Case management model

Does your organisation have a case management process, guidance or working group in place?


This case management model will provide links to a range of information, guidance, templates and good practice examples which will help your organisation manage safeguarding cases more effectively. You can work through this tool from start to finish or simply select the areas where you feel your organisation needs more guidance.


1 – Introduction to a model for managing safeguarding cases

What is case management?

It is the process by which organisations receive, respond to, refer and manage child protection or safeguarding concerns. Safeguarding principles apply to the entire process of managing a case, not just the decisions made.  All stages of the case management process need to consider the impact on any children involved and needs to avoid focusing exclusively on the process of managing the individual whose behaviour has harmed or put a child or children at risk of harm.

What are the responsibilities of sports organisations?

Irrespective of the involvement of statutory agencies (Police or Children’s Social Care), or the outcome of any criminal proceedings, sports organisations have a responsibility to apply their own case management systems to reported concerns. In the light of all relevant information organisations need to form a view about the risk an individual may pose to children, how any risk may be managed, and about the individual’s suitability for their role within the sport.

Sports organisations have legal responsibilities to safeguard all children and young people (under 18 years old) involved in their activities as participants or in any other role. They need  to put in place:

Is your organisation doing everything it could be to keep children and young people safe in sport? Further information use our online self-assessment tool.

Safeguarding principles 

These include:

  • children and young people have the right to participate in sport in a safe and enjoyable environment
  • the best interests of children should be central to all stages of the case management process
  • individuals against whom complaints about poor practice or abuse are made have the right to be dealt with through fair and transparent processes
  • safeguarding children is everyone’s responsibility

2 – Preventing safeguarding concerns arising

Prevention is always better than a cure.  There are a range of steps organisations can take that will prevent or reduce the likelihood of safeguarding concerns arising.

Safeguarding arrangements

All organisations are required to have in place a range of arrangements:

  • to reduce the likelihood of safeguarding concerns (poor practice and abuse) arising
  • to try to identify and reduce potential risks
  • to respond to concerns about poor practice or abuse
  • to exclude individuals who may be unsuitable to work with children
  • to establish safeguarding training/learning needs for all groups of staff/volunteers
  • to promote values and behaviours that contribute to children’s welfare and safety
  • to embed a commitment to establishing a child-centred, children’s rights based culture
  • to monitor, review and keep up to date all safeguarding measures 

Preventative measures

These include:

3 – Safeguarding awareness and recognition of concerns

Individuals and organisations can only respond to safeguarding concerns when those involved with, or responsible for, children are aware and able to recognise signs/indicators that should trigger a response.

Organisations have a responsibility to ensure that all staff and volunteers are able to identify concerns (poor practice and abuse) and understand how to report them.

Training or learning opportunities, information and guidance should be available to all staff and volunteers with any contact with children to:

Safeguarding concerns

These may include:

  • the behaviour of an adult towards a child
  • the behaviour of a young person towards other children (including bullying by peers)
  • risks identified through recruitment processes (e.g. criminal records information)
  • information about an individual provided by statutory agencies or another sport, or identified through the press
  • allegations of abuse
  • concerns about harm to a child ‘outside’ sport (e.g. at home or school) but identified within the sports context 

Further information

See our sample code of conduct for staff and volunteers.

4 – The different types and levels of safeguarding concerns

Sports personnel may recognise and respond to safeguarding issues that arise within sport (e.g. as a result of the behaviour of a coach, another participant or volunteer), or outside sport (e.g. bullying at school or negative experiences at home). In both situations processes should be in place to ensure that concerns are reported to someone within sport and/or external statutory agencies (Children’s Social Care, Police or  Designated Officer (formally LADOs) depending on the nature of the concern). All types and levels of concerns require a response.

Safeguarding concerns also lie on a continuum from comparatively low level issues (e.g. homesickness at a residential event, minor breaches of codes of conduct, or practical issues around dietary requirements or sports equipment), through to more serious, persistent or illegal situations (e.g. allegations or concerns about abuse in sport or elsewhere, or repeated or serious breaches of codes of conduct). Again, all concerns require a response, in line with the organisation’s policies and procedures - although what this will involve will depend on the nature and seriousness of the concern.

Training or learning opportunities, information and guidance should be available to all staff and volunteers with any contact with children to clarify required standards of behaviour, to recognise indicators of abuse or poor practice, and understand how they should respond should concerns arise.

Case management types & levels diagram

5 – Reporting / referring safeguarding concerns

Organisations must establish clear reporting/referral requirements and procedures to ensure that any safeguarding concerns (poor practice or abuse) are passed on within the organisation and/or to external agencies in a timely manner so that action can be taken to address and manage them.

