suitable for that responsibility, and are provided with guidance in good practice
1.3 Monitoring and reviewing the policy and procedures
The policy should be reviewed every 3 years or whenever there is a major change in the organisation or in relevant legislation.
2. PROMOTING GOOD PRACTICE
Sport South Devon must operate within an accepted ethical framework.
It is not always easy to distinguish poor practice from abuse. It is therefore NOT the responsibility of Sport South Devon representatives to make judgements about whether or not abuse is taking place. It is however their responsibility to identify poor practice and possible abuse and act if they have concerns about the welfare of the child, as explained in section 4.
This section will help you identify what is meant by good practice and poor practice.
2.2 Good Practice
All personnel should adhere to the following principles and action:
- always work in an open environment (e.g. avoiding private or unobserved situations and encouraging open communication with no secrets)
- treat all young people equally and with respect and dignity
- Avoid unnecessary physical contact with young people. Where any form of manual/physical support is required (in, for example setting up photographs) it should be provided openly and with the consent of the young person. Physical contact can be appropriate so long as it is neither intrusive nor disturbing and the young person’s consent has been given
- be an excellent role model, this includes not smoking or drinking alcohol in the company of young people
- always give enthusiastic and constructive feedback rather than negative criticism
2.3 Poor Practice
The following are regarded as poor practice and should be avoided by all representatives:
- unnecessarily spending time alone with young people away from others
- allowing or engaging in inappropriate touching of any form
- making sexually suggestive comments to a young person, even in fun
- reducing a young person to tears
- allowing allegations made by a young person to go unchallenged, unrecorded or not acted upon
If during your care you accidentally hurt a young person, the young person seems distressed in any manner, appears to be sexually aroused by your actions and/or if the young person misunderstands or misinterprets something you have done, report any such incidents as soon as possible to another colleague and make a written note of it. Parents should also be informed of the incident.
3. DEFINING CHILD ABUSE
Child abuse is any form of physical, emotional or sexual mistreatment or lack of care that leads to injury or harm, it commonly occurs within a relationship of trust or responsibility and is an abuse of power or a breach of trust. Abuse can happen to a young person regardless of their age, gender, race or ability.
There are four main types of abuse: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect. The abuser may be a family member, someone the young person encounters in residential care or in the community, including sports and leisure activities. Any individual may abuse or neglect a young person directly, or may be responsible for abuse because they fail to prevent another person harming the young person.
Abuse in all of its forms can affect a young person at any age. The effects can be so damaging that if not treated may follow the individual into adulthood
Young people with disabilities may be at increased risk of abuse through various factors such as stereotyping, prejudice, discrimination, isolation and a powerlessness to protect themselves or adequately communicate that abuse had occurred.
- Types of Abuse
- Physical Abuse: where adults physically hurt or injure a young person e.g. hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, biting, scalding, suffocating, drowning. Giving young people alcohol or inappropriate drugs would also constitute child abuse.
This category of abuse can also include when a parent/carer reports non-existent symptoms or illness deliberately causes ill health in a young person they are looking after. This is called Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy.
- Emotional Abuse: the persistent emotional ill treatment of a young person, likely to cause severe and lasting adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve telling a young person they are useless, worthless, unloved, inadequate or valued in terms of only meeting the needs of another person. It may feature expectations of young people that are not appropriate to their age or development. It may cause a young person to be frightened or in danger by being constantly shouted at, threatened or taunted which may make the young person frightened or withdrawn.
Ill treatment of children, whatever form it takes, will always feature a degree of emotional abuse.
Emotional abuse in sport may occur when the young person is constant crticised, given negative feedback, expected to perform at levels that are above their capability. Other forms of emotional abuse could take the form of name-calling and bullying.
- Bullying may come from another young person or an adult. Bullying is defined as deliberate hurtful behaviour, usually repeated over a period of time, where it is difficult for those bullied to defend themselves. There are three main types of bullying.
It may be physical (e.g. hitting, kicking, slapping), verbal (e.g. racist or homophobic remarks, name-calling, graffiti, threats, abusive text messages), emotional (e.g. tormenting, ridiculing, humiliating, ignoring, isolating from the group), or sexual (e.g. unwanted physical contact or abusive comments).
In sport bullying may arise when a parent or coach pushes the young person too hard to succeed, or a rival athlete or official uses bullying behaviour.
- Neglect occurs when an adult fails to meet the young person’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, to an extent that is likely to result in serious impairment of the child’s health or development. For example, failing to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing, failing to protect from physical harm or danger, or failing to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.
