Safeguarding children in sport as lockdown eases

Last updated: 17 Jun 2020 Topics: Safeguarding children Safer recruitment Type: News article

As the government begins the gradual task of loosening restrictions, sports are understandably keen to start returning to face-to-face activities.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and subsequent lockdown had put a stop to active participation in sport for several months in the UK. As things resume, however, a raft of government restrictions, rules and practical guidance still govern these activities and must be accommodated by individuals, clubs and organisations seeking to bring more people together for sports activities of any kind.

Government guidance for sport

DCMS has released guidance for England on the re-introduction of some elements of sports activity (initially in outdoor settings) at both elite and community level. Sports organisations and clubs should familiarise themselves and comply with this guidance.

There is similar guidance for Northern Ireland and Wales, where the easing of lockdown restrictions differ from those in England. 

Addressing the ongoing coronavirus risk will require an approach that will no doubt further stretch resources at delivery level. There are practical measures to put in place to limit the potential transmission of the virus

  • cleaning equipment
  • not sharing equipment
  • using personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • social distancing
  • restricting group sizes

These measures will put additional strain on those organising and delivering the activity, potentially with a reduced workforce due to people still needing to self-isolate.

Maintaining safeguarding standards and practice

It is absolutely vital that, in their enthusiasm to restart some face-to-face activities for young people, organisers do not ignore, abandon or otherwise dilute established practices, rules and regulations designed to safeguard children and provide the safest environment possible.

For example, in ‘normal’ times, most sports would carry out an effective assessment of the suitability of any adults working with children. In safeguarding terms, it is difficult to understand or justify why in the current circumstances, this protection would or should be reduced. For example, subjecting supervising individuals to much less, or even no screening arrangements simply in order to meet established supervision ratios.

What sports organisations need to do

Whilst following the government guidance on re-starting sport during coronavirus, organisations should:

  • not compromise on safeguarding practice to meet coronavirus measures
  • postpone any planned activity until it can be provided safely, both in terms of coronavirus measures and safeguarding
  • continue to risk assess safeguarding practice in your activity as before
  • make sure all adults working with children are assessed for their suitability
  • make sure all staff and volunteers maintain some level of safeguarding training and continue to refresh their safeguarding knowledge

It’s important for sports organisations to remember that parents and young people have a right to expect that children’s safeguarding and wellbeing is not compromised by the desire to restart activities, particularly since the return to competition for so many young people and adults might still be a while away.