These should address concerns arising within the sport (e.g. relating to the behaviour of a coach or another young person) or outside (e.g. at home, school or in the wider community).

These requirements need to be communicated to all stakeholders (at induction), including young people and parents, and provided in language/formats appropriate for different groups.

Procedures need to reflect the safeguarding structure established within the organisation and the job descriptions of safeguarding leads at all levels (e.g. Club Safeguarding/Welfare Officers and organisational/national Lead Safeguarding Officers). Referrals should usually be directed to these safeguarding leads.

Many sports organisations have established Case Management Groups to agree the ‘route’ a case will be taken (e.g. internal/disciplinary alone or external referral to statutory agencies plus internal/disciplinary).

Further information

See our safeguarding reporting procedure guidance.

See our information sharing topic page.

Find out about the NSPCC's whistleblowing advice line.

6 – Responding to referred safeguarding concerns

All reported safeguarding concerns (whether coming to light through the safeguarding/child protection policy, or the disciplinary, complaints, or recruitment procedures) require a response.

Referrals should be made to the organisational safeguarding leads (e.g. Club Safeguarding/Welfare Officer or national Lead Officer) and/or statutory agencies in line with the organisation’s procedures.

Many sports organisations have established Case Management Groups to agree the ‘route’ a case will be taken (e.g. internal/disciplinary alone or external referral to statutory agencies plus internal/disciplinary).

A decision is needed about the ‘route’ an ‘inside sport’ case should take (e.g. poor practice through internal disciplinary procedures with possible link to Designated Officer (previously LADO) for England only; or possible abuse through referral to Police or Children’s Social Care/Social Services with possible link to Designated Officer (previously LADO).

‘Outside sport’ concerns should be referred to statutory agencies in line with the organisation’s policy and procedures.

Further information

See our guidance on information sharing and signs and indicators of abuse.

The National Safeguarding Panel has produced a comprehensive suite of practical resources and guidance for investigators.

7 – Responding to concerns about possible abuse 'outside' sport

Many adults in sport develop positive relationships with children and young people, and are ideally placed to recognise signs or indicators of concerns, or to receive a disclosure of abuse from a young person directly.

It is essential that concerns coming to light within sport, but actually arising elsewhere in the child’s life (e.g. at home, at school or in the wider community), are acted upon in the child’s interests and reported in line with organisational safeguarding policy and procedures

This usually involves reporting concerns to the club, county/regional or organisational/national Lead Safeguarding Officers, or in urgent situations referring directly to local statutory agencies. Guidance should be available to everyone in the organisation about how to respond to, report and record these concerns. Organisations need to provide support to anyone involved in these situations.

Further information

See our guidance regarding dealing with a concern and information sharing.

8 – Responding to concerns about low-level poor practice

What is poor practice?

Poor practice is behaviour that falls below that required by the organisation and/or constitutes a breach of the code of conduct.

Environments that encourage, ignore or facilitate poor practice can be the seedbeds for more serious abuse. Poor practice may be accompanied by abuse, and of course abuse always constitutes serious poor practice.

Poor practice is harmful for individual children, provides negative modelling, and damage the reputation of a club or sport.

Responding to poor practice

Alleged or suspected poor practice by coaches, volunteers, officials, parents/spectators or young participants always requires a response. Concerns may arise through the organistions whistleblowing procedures. Some level of investigation, risk assessment, conclusion and (if warranted) action is usually needed.  

The organisation’s Lead Safeguarding Officer or Case Management Group (perhaps with Designated Officer (previously LADO) support) may decide that a concern constitutes low level poor practice. This therefore may require investigation and/or subsequent management at a local level, through the regional/county or club Safeguarding/Welfare Officer (depending on the organisation’s safeguarding structure). Persistent poor practice, or investigations that reveal more serious concerns should be referred back to the Safeguarding Lead and/or the Case Management Group for a decision about further appropriate action.

Why is it important to respond to low-level poor practice?

If these issues are not responded to or managed appropriately and in a timely fashion there is a real danger that they may escalate. In many cases this has resulted in lengthy and expensive (in terms of both time and money) conflicts involving increasingly entrenched parties where the focus has shifted from the original (often relatively minor) complaint to a bitter argument over the manner in which this has or has not been managed.


Mediation services provide an effective method of resolving safeguarding disputes which arise as a result of misunderstandings in communication and relationships.  These types of situations do not lend themselves to a more formal and protracted approach, which is designed to manage complex or more serious safeguarding concerns and cases. 

