These are some of the most common questions we're asked about safeguarding children, child protection, training and other sport-related issues.


What is child abuse?

Child abuse is any form of physical, emotional or sexual mistreatment or lack of care that leads to injury or harm.

It commonly occurs within a relationship of trust or responsibility and is an abuse of power or a breach of trust. Abuse can happen to a child regardless of their age, gender, race or ability. Abusers can be adults (male or female) and other young people, and are usually known to and trusted by the child and family.

There are four main types of child abuse: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect. The abuser may be a family member, or they may be someone the child encounters in a residential setting or in the community, including during sports and leisure activities. An individual may abuse or neglect a child directly, or may be responsible for abuse because they fail to prevent another person harming that child.

Further information is available on our Child abuse is a sports setting page.

This topic is covered in much greater depth on the NSPCC website – see Child abuse and neglect.

Can children's names, DoB and address be given out by clubs or organisations to a third party if parents haven't given consent?

The simple answer is no.

For more information, see the website of the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

For the issue about open access to names, addresses, telephone numbers and DoBs of children, you need to consider the following: 

  • Did the children or their parents know the information was going to be used for another purpose than it was asked for in the first place?
  • Could the information have been provided as part of a cluster – for example, three children in the area?
  • Who received the information?
  • What procedures does the regulator have in place for disclosing personal information?

Up to what age can children enter a changing room of the opposite gender?

We've developed a briefing paper (PDF) on the use of changing facilities.

There's no set legal limit but standard accepted practice sets an age limit of under 8 to be in a changing room of the opposite gender.

Can under-15s participate in sporting activities with over-18s?

There is no definitive answer to this. Different sports make different decisions on mixed ages taking part in their sports. We've developed a briefing paper regarding this topic.

Contact your national governing body (NGB) for specific advice, as they should have a clearer understanding of the risks in your sport. Some principles for consideration are:

  • ensure the young person has reached a level of maturity and skill that enables them to participate in a mixed-age group safely
  • ensure over-18 participants set a positive example to the younger members of the team

Would it be possible for the CPSU to review our policy and procedures?

Yes. We could offer this service at a national organisational level, but would need to confirm if there's a charge and the availability of staff to take on this role.

We're not able to offer this service at a club or county level.

Please contact us for further information.

Northern Ireland sports organisations should contact Paul Stephenson directly.

If the CPSU were to ratify our policy and procedures, would these carry legal backing?

No – any endorsement from the NSPCC would need to have the following disclaimer:

'These safeguarding policy and procedure materials were drawn up specifically for [insert full name of licensee] with the assistance and advice of the NSPCC and conform to current child protection legislation and guidance. The NSPCC cannot accept responsibility for the implementation and application of the procedures by [insert full name of licensee].'

Is there any training available that will enable me to be a club designated officer? And does this training carry a recognised qualification?

The training pages of our website offers details of available safeguarding training.

There are a number of sports organisations that have been orientated to deliver the CPSU Time To Listen designated person and welfare officer training, or which offer their own recognised equivalent training.

You may want to check with your NGB if this is something they offer. If they don't, you could contact your Local Safeguarding Partnership (LSP) and ask if they offer any safeguarding training to volunteers, though this will not be sports-specific.

Northern Ireland sports organisations should contact SportNI directly on 028 9038 1222 for details of their Children's / Designated Officer course. Alternatively, you could contact the CPSU's Paul Stephenson directly.

Welsh sports organisations should contact Sport Wales directly on 029 2033 8213 for details of Safeguarding and Protecting Children workshops.

What are the welfare concerns for young elite athletes?

There is a growing body of research and case evidence to indicate that young elite athletes are particularly vulnerable to abuse and the effects of poor coaching practice.

Protecting the health of the athlete is the primary goal of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)'s Medical Commission.

The following is an extract from the IOC Consensus Statement on Training the Elite Child Athlete (PDF).

'The elite child athlete is one who has superior athletic talent, undergoes specialised training, receives expert coaching and is exposed to early competition. Sport provides a positive environment that may enhance the physical growth and psychological development of children.'

