Policies and procedures
Safeguarding and welfare
As noted, separate policies and procedures are required to address the specific requirements of safeguarding children and adults.
There are a number of core policies and procedures that organisations must have in place. These include:
- Who is the safeguarding lead for the organisation – see, for example, this job description for a lead safeguarding officer
- Guidance and minimum standards across the work of the organisation
- Clear and up-to-date codes of conduct
- What to do in the event of a concern
- A robust case management process
- Clear and effective disciplinary procedures
- Safe and robust recruitment procedures
- A sufficiently well-resourced safeguarding training plan, such as those provided by the CPSU and the Ann Craft Trust.
Safeguarding policy – further advice and a template is available here:
Procedures – these should include all aspects where safeguarding is a factor. For more information, see https://thecpsu.org.uk/help-advice/putting-safeguards-in-place/
There is also guidance on Writing safeguarding policies and procedures | NSPCC Learning
Safeguarding adults policy and procedures templates can be found here:
DBS and safe recruitment
The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is a government service which helps employers to make safer recruitment decisions and prevent unsuitable people from working with vulnerable groups, including children, by checking the backgrounds of certain individuals, and is therefore vital for sports organisations to be aware of. Scotland has its own similar but separate service, Disclosure Scotland.
Individuals who are passionate about sports should have the right skills, knowledge and attitude, and previous history of good conduct, for a particular role. It is therefore essential that there are effective recruitment and selection procedures for both paid staff and volunteers.
Undertaking a DBS check for current and prospective employees and volunteers who are carrying out ‘regulated activities’ must be central to an organisation’s recruitment policy.
The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 set out the scope and operation of the vetting and barring scheme. Most importantly, an organisation determines which roles are considered ‘regulated activity’. This is work that an individual barred from working with vulnerable groups, including children, must not do. It is an offence for a barred person to seek to work in regulated activity and for an employer knowingly to employ a barred person in regulated activity. Examples of regulated activity are as follows:
- Unsupervised activities such as teaching, training, instructing, caring for or supervising children, providing advice/guidance on wellbeing or driving a vehicle only for children
- Carrying out work regularly (at least weekly), frequently (four times a month or more, overnight (between 2.00am and 6.00am) or work in a limited range of establishments (‘specified places’), with opportunity for contact (schools, children’s homes or childcare premises, for example).
The CPSU and Ann Craft Trust suggest that safe recruitment should involve, in addition to the DBS check:
- writing a role and person description
- using an application form to gather relevant information about each applicant
- requiring written references
- interviewing the applicant
- undertaking a risk assessment of any concerning information
- verifying qualifications and experience
- making a record of the recruitment decision
- providing an induction to the role which must cover safeguarding policies and procedures and signing up to the Code of Conduct as a minimum.
If relevant information comes back on an individual following the request for a DBS check, then an organisation should consider this alongside all other information gathered and a full risk assessment. This decision must be made in conjunction with someone (either inside or outside the organisation) with appropriate safeguarding knowledge, experience and preferably training.
Participant welfare, injury and safety
Though participation in sports and physical activity may carry a degree of risk, participant safety and welfare must be placed above all other concerns. A failure to do so has seen high-profile organisations such as the NFL and World Rugby face significant criticisms in relation to the effects of repeated concussions. Boxing in the UK has been through significant challenges when it comes to safety.
In 1991, Michael Watson fought Chris Eubank in a boxing match sanctioned by the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBofC). Due to failures in the treatment given to Mr Watson at ringside, having been knocked out, he suffered life-changing brain injuries.
Mr Watson successfully argued before the court that the BBBofC had not acted as a reasonable and competent governing body, as it had failed to ensure that it was sufficiently knowledgeable of current emergency treatment protocols for traumatic brain injury.
First, the Court of Appeal held that the safety of the participants in a sport is of paramount concern to the relevant governing body. As a result, each body owes a duty to take all reasonable care in the circumstances to ensure that those competing in the sport it regulates are reasonably safe from foreseeable harm.
Then, on the facts, the court found that the professional expertise of the doctors ringside, and the equipment available to them, had been inadequate to cope appropriately with Mr Watson’s condition of intracranial bleeding when he was knocked unconscious. Such deficiencies had meant that emergency treatment had been delayed for about 30 minutes until Mr Watson had reached the hospital, by which time it was too late.
The key findings of the court, as regards the failings by the BBBofC, were as follows:
- Failure to provide adequate guidelines regarding medical provision at ringside
- The BBBofC were in the best position to determine safety protocols
- The BBBofC were under a duty to minimise the risk admittedly inherent in a dangerous sport
- The BBBofC had special knowledge about the risks involved when compared to Mr Watson
- Those advising the BBBofC on medical and safety issues should have been fully aware of current best practices in the treatment of injuries
- The BBBofC’s duty was to take reasonable care to ensure that reasonably foreseeable personal injuries sustained were treated properly
- The BBBofC owed participants a duty to ensure the advice that it gave event organisers was sufficiently well prepared to enable the organisers to run a contest safely
When dealing with medical issues relating to participants, organisations must fully respect the duty of confidentiality that medical professionals have when treating those who are injured. For instance, sharing information about someone’s medical history within an organisation can be useful in agreeing on a course of treatment, but this process needs to be handled sensitively, appropriately and in line with professional guidelines and preferably an internal agreed process.
A participant must be fully informed as to how their information is being used, with consideration being given to a separation within a performance team of the medical and safeguarding staff and from the performance coaches. This will provide a clear line of demarcation in the case of potentially conflicting advice.
Society, in general, has become more aware in recent years of the importance of mental health and wellbeing. This can be even more acute in elite sports where the regime is one of continuous training, performance and selection, which brings significant mental resilience challenges for athletes, coaches and other support personnel. However, mental health issues can affect any of us at any time.
Organisations should foster an environment where people feel able to discuss mental health issues. Participants and staff/volunteers should be aware of where they can obtain advice and assistance. This should be available within the organisation (a safeguarding officer, for example) but also externally on a confidential basis from mental health professionals.
Coaches should also receive specific professional development training on how to identify and deal appropriately with mental health issues that athletes may face.
To embed this commitment to mental wellbeing within the governance framework, organisations can also sign up for the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation. This has been created and developed by the Sport and Recreation Alliance, alongside the Professional Players Federation and the mental health charity Mind, setting out how sport can use its collective power to tackle mental ill health and its stigma.
The Charter outlines six actions that sport as a whole can take to help make mental health a commonly understood matter and to help those in need. Of those six actions, the following points can be drawn out and adapted to become strategic behaviours:
- Use sport to promote general wellbeing, focusing on encouraging physical activity and social interaction for their contribution to good mental health
- Carry out public communication campaigns which promote and adopt good mental health policies and encourage best practices within sports
- Find people within sports who have suffered from mental health issues, and if they are comfortable doing so, invite them to promote positive messages as role models/ambassadors to reduce the stigma attached to mental health problems
- As part of a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination in your sport, actively tackle discrimination on the grounds of mental health to ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect
- Ensure organisations regularly monitor their performance in this area and are up-to-date with the latest good practice from other sports and sectors, as this is a constantly developing area of healthcare.