A neutral mediator is appointed to facilitate the process and to assist the parties to reach a settlement agreement.  Where settlement is not reached or turns out to be inappropriate, there is nothing to prevent a return to a more formal process.

Further information

See our guidance on information sharing.

The National Safeguarding Panel has produced a comprehensive suite of practical resources and guidance for investigators.

9 – Responding to concerns about serious / persistent poor practice or possible abuse

More serious safeguarding concerns require a robust and immediate initial response, informed and directed by the organisation’s Safeguarding Lead Officer and/or the Case Management Group. This will usually include consultation with or referral to statutory agencies.

Many sports organisations have established Case Management Groups to decide on the appropriate ‘route’ for cases (e.g. internal / disciplinary action alone or external referral to statutory agencies plus internal / disciplinary action and/or appeals and/or suspension), and to oversee cases.

Referral to / consultation with statutory agencies

In situations where it is alleged or suspected that a child has been or may be abused, or a crime committed, the matter should always be discussed with or referred to Children’s Social Care / Social Services and/or the Police. In England the Designated Officer (previously LADO) should be contacted when there are concerns about the behaviour of a member of staff or volunteer in a position of trust or responsibility for children.

Where abuse or other criminal behaviour is suspected safeguarding leads should consult with or refer concerns to Children’s Social Care / Social Services, and/or Police, and/or the Designated Officer (previously LADO) before decisions are made to take internal disciplinary action (even on a temporary or interim basis).

There are circumstances where the Police may want to initiate enquiries or an investigation (e.g. by checking records, or by speaking to the alleged victim or witnesses) before putting the concerns / allegations to the alleged perpetrator. In these situations a sports organisation may unwittingly hamper or impact on a police investigation or later prosecution by prematurely informing the individual in the course of initiating internal disciplinary/suspension processes.

Further information

See our safer recruitment and information sharing guidance.

The National Safeguarding Panel has produced a comprehensive suite of practical resources and guidance for investigators.

10 – Case Management Groups

Case Management Group structure

Case Management Groups comprise of a relatively small number of individuals with identified and relevant skills, knowledge experience and/or status within the organisation and include at least one member with independent child protection expertise. The group’s role and decision-making powers need to be embedded within the organisation’s governance structure and be linked to related organisational functions such as codes of conduct, and the disciplinary policy and procedures.

Case Management Group roles

  • to ratify any actions already taken by Safeguarding Lead Officer
  • to initially assess and agree immediate response (does there appear to be a case to answer)
  • to identify appropriate ‘route’ for case (e.g. internal/disciplinary action alone or referral to statutory agencies plus internal/disciplinary action)
  • to decide the level (from local to national) at which the organisation will deal with the concern
  • to consider the need for temporary/interim suspension order (some organisations’ Case Management Group issue suspensions directly, while others can only make recommendations to their disciplinary group)
  • to review progress of case/s
  • to identify/communicate
  • learning from cases

Further information

See our guidance regarding case management training.

The National Safeguarding Panel has produced a comprehensive suite of practical resources and guidance for investigators.

11 – Statutory agency roles and responsibilities

The Police, Children’s Social Care / Social Services, MASHs and Designated Officer (previously LADOs; for England) all have specific roles to play in responding to safeguarding concerns.

The Police’s main roles

  • uphold the law (investigate potential or alleged crimes)
  • prevent crime and disorder
  • protect the citizen (children have the right to full protection offered by the criminal law)

Many police forces have dedicated teams (Child Abuse Investigation Teams or CAITs) to investigate child abuse within families or by people in positions of trust.

Children’s Social Care / Social Services duties

These include:

  • providing services to children ‘in need’ (e.g. disabled children or those in care)
  • making enquiries where a child may be suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm (e.g. abuse)
  • contributing to child protection plans and arrangements where risks are assessed as ongoing

Children’s Social Care services have duty officers to receive referrals and offer advice on a 24 hour basis (including an ‘Out of Hours' service).

Children’s Social Care and the Police will liaise and work closely together when a crime against a child is alleged or suspected, and will jointly plan an investigation. These agencies will work within the arrangements and procedures agreed by the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB).

Multi Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH)

In some areas Local Authorities have established MASH incorporating key safeguarding personnel to support information sharing and decision-making following reports about safeguarding concerns.

