With the school summer holidays now here, the council’s sport and leisure team, in partnership with the NWG Exploitation Response Unit, is offering advice to parents and carers before they let their children attend any sports or physical activity clubs and sessions.
Although many summer activity clubs are closed due to COVID-19, this does present opportunities for those not affiliated to any sport governing body or active partnership, to exploit the situation and set up activities in parks and green spaces which could initially appear to be legitimate holiday activities.
It is important to look for a club, sport, activity and coach that takes the safety and wellbeing of your child seriously. Always check whether the club or organisation is accredited or otherwise affiliated to a body (e.g. a sports governing body or national voluntary sector) as this should mean they have the right safeguarding policies and procedures in place.
Even if they are accredited, there are some key things to look for to ensure they take children's safety seriously.
- Review their website or the information you may have been sent. Do not be influenced by glossy flyers, smiley children in pictures and lots of quotes from ‘satisfied’ parents.
- Look for safeguarding policies – these should be fully accessible, visible and readily available on their website. If they are not visible, then please think twice about sending your child into the care of someone who does not have safeguarding arrangements in place.
- Where is the sport activity taking place? Is it COVID-19 secure? If it is in the grounds of a school or a leisure centre, then please ask the headteacher or centre manager about what due diligence has taken place to ensure the clubs providing activities have the correct safeguarding procedures in place.
- A safe recruitment process for staff and volunteers, including vetting. This means that they have appropriate references, DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) checks – please ask about the last time these were renewed, and ensure the staff have the right technical qualifications for the activity.
- What safeguarding training have staff and volunteers received and can you see the evidence of when this training was delivered. What about new staff, as coaches do move around quite frequently
- Check if they have a code of conduct/practice for sport coaches – this code provides a guide for good and safe coaching practice. A good code will be incorporated into the club and its policies, procedures, governance and training and will not be a stand-alone document
- First Aid procedures – what happens if a child is taken ill? What are the club’s policies and how many people at the club have full first aid certificates?
- Is there a designated welfare officer/safeguarding lead? – find out who the point of contact is that you or child can speak to if you have any concerns or worries
- Parents/carers should speak with their child/children often to ensure they are happy and have no concerns. Maintaining an open dialogue with your child/children is very important.
Cllr Kevin Robinson, cabinet member for business, culture and tourism says: “Encouraging children and young people to participate in sport or physical activity has countless benefits, ranging from improved physical and mental health to promoting friendships and building confidence.
“However, with exploitation and abuse in sport hitting the national headlines in recent years, the Council wants to help and support parents and carers in taking a more proactive role in researching the summer sporting childcare activities that they may be considering. We are committed to protecting children and young people from abuse and exploitation in all its forms.
“Remember, it's never wrong to ask for more information when it comes to children’s safety, wellbeing and safeguarding. Organisations should welcome parents and carers asking questions about their policies and activities and should be happy and readily on hand to answer these questions.”
Kevin Murphy, NWG Network’s Safeguarding in Sport Lead, says: “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.
“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.”
ActiveSouthend – the Borough’s sports partnership, which is linked to Active Essex – the county sports network, has compiled a list of summer holiday activities that are being run by reputable clubs in Southend-on-Sea. Please visit the Latest News section of the ActiveSouthend website for more information.
If you have concerns about a summer holiday activity/club or coach, or have concerns about inappropriate behaviour by anyone involved in a sports club in Southend, then please contact Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s Sport and Leisure Team on 01702 212057. You can also contact NWG for advice on 01332 585 371, or visit the NWG website, or if you think a crime has been committed, then please contact your local police force on 101.