About us

What is the CPSU?

Who we are

The Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) is part of the NSPCC and is funded by Sport England, Sport Northern Ireland, Sport Wales and UK Sport.

(In Scotland, there's a similar partnership between Children 1st and sportscotland.)

The CPSU was founded in 2001 in response to a series of high-profile cases of abuse of young athletes. Our aim is to help improve safeguarding and child protection practices within sport organisations, to ensure all children and young people are safe while participating in sport.

Michelle North, Head of CPSU:

"Since the CPSU was formed, there have been considerable developments within safeguarding across the sport sector. This is due to the great work of the staff and volunteers within sports organisations striving to create a safe places for young people, but the work continues and the Unit remains essential today. Our aim is to ensure that children and young people are protected in and through sport and activity, and we want to help and support organisations to do this."

The unit plays a strategic role in the landscape of sport in the UK. We work directly with UK Sport Councils, National Governing Bodies (NGBs), Active Partnerships (APs – previously known as County Sports Partnerships) and other organisations. We support organisations to implement and maintain safeguarding practices, to minimise the risk of abuse and ensure that sport stays safe and enjoyable for all those involved.

Our work was recognised internationally in 2016 when the CPSU won UNICEF’s Safeguarding in Sport Award.

An introduction to the CPSU

The CPSU helps to achieve the NSPCC mission to protect children and end child abuse

  • find out more about the NSPCC and the many ways it works every day to keep children safe
What we do

Our work with national bodies, clubs and activity providers

We assist sporting organisations to develop and embed safeguarding policies and procedures, creating a safe and inclusive environment for all participants, staff and volunteers.

We do this by:

Though we are happy to give safeguarding advice to those who may need it, we cannot investigate specific cases. If you need help with investigating a case or safeguarding concerns, please contact your National Governing Body or Active Partnership.

The NSPCC helpline can offer in-depth advice and can be contacted by phoning 0808 800 5000 or emailing help@nspcc.org.uk.

Emerging work

Leisure facilities

The CPSU also takes a lead in several areas of safeguarding work across the UK, such as the development of safeguarding policy and procedures in leisure facilities.

We’re currently developing relationships with the leisure sector to identify the needs of both the public and the sector, to meet safeguarding standards and help protect children from harm.

Unregulated sports bodies

As well as the National Governing Bodies and Active Partnerships we work with (who are funded by the Sports Councils to engage with a safeguarding process and work with the CPSU), there are a number of sports bodies and organisations not affiliated with national bodies or sports councils and therefore not required to do so.

The CPSU aims to reach out to these organisations, to offer advice, guidance and tools to help put in place and implement safeguarding practices.

National awareness raising campaigns

Close the Loophole

Currently, a loophole in the law means that some adults who hold a position of power over a young person aged 16 and 17 (including sports coaches) can legally have sex with them. This is unlike teachers for whom this would be a serious criminal offence.

The NSPCC has campaigned to get this law changed and in March 2021, the ministry of Justice announced that that law is being extended to see sports coaches and faith leaders included alongside roles like teachers and social workers. Read more about this in our Success for Close the Loophole campaigners news article.

Parents in Sport Week

Parents in Sport Week takes place in October each year and aims to raise awareness of the important role parents play in youth sport.

How we work

We play the lead role in helping sports organisations to develop and implement their responses, policies and procedures, systems and structures for safeguarding.

Since 2001, we have worked with sport and statutory agencies to ensure that all children, regardless of their level of participation in sport or where they participate, have a safe and enjoyable experience.

We help organisations to:

  • recognise their responsibility to protect children and young people left in their care
  • recognise their responsibility to pass on any concerns about children’s welfare or protection in their families or communities to a statutory agency
  • develop strategies and standards to protect children and young people
  • identify and respond to adults who are a threat to children and young people
  • develop safeguarding knowledge and skills among all staff and volunteers
Meet the team

Meet the CPSU team

Michelle North
Head of CPSU

Michelle joined the CPSU team in April 2013 and was appointed as Head of CPSU in April 2020. Prior to this she worked for the NSPCC Safeguarding in Education Service.

Before joining the NSPCC, Michelle was an Education Welfare Officer with over 10 years' frontline experience and later a Senior Manager with responsibility for prosecutions and case management.

She is responsible for managing the unit’s staff across England, Northern Ireland and Wales. She also manages relationships with the respective Sports Councils and with our key partners in sport.

Jude Toasland
CPSU Senior Consultant England

Jude joined the CPSU in 2009. she's worked for the NSPCC since 2000, in training and consultancy and managing direct services for children and young people. Jude qualified as a social worker in the 1980s and, prior to joining NSPCC, worked in Children’s Services and voluntary organisations providing child protection, community and therapeutic input.