Designated Officer – England

A Designated Officer (previously known as a LADO), or a team of Officers, work within children’s services departments and are responsible for the management and oversight of allegations. They should be alerted to all cases in which it is alleged that a person who works with children (in a paid, unpaid, volunteer, casual, agency or self-employed capacity) has:

  • behaved in a way that has harmed, or may have harmed, a child
  • possibly committed a criminal offence against children
  • related to or behaved towards a child or children in a way that indicates s/he is unsuitable to work with children

The Designated Officer will support the organisation with advice and guidance from the initial phase of a concern arising to the conclusion of the case, whether or not a police investigation continues.

Further information

See our information sharing topic page.

See the NSPCC’s Child protection records retention and storage guidance.

Visit Coram CLC Children's Legal Centre website.

12 – Sports investigation of concerns about serious / persistent poor practice or possible abuse

Investigation describes the process of gathering / clarifying information about reported concerns or incidents, and any other information which may be relevant to and will assist in the subsequent process of risk assessing information. Investigations are distinct from the process of assessment and forming judgments about potential risk. 

Internal investigations

Internal investigations within the organisation’s safeguarding and/or disciplinary procedures should begin:

  • at the conclusion of any statutory agency investigations
  • during or before statutory agency investigations (with agreement from those agencies)
  • when it has not been deemed appropriate to refer the concern to statutory agencies
  • or when referrals made to statutory agencies have been passed back to the organisation for action


It is important that organisations identify the skills, knowledge and experience required of individuals undertaking the investigator role on their behalf. This includes: 

  • an understanding of the nature and context of the sport and its policies
  • safeguarding experience
  • interviewing, recording and presentation skills

Individuals with professional Police, forensic or social work backgrounds can often demonstrate these attributes. Investigators may be individuals already working or volunteering within the organisation in some role or could be external consultants specifically commissioned for the investigator role.

The tasks of investigating concerns and risk assessing information arising from investigations are distinct and separate, and require different knowledge and skills.

Further information

The National Safeguarding Panel has produced a comprehensive suite of practical resources and guidance for investigators.

13 – Children's involvement

Remember that children are not always the victims of abuse or poor practice. They may be witnesses/bystanders or individuals who behave in ways which harm and put other children at risk. Whatever their role, it is essential that the case management process ensures that the voices of children are heard.  

The best interests of the child should be the primary consideration throughout the case management process, from initial evaluation of an allegation, through to any liaison with statutory agencies, investigation, risk assessment and disciplinary processes.

The way a case is managed may have a direct impact on the safety and welfare of a child, from the response of team mates and other club members to the impact of appearing before a panel as a witness.

Principles of safeguarding apply to the process of managing a case, not just to the decision made.  All stages of case management process need to consider and address the impact on and needs of the child. This avoids focussing exclusively on the process of managing the individual whose behaviour has harmed or put a child or children at risk of harm. Often the accused person becomes the centre of the process “by default” during an investigation, risk assessment and disciplinary process.

Organisations need to guard against the risks of re-traumatising the child or causing the child unnecessary worry and distress during the process.

Further information and good practice examples

14 – Sport's investigation processes

Some sports may have identified individuals internally to undertake the investigation role (e.g. those with relevant police or social care experience and skills). Others may commission investigations from suitably qualified individuals or agencies (e.g. the National Safeguarding Panel provides access to a pool of independent expert investigators).

Whoever undertakes the investigation should follow a clear, documented and transparent procedure that embeds a child-focused approach. They need to fully understand the role that young people may play within the investigation (e.g. as alleged victims, witnesses or as the accused). The investigator’s aim is to gather evidence and information, produce a professional, comprehensive report in a recognised, standardised format, and thus inform the decision making process.

Some training has been developed and delivered to support investigators operating in a sport specific context.

Investigations will vary widely in their scale and complexity and may involve:

  • direct contact with the alleged victim
  • witnesses and the alleged perpetrators
  • examination of documents and reports
  • contact with statutory agencies, Designated Officer (previously LADO for England) and other sports bodies

To assist sports organisations and their investigators a set of standardised investigation report forms has been produced that help guide and document this process regardless of the scale and complexity of the individual cases.

The investigation will conclude that:

  • the child has suffered or is likely to suffer abuse – refer to statutory agencies, refer to Designated Officer (previously LADO) (if not already referred), and by agreement initiate or complete disciplinary action
  • a criminal offence may have been committed – refer to statutory agencies, refer to Designated Officer (previously LADO) (if not already referred),  and by agreement initiate or complete disciplinary action
  • the concerns relate to poor practice (a breach of the Code of Conduct) only – initiate or complete disciplinary procedures, including referral to Designated Officer (previously LADO) if appropriate
  • the referral appears without foundation - no further action will be taken

The tasks of investigating concerns and risk assessing information arising from investigations are distinct and separate, and require different knowledge and skills.