'This unique athlete population has distinct social, emotional and physical needs which vary depending on the athlete's particular stage of maturation. The elite child athlete requires appropriate training, coaching and competition that ensure a safe and healthy athletic career and promote future well-being.'

For further information on this topic, see our pages on Safeguarding talented and elite athletes.

How do I get advice on safeguarding in a specific sport?

The CPSU was founded in 2001 to work with UK sports councils, governing bodies and other organisations to help them minimise the risk of child abuse during sporting activities.

The majority of sports are working towards or have achieved safeguarding standards to protect children in sport. The standards provide a framework for all those involved in sport to help them create a safe sporting environment for children and young people and protect them from harm.

For more information, see Standards for Safeguarding and Protecting Children in Sport.

To contact the lead child protection officer in a specific sport, contact your sports governing body, which will provide you with this information.

Does the CPSU have any guidance on the use of photography?

Yes – we've produced guidance and advice on minimising the risks when photographing and videoing children in sport.

It's the responsibility of a sports organisation to establish a photography policy and practice that reflects their requirement and structures while ensuring that the child’s rights and wellbeing are safeguarded.

Parents want to be able to celebrate the achievements of their children when taking part in sporting activities through photographs. And sports organisations will also want to promote their activities to encourage increased participation.

We don't advocate the banning of photography, but do recommend that it's subject to appropriate and proportionate safeguards.

Does the CPSU have any guidelines on the safer use of social media in sport?

Yes – the online safety section of our website offers information and guidance on this topic. It also includes links to a number of useful resources and other available support.

Does the CPSU have any guidelines on transporting young people to sports events?

Yes – we've produced a briefing paper (PDF) on transporting a child or young person in your car. This includes an outline of the issues and some best-practice guidance to minimise the risks.

Does the CPSU have any guidelines on physical contact with children and young people in sport?

Yes – we've produced a briefing paper (PDF) on physical contact and young people in sport.

The purpose of this briefing is to clarify the position of the CPSU in relation to this issue and provide guidance to all those involved in working with young people in sport.

Does the CPSU have any guidelines on safe recruitment and selection procedures in sport?

Yes – See our safer recruitment pages for help and advice on the importance of safer recruitment, DBS eligibility, interviews, references and induction processes.

What is the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)?

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) was established under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 to provide a joined-up service combining criminal records and barring functions. It was formed from a merger between the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).

Visit the Disclosure and Barring Service website for further information on the DBS.

See our safer recruitment pages for help and advice on general processes and procedures relating to this topic, as well as answers to common questions about DBS and AccessNI records checks.

We have developed our own training course, can the CPSU approve it?

Some national governing bodies (NGBs) have chosen to develop their own training courses for people who have a role with or responsibilities for children and young people – including coaches, other employees or volunteers, and designated safeguarding officers.

We can facilitate an independent review of these courses and provide recognition. There is a cost associated with this service, based on meetings before and after the review and a thorough assessment of the course by an independent assessor contracted by us.

The review covers the following course aspects:

  • learning outcomes
  • training process, including delivery plans and tutor selection, orientation and support
  • content against the learning objectives
  • supporting resources and delivery mechanisms
  • quality assurance

Training courses are reviewed against the following guidance, depending on the target audience:

  • Time to Listen (CPSU specialist safeguarding training) learning objectives
  • Safeguarding and Protecting Children (basic safeguarding training) learning objectives
  • Working Together to Safeguard Children – A guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (HM Government, 2010)

The review also references:

  • The Common Core of Skills and Knowledge for the Children’s Workforce (CWDC), which sets out the areas of expertise that everyone working with children, young people and families, including those who work as volunteers, should be able to demonstrate

Charges for the review are negotiated at the point of contract. The reviewer works with the organisation to address any issues and/or development work required to ensure the workshop and resources meet sector standards. Where significant additional work is required, this work will also be costed and agreed before being undertaken.

For information on training available to the sports sector, see our Training and events pages.