As a Senior Consultant, Jude provides safeguarding support to National Governing Bodies (NGBs) and Active Partnerships which involves training, consultation and conducting annual safeguarding reviews. Jude leads on the CPSU safeguarding training and the annual review process.  She also oversees the CPSU Case Data Tool, working in partnership with Loughborough University.

Carole Billington-Wood 
Senior Consultant England

Carole joined the CPSU in 2005. Prior to joining the unit she was Director of Development for British Triathlon.

Having been a youth swimmer and GB International Triathlete, Carole remains a keen sportswoman. She's taught PE, been a coach educator and practitioner in sports development. Carole is currently a specialist member of the National UK Anti-Doping Panel.

All England Senior Consultants provide safeguarding support to NGBs and Active Partnerships. Carole’s role also involves supporting UK Sport organisations in developing their safeguarding work and leads our work on elite athlete wellbeing.

Liza Ware
Senior Consultant England

Liza joined the team in March 2018. She's a qualified social worker with 18 years experience.  Prior to joining the CPSU, Liza worked for Lincolnshire Children’s Services, as an advanced Social Worker and previous posts include Children’s Rights manager and Regional Participation Coordinator for Barnardos.

All England Senior Consultants provide safeguarding support to NGBs and Active Partnerships. Liza's work within the team focuses on equality and diversity in sport, involving children and young people and supporting UK Sport bodies with safeguarding guidance.

Brendan Tonks
Senior Consultant England

Brendan joined the CPSU in 2021. Previously, Brendan was a children’s social worker and has a keen interest in child advocacy. He worked as a Children’s Guardian at Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS). He then worked as a casework officer and lead safeguarding officer at a sport’s national governing body.

Brendan has other safeguarding roles outside of the CPSU. He volunteers on a further education college strategic safeguarding panel, as well as his role as trustee for a sporting charity Power2Inspire. Brendan is a keen sportsperson who enjoys all sports, but particularly football, boxing, angling and online games.

As a senior consultant at the CPSU, Brendan will provide safeguarding support to NGBs and Active Partnerships.

Paul Stephenson
Senior Consultant Northern Ireland

Paul joined the CPSU in 2001. Prior to joining the NSPCC, Paul managed a probation-funded project working with those involved in the criminal justice system. A number of his previous clients were sex offenders with coaching awards. Paul's also worked directly with young people in the care system who have experienced different forms of abuse.

Paul works to support sports governing bodies in Northern Ireland to help them to achieve safeguarding standards and promotes good safeguarding practice. He is also secretary of the Northern Ireland branch of the National Organisation for Treatment of Offenders (NOTA).

Laura Whapham 
Senior Consultant Commercial Sport

Laura joined the team in 2011. Prior to joining the unit she worked in both the statutory and voluntary social care sectors with a range of young people with complex needs. This included children with disabilities, young carers and looked after children. She also has a degree in sport and physical education.

Laura has previous led the CPSU team in Wales but she now leads a project with the Football Association. Laura is the senior assessor for this project which sees the NSPCC independently assess each of the 52 County FAs against a set of safeguarding criteria.

Cerri Dando
Senior Consultant Wales

Cerri has worked for CPSU for over 4 years as a National Development Officer in Wales, and started her role as Senior Consultant in January 2022. Before joining CPSU in 2017, Cerri worked as a Senior Officer at Sport Cardiff. She is also a UK Coaching tutor specialising in safeguarding and is a part time lecturer for the School of Sport and Health Sciences at Cardiff Metropolitan University. 

Cerri works closely with Sport Wales to support the Welsh NBGs with their child protection and safeguarding policies and procedures. She also supports many of the sports through the Safeguarding Standards Framework to enable them to maintain and embed safeguards.

Saara Ruotsalainen
Training and Development Consultant

Saara Ruotsalainen joined CPSU team in October 2021. Saara has moved to the UK from Finland, where she worked in developing safeguarding practices in National Governing Bodies of sport and managed a helpline for young people who have been abused in sports. Saara has managed services and projects in multiple different charities in the UK and in Finland and worked with a variety of vulnerable service user groups.

At the CPSU she provides child safeguarding training and support to NGBs and Active Partnerships in England. Saara is working with Active Partnerships to support them in maintaining and embedding safeguarding standards.

Di Murray
Training and Development Consultant

Di joined the CPSU in November 2021. Prior to starting at the CPSU, Di worked as a national welfare officer in a sport’s national governing body, supporting young players, their parents, coaches and volunteers involved in the national squads set up. She has also worked as a Coach Developer within an Active Partnership. 

Di is a sports coach working with all age groups and with young people starting on the performance pathway. She is a coach educator and mentor. In 2016 she was awarded an MBE, which included recognition for services to sport coaching. As a mental health trainer, she has a particular interest in educating coaches to give them confidence to support young athletes wellbeing. 

Di will be supporting UK Sport national governing bodies.    