An investigation will always take place before a risk assessment is undertaken: the two processes are quite separate.

Further information

The National Safeguarding Panel has produced a comprehensive suite of practical resources and guidance for investigators.

15 – Risk assessment

The aim of a risk assessment is to establish the actual or potential harm presented by an individual to children or young people in sport. This usually follows an investigation which has established that there is a case for the individual to answer. A risk assessment may also take place once an individual has completed a period of suspension or restriction and is seeking to return to a role in sport.

Risk assessments are normally undertaken or commissioned by case management groups to inform recommendations regarding sanctions and disciplinary proceedings.  Independent experts or witnesses may be called by a governing body to present its case before a disciplinary panel or tribunal or appointed by the tribunal itself. 

Assessment of an individual’s potential dangerousness

This must include:

  • the nature of the concerning behaviour
  • the impact (damage or harm) that would result from the behaviour
  • the probability that it will recur and in what circumstances

Assessing risk is an inexact science, and neither 100% accuracy nor a clear conclusion can be guaranteed – particularly in relation to ‘borderline’ situations.

Burden of proof

Conclusions should be reached ‘on the balance of probability’ (a threshold applied in civil cases, care proceedings, and disciplinary processes). This is a lower burden of proof than the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ level required for criminal cases.

Organisations have a duty to undertake this process regardless of the outcomes of any statutory agency investigations or other action (for example regardless of whether a conviction has been secured), although reports from these agencies should inform the process.

Defensible decisions

Organisations should seek to make ‘Defensible Decisions’ which would withstand subsequent scrutiny when:

  • all reasonable steps have been taken
  • a reliable assessment model has been used which addresses both ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ risk factors
  • information is collected (from within and outside the organisation) and evaluated
  • decisions and rationale are recorded
  • processes follow organisational policies and procedures

Static and dynamic risk factors

Risk assessments should include an assessment of ‘static’ factors that are known to increase risk such as age at conviction, previous convictions, concerns, alcohol or substance misuse.  This should be balanced against an assessment of ‘dynamic’ factors that are also known to increase risk such as lack of victim empathy, escalation in angry behaviour, cognitive distortions and rationalizing for behaviour, and impulsivity.

16 – Disciplinary process and panel

Organisations’ disciplinary processes were often not originally established with a view to responding to or managing safeguarding concerns and cases. Steps should be taken to ensure that safeguarding concerns will be recognised within disciplinary procedures, and that these procedures meet the requirements of all those involved in managing safeguarding concerns – including young people who may be involved in a range of different ways.   

Disciplinary panel chair and members’ job descriptions (at any level from club to national) should reference safeguarding knowledge and/or experience.

Organisations may refer matters to the National Safeguarding Panel (NSP) which may, by written agreement or specific rule reference, sit in place of the disciplinary panel of the organisation.  The NSP provides a model set of disciplinary rules for use in child safeguarding matters.

17 – Appeals process and panel

Organisations should offer opportunities for all parties to appeal against the outcome of both the safeguarding and disciplinary processes. These processes should be written into the organisation’s safeguarding policies and procedures.

Organisations may also refer matters on appeal to the National Safeguarding Panel which may, by written agreement or specific rules reference, sit in place of the appeals panel of the organisation.

18 – National safeguarding panel

The National Safeguarding Panel for Sport (NSP) is a centralised panel of safeguarding experts drawn from different professional backgrounds including legal, policing, social work and offender management. It is designed to support NGBs to professionally manage child safeguarding complaints and concerns.

It provides two key services:

  • independent investigations and reviews into safeguarding complaints and concerns
  • independent arbitration in place of a NGB’s disciplinary or appeals panel (by written agreement and specific reference within the organisation’s rules)  

The NSP works in tandem with NGB safeguarding systems and provides professional support in cases of significant complexity or seriousness, which present risks to children and young people or to the reputation of a sport.

The NSP is not intended to replace the need for NGBs to establish their own policies, procedures, and systems for dealing with child safeguarding complaints and concerns.

19 – Risk management

It should be recognised that safeguarding matters do not follow a neat linear pattern and often cases that have been dealt with need on-going risk-management support. 

For example, a disciplinary panel or tribunal may impose sanctions ranging from a suspension, restriction of activities, training, to mentoring or monitoring of behaviour, which need to be implemented by the sport. 

Periods of suspension or restriction of activities are not always permanent; individuals who may wish to return to a role in sport having completed a sanction will need to be carefully managed. Further risk assessment may need to be completed to inform such risk management approaches.