Refusal to give love, affection and attention can also be a form of neglect.
Neglect in sport could occur when a coach does not keep the young person safe, or exposing them to undue cold/heat or unnecessary risk of injury.
Sexual Abuse occurs when adults (male and female) use children to meet their own sexual needs. Showing young people pornography or talking to them in a sexually explicit manner are also forms of sexual abuse. In sport, activities which might involve physical contact with young people could potentially create situations where sexual abuse may go unnoticed. Also the power of the coach over young athletes, if misused, may lead to abusive situations developing.
- Indicators of Abuse
Even for those experienced in working with child abuse, it is not always easy to recognise a situation where abuse may occur or has already taken place. Most people are not experts in such recognition, but indications that a child is being abused may include one or more of the following:
- unexplained or suspicious injuries such as bruising, cuts or burns, particularly if situated on a part of the body not normally prone to such injuries
- an injury for which an explanation seems inconsistent
- the young person describes what appears to be an abusive act involving them
- another young person or adult expresses concern about the welfare of a young person
- unexplained changes in a young person’s behaviour e.g. becoming very upset, quiet, withdrawn or displaying sudden outbursts of temper
- inappropriate sexual awareness
- engaging in sexually explicit behaviour
- distrust of adults, particularly those whom a close relationship would normally be expected
- difficulty in making friends
- being prevented from socialising with others
- displaying variations in eating patterns including over eating or loss of appetite
- losing weight for no apparent reason
- becoming increasingly dirty or unkempt
Signs of bullying include:
- behavioural changes such as reduced concentration and/or becoming withdrawn, clingy, depressed, tearful, emotionally up and down, reluctance to go training or competitions
- an unexplained drop-off in performance
- physical signs such as stomach aches, headaches, difficulty in sleeping, bed-wetting, scratching and bruising, damaged clothes, bingeing (e.g. on food, alcohol or cigarettes)
- a shortage of money or frequent loss of possessions
It must be recognised that the above list is not exhaustive, but also that the presence of one or more of the indications is not proof that abuse is taking place. It is NOT the responsibility of those working on behalf of Sport South Devon to decide that child abuse is occurring. It IS their responsibility to act on any concerns.
- Use of Photographic/Filming Equipment at Sporting Events
There is evidence that some people have used sporting events as an opportunity to take inappropriate photographs or film footage of young people. Sport South Devon photographers will usually be clearly identified with a branded high-visibility vest.
Photographs of children will only be obtained once Sport South Devon has received written/email confirmation from the event organiser and/or individual clubs/parents that publicity consent has been acquired from parents and/or guardians.
Where there are any doubts, Sport South Devon may provide our own consent forms/waivers.
Sport South Devon will endeavour to act in accordance with any photographic restrictions put in place (e.g. ensuring certain children are kept out of photographs). Sport South Devon will NOT be responsible for inadvertently contravening such restrictions if such restrictions were not clearly communicated to Sport South Devon in writing.
- Responding to Suspicions and Allegations
It is not the responsibility of anyone working for Sport South Devon in a paid or unpaid capacity to decide whether or not child abuse has taken place. However there is a responsibility to act on any concerns through contact with the appropriate authorities so that they can then make inquiries and take necessary action to protect the young person.
This section explains how to respond to allegations/suspicions.
- Receiving Evidence of Possible Abuse
We may become aware of possible abuse in various ways. We may see it happening, we may suspect it happening because of signs such as those listed in section 3 of this document, it may be reported to us by someone else or directly by the young person affected.
In the last of these cases, it is particularly important to respond appropriately. If a young person says or indicates that they are being abused, you should:
- stay calm so as not to frighten the young person.
- reassure the child that they are not to blame and that it was right to tell
- listen to the child, showing that you are taking them seriously.
- keep questions to a minimum so that there is a clear and accurate understanding of what has been said. The law is very strict and child abuse cases have been dismissed where it is felt that the child has been led or words and ideas have been suggested during questioning. Only ask questions to clarify.
- inform the child that you have to inform other people about what they have told you. Tell the child this is to help stop the abuse continuing.
- safety of the child is paramount. If the child needs urgent medical attention call an ambulance, inform the doctors of the concern and ensure they are made aware that this is a child protection issue.
- record all information.
- report the incident to the club/welfare officer.