Denise Richards
Development Officer

Denise started working at the CPSU in 2017, working with Active Partnerships as part of the Framework for maintaining and embedding safeguarding standards. She was previously a Safeguarding Lead at an Active Partnership for 12 years. Her background is in sports development and coaching.

In February 2022 Denise started a new role at the CPSU, Development Officer for the project with the Football Association. She is working with Laura and Ben to independently assess each of the 52 County FAs against a set of safeguarding criteria.

Ben Potter 
Development Officer

Ben started working at the CPSU in February 2022. In his 13 years working in safeguarding he has taken on a variety of roles and projects across different settings; from creating an anti-bullying service for young people for a Local Authority, working in education, children's charities, with looked-after children, housing, to working as a Safeguarding Advisor for a National Youth organisation. He has also worked as the Safeguarding Lead for 2 Premier League football teams. 

Ben is working at the CPSU as a Development Officer for the project with the Football Association. Ben is working alongside Laura and Denise to independently assess each of the 52 county FAs against a set of safeguarding criteria. 

Hannah Mansell
Senior Content Specialist

Hannah has worked for the CPSU since 2007 and took the role of Senior Content Specialist in May 2017.

She manages the content on the CPSU website, working closely with the information officers and the digital producer to develop and review content and find new and informative ways of getting safeguarding information to the sports sector. She also manages the CPSU administration team.

Lian Gaten, Mel Addams, Laura Young and Becky Groarke
Information Officers

The information officers are responsible for making safeguarding in sport information widely accessible through our website and social media. The design, produce and publish content to spread awareness about safeguarding children in sport. 

They also coordinate the development of our e-newsletter, monthly Lead Officer bulletin and help to run the CPSU webinars, podcasts and other digital communication.

Lian began working for the CPSU Information team in 2010, Mel joined in 2016, Laura in 2019 and Becky in 2021.

John Watson
Digital Producer

John works alongside Hannah and the information officers and works to ensure the content on CPSU digital platforms is easy to access and meets the needs of our audience.

John also acts as our link to the wider NSPCC and ensures that safeguarding resources and information are accessible through the CPSU website. 

Rebecca Booth and Michaela Rose
CPSU Administration team

The CPSU administration team triage all enquiries to the unit. They also administer all CPSU meetings, working groups, training, conferences and events run by the team. 

Strategic work


Sport Safeguarding Partnership

The CPSU was a driving force behind the creation of the Sport Safeguarding Partnership (SSP), which draws together the major players in youth sport across England, with the common goal of improving safeguarding provisions in the UK.

Due to a number of factors, the Sports Safeguarding Partnership (SSP) has effectively been suspended since December 2019. While individual sports organisations will continue their child safeguarding activities (thereby also contributing to the aims of the wider SSP plan), the SSP as a group is not currently meeting.

Although the SSP is no longer meeting, the CPSU remains a key partner in the strategic direction of safeguarding sport in the UK. The work is now being led by Sport England, with the key partners being invited to contribute when appropriate. Since the inception of the SSP there is greater collaboration across the safeguarding partners, which is a credit to the work of the previous group.

2016-2021 strategic plan

The aim of the strategic plan is to safeguard the wellbeing of all young people in and through sport and physical activity, ensuring everyone has a place to be safe, welcome and included and accessible.

It seeks to embed consistently high safeguarding standards and practices into the culture of the sport and physical activity sector at all levels – from national to local, and from professional to volunteer.

Take a look at our resource library for the full version of the strategic plan.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Safeguarding Children in Sport Strategic Group

The Safeguarding Children in Sport Strategic Group (SCSSG) was established in 2018 and seats members from organisations across Northern Ireland, including: Athletics NI, Department for Communities, Department of Health, Health and Social Care Trust, independent former athletes, Irish Rugby Football Union, Irish Football Association, Local Government Network, NI Sports Forum, NSPCC (CPSU), Police Service for NI, Safeguarding Board NI, Sport Ireland, Sport NI, Swim Ireland, Ulster GAA, Volunteer Now.

The group has established 5 key objectives:

  1. all publicly funded and recognised sporting organisations have safeguarding children and young people policies and procedures in place that are proportionate to their activity and capacity
  2. throughout sport there is an awareness that all children have equal right to protection from all forms of abuse and exploitation and that children are listened to, know who to turn to, and everyone acts on their responsibilities to safeguard and protect children and young people
  3. develop and monitor appropriate quality-assured safeguarding training to meet the needs of all stakeholders in sport
  4. robust safe recruitment processes are in place
  5. mechanisms are in place to enable sport and leisure sectors and statutory bodies to work together at a strategic and local level to safeguard children and young people consistently across all settings

To help achieve these objectives, the SCSSG will finalise and launch a Strategic Plan for Safeguarding Children in Sport (2020-2025).