Guidelines for action to be taken
Concerns about poor practice:
- If, following consideration, the allegation is clearly about poor practice; the Clubs Child Protection Officer will deal with it as a misconduct issue.
- If the allegation is about poor practice by the Club Child Protection Officer, or if the matter has been handled inadequately and concerns remain, it should be reported to the relevant Sport Governing Body officer who will decide how to deal with the allegation and whether or not to initiate disciplinary proceedings.
Concerns about suspected abuse:
- Any suspicion that a child has been abused by either a coach or a volunteer should be reported to the club Child Protection Officer, who will take such steps as considered necessary to ensure the safety of the child in question and any other child who may be at risk.
- The Club Child Protection Officer will refer the allegation to the social services department who may involve the police.
- The parents or carers of the child will be contacted as soon as possible following advice from the social services department.
- The Club Child Protection Officer should also notify the relevant Sport Governing Body officer who in turn will inform the Sport Governing Body Child Protection Officer who will deal with any media enquiries.
- If the Club Child Protection Officer is the subject of the suspicion/allegation, the report must be made to the appropriate Manager or in his/her absence the Sport Governing Body Child Protection Officer who will refer the allegation to Social Services.
Allegations of previous abuse
Allegations of abuse may be made some time after the event (e.g. by an adult who was abused as a child or by a coach who is still currently working with children).
Where such an allegation is made, the club should follow the procedures as detailed above and report the matter to the social services or the police. This is because other children, either within or outside sport, may be at risk from this person. Anyone who has a previous criminal conviction for offences related to abuse is automatically excluded from working with children. This is reinforced by the details of the Protection of Children Act 1999.
Support to deal with the aftermath of abuse:
Consideration should be given to the kind of support that children, parents and coaches may need. Use of helplines, support groups and open meetings will maintain an open culture and help the healing process. The British Association for Counselling Directory is available from The British Association for Counselling, 1 Regent Place, Rugby CV21 2PJ, Tel: 01788 550899, Fax: 01788 562189, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Internet: http://www.bacp.co.uk.
Consideration should be given to what kind of support may be appropriate for the alleged perpetrator.
Action to help the victim and prevent bullying in sport:
- Take all signs of bullying very seriously.
- Encourage all children to speak and share their concerns (It is believed that up to 12 children per year commit suicide as a result of bullying, so if anyone talks about or threatens suicide, seek professional help immediately). Help the victim to speak out and tell the person in charge or someone in authority. Create an open environment.
- Investigate all allegations and take action to ensure the victim is safe. Speak with the victim and the bully(ies) separately.
- Reassure the victim that you can be trusted and will help them, although you cannot promise to tell no one else.
- Keep records of what is said (what happened, by whom, when).
- Report any concerns to the charity Child Protection Officer.
Action towards the bully(ies):
- Talk with the bully(ies), explain the situation, and try to get the bully (ies) to understand the consequences of their behaviour. Seek an apology to the victim(s).
- Inform the bully’s parents.
- Insist on the return of ‘borrowed’ items and that the bully(ies) compensate the victim.
- Provide support for the victim’s coach.
- Impose sanctions as necessary.
- Encourage and support the bully(ies) to change behaviour.
- Hold meetings with the families to report on progress.
- Inform all charity members of action taken.
- Keep a written record of action taken.
- Most ‘low level’ incidents will be dealt with at the time by coaches and volunteers. However, if the bullying is severe (e.g. a serious assault), or if it persists despite efforts to deal with it, incidents should be referred to the Club Child Protection Officer as in “responding to suspicions or allegations” above.
- The Club Child Protection Officer will make an immediate decision about whether any individual accused of abuse should be temporarily suspended pending further police and social services inquiries.
- Irrespective of the findings of the social services or police inquiries the club Committee will assess all individual cases to decide whether a coach or volunteer can be reinstated and how this can be sensitively handled.
This may be a difficult decision; particularly where there is insufficient evidence to uphold any action by the police. In such cases, the club Committee must reach a decision based upon the available information which could suggest that on a 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.
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 Club Child Protection Officer.
- The parents of the person who is alleged to have been abused
- The person making the allegation.
- Social services/police.
- The Sport Governing Body Child Protection Officer.
- Seek social services advice on who should approach the alleged abuser (or parents if the alleged abuser is a child).
Information should be stored in a secure place with limited access to designated people, in line with data protection laws (e.g. that information is accurate, regularly updated, relevant and secure).
Information for social services or the police about suspected abuse
To ensure that this information is as helpful as possible, a detailed record should always be made at the time of the disclosure/concern, which should include the following:
- The child’s name, age and date of birth of the child.
- The child’s home address and telephone number.
- Whether or not the person making the report is expressing their own concerns or those of someone else.
- The nature of the allegation. Include dates, times, any special factors and other relevant information.
- Make a clear distinction between what is fact, opinion or hearsay.
- A description of any visible bruising or other injuries. 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 or other injuries occurred.
- Have the parents been contacted?
- If so what has been said?
- Has anyone else been consulted? If so record details.
- If the child was not the person who reported the incident, has the child been spoken to? If so what was said?
- Has anyone been alleged to be the abuser? Record details.
- Where possible referral to the police or social services should be confirmed in writing within 24 hours and the name of the contact who took the referral should be recorded.
If you are worried about sharing concerns about abuse with a senior colleague, you can contact social services or the police direct, or the NSPCC Child Protection Helpline on 0808 800 5000, or Childline on 0800 1111.