In all cases if you are not sure what to do you can gain help from NSPCC Wales Hour help line (Mon – Fri 10.00am – 6.00pm). Tel No: 08081002524 or the NSPCC 24 hour help line Tel No: 0800800500
- Recording Information
To ensure that information is as helpful as possible, a detailed record should always be made at the time of the disclosure/concern. In recording you should confine yourself to the facts and distinguish what is your personal knowledge and what others have told you. Do not include your own opinions.
Information should include the following:
- the child’s name, age and date of birth
- the child’s home address and telephone number
- whether or not the person making the report is expressing their concern or someone else’s
- the nature of the allegation, including dates, times and any other relevant information
- a description of any visible bruising or injury, location, size etc. Also any indirect signs, such as behavioural changes
- details of witnesses to the incidents
- the child’s account, if it can be given, of what has happened and how any bruising/injuries occurred
- have the parents been contacted?If so what has been said?
- has anyone else been consulted? If so record details
- has anyone been alleged to be the abuser? Record detail
- Reporting the Concern
All suspicions and allegations MUST be reported appropriately. It is recognised that strong emotions can be aroused particularly in cases where sexual abuse is suspected or where there is misplaced loyalty to a colleague. It is important to understand these feelings but not allow them to interfere with your judgement about any action to take.
Sport South Devon expects its representatives to discuss any concerns they may have about the welfare of a child immediately with the event welfare officers or, where there are no welfare officers, the person in charge of the event, and to subsequently to check that appropriate action has been taken.
If the event organiser is not available you should take responsibility and seek advice from the NSPCC helpline, the duty officer at your local social services department or the police. Telephone numbers can be found in your local directory.
A summary of reporting procedures is provided in Appendix 2. Where there is a complaint against an employee or volunteer, there may be three types of investigation.
- Criminal in which case the police are immediately involved
- Child protection in which case the social services (and possibly) the police will be involved
- Disciplinary or misconduct in which case the event organisers/Sport South Devon will be involved
As mentioned previously in this document, Sport South Devon representatives are not child protection experts and it is not their responsibility to determine whether or not abuse has taken place. All suspicions and allegations must be shared with professional agencies that are responsible for child protection. (SEE APPENDIX 3 & 4)
Social services have a legal responsibility under The Children Act 1989 to investigate all child protection referrals by talking to the child and family (where appropriate), gathering information from other people who know the child and making inquiries jointly with the police.
NB: If there is any doubt, you must report the incident: it may be just one of a series of other incidences which together cause concern.
Allegations of abuse are sometimes made sometime after the event. Where such allegation is made, you should follow the same procedures and have the matter reported to social services. This is because other children in the sport or outside it may be at risk from the alleged abuser. Anyone who has a previous conviction for offences related to abuse against children is automatically excluded from working with children.
Every effort should be made to ensure that confidentiality is maintained for all concerned. Information should be handled and disseminated on a need to know basis only. This includes the following people:
- The Event Welfare Officer/Event Organiser
- The parents of the child
- The person making the allegation
- Social Services/police
- The Sport South Devon team
- The alleged abuser (and parents if the alleged abuser is a child)
Seek social services advice on who should approach the alleged abuser.
All information should be stored in a secure place with limited access to designated people, in line with data protection laws.
4.7 Internal Inquiries and Suspension
- Sport South Devon will make an immediate decision about whether any individual accused of abuse should be temporarily suspended from representing the magazine pending further police and social services inquiries
- Irrespective of the findings of the social services or police inquiries the Sport South Devon team will assess all individual cases to decide whether a representative can be reassigned and how this can be sensitively handled. This may be a difficult decision; especially where there is insufficient evidence to uphold any action by the police. In such cases the Sport South Devon team must reach a decision based upon the available information which could suggest that on the balance of probability, it is more likely than not that the allegation is true. The welfare of the child should remain of paramount importance throughout.
- Recruiting and Selecting Personnel with Children
It is important that all reasonable steps are taken to prevent unsuitable people from working with children. To ensure unsuitable people are prevented from working with children the following steps should be taken:
- Controlling Access to Children
- Consent should be obtained from the applicant to seek information from the Disclosures and Barring Service.
- Evidence of identity (passport or driving licence with photo) should be presented.
- Interview and Induction
All employees and volunteers will be required to undertake an informal induction during which:
- Their duties and responsibilities should be clarified
- Child Protection Procedures are explained and this document issued
On behalf of Sport South Devon we, the undersigned, will oversee the implementation of the Child Protection Policy and take all necessary steps to ensure it is adhered to.