There has been lots of coverage in the press recently about historic accusations of sexual abuse in sporting clubs, prompted by former footballers who came forward to say that they had been abused by coaches or group leaders when they were children. Parents are understandably concerned about this situation, and further headlines about not all sports coaches being checked have led to even more worry and confusion. If your child has started a new sports club or youth organisation such as Brownies or Boys’ Brigade, how can you be sure that adult volunteers or workers have been properly vetted?
Sports Governing Bodies
Most sports clubs and organisations offering coaching and holiday clubs for children will be affiliated to a national governing body, such as Swim England, the Lawn Tennis Association or the FA. All of these governing bodies make it their job to provide guidance and information to all local clubs about their child protection requirements and will help them decide which people in the club need to have DBS checks done and which do not. In most cases, the governing body is the organisation which administers checks for its members, and will have a Child Protection Officer or Safeguarding Officer who parents can call or email to clarify the situation at their child’s club, or to give more general advice about the organisation’s policy on child protection. Don’t be afraid to ask for this information or to do a bit more digging if you are not satisfied with what the person who is running the local club tells you.
Many organisations depend on the goodwill of volunteers to either run sports sessions entirely, or to support a small number of paid staff. Being a volunteer does not exempt you from needing a DBS check. Volunteers do not have to pay for DBS checks to be carried out, and again this will be done through the governing body of the sport concerned or by the UK headquarters when looking at organisations such as Scouts or Guides. The one exception to this is people under the age of 16 who are not covered by the DBS scheme. They are classed as children themselves, and most organisations will have separate policies detailing how they safeguard children who are working with them as volunteers.
Other Strategies for Protecting Your Child
It’s easy to lose your sense of perspective when it comes to worries over child protection, as there appears to be constant stories in the press about victims and people accused. The overwhelming majority of people working and volunteering in children’s sports clubs are doing so because they love their sport and enjoy helping children learn something new. As parents, we can help our children be confident and assertive, teaching them that it’s fine to say “No” if an adult asks them to keep a secret or do something they are uncomfortable with, and to always tell parents about concerns. The NSPCC has lots of great age-appropriate information on their “Talk Pants” pages.