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How to protect and safeguard people taking part in sport

As well as understanding and minimising risk, you need a system to respond to any concerns about a child or vulnerable adult in your programme

It is crucial to mitigate risks when designing, delivering and evaluating your sporting policies and programmes. It is imperative to consider any risks to participant safety, security, and wellbeing throughout and not just after a major incident.

It is your responsibility to ensure that programme participants are appropriately protected. Everyone involved in the process has an equally important part to play. But remember, even when you manage risks really well, things can still go wrong.

So as well as understanding and minimising risk, you also need to develop a system to respond to any concerns about a child or vulnerable adult in your programme — and you need to have this in place before activities begin. For example, participants may be at risk on their way to and from your intervention, before you even see them.

Managing risk and responding to concerns is at the core of safeguarding and will help your organisation ‘do no harm’.

Key aspects to consider

  • How are you interacting with different children and adults in your programme? During activities? In transport? Virtually? If you map out the ways you interact, that will give you a great starting point to understand where the risks might be.
  • Are you supporting vulnerable groups such as children, forcibly displaced persons, women and girls, or people with a disability?
  • Are there any specific needs the participant community has (e.g. low economic status) that would mean equipment or participation may be limited?
  • Do you have any biases or prejudices that could impact the programme design, even unconsciously?
  • Are there other stakeholders that should be involved in the planning (e.g. carers or parents)?
  • How does the programme align to your theory of change? Does your programme team have the expertise to effectively implement your plans?
  • Who in the community can help you? Are there government services or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) that are already working to protect children who you can link with for advice and support?

International safeguards

Comprehensive guidelines on sport and protecting children are provided by the Safeguarding Children in Sport Working Group: International Safeguards.

The toolkit is available in multiple languages and covers the following:

  • How to assess an organisation
  • How to develop a child protection and safeguarding policy
  • How to include children’s, parents’ and coaches’ voices
  • How to communicate the ‘keep children safe’ message
  • How to review procedures, practices and policies

The International Safeguards for Children in Sport guide highlights the right of children to participate in safe and enjoyable sporting activities. The guide highlights eight required actions (safeguards) to ensure children are safe from harm in sport activities:

  1. Developing Your Policy
  2. Procedures for Responding to Safeguarding Concerns
  3. Advice and Support
  4. Minimising Risks to Children
  5. Guidelines for Behaviour
  6. Recruiting, Training and Communicating
  7. Working with Partners
  8. Monitoring and Evaluation

Many organisations have signed and endorsed these safeguards and put them into practice. This includes the founding partners of this online course — sportanddev, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Australian government.

Further resources

The Sport for Protection Toolkit: Programming with Young People in Forced Displacement Settings is an example of a comprehensive sport and development manual that explicitly puts the needs of vulnerable participants first.

Principles 4-6 in The Commonwealth Guide outline key dimensions for maximising positive outcomes, stipulating that programmes should ensure safeguarding, adopt decentralised approaches which consider local needs, and be designed on a strong evidence base. These principles collectively act as a framework for ‘do no harm’ considerations in all programme development.

The FIFA Guardians Safeguarding in Sport Diploma, developed with the Open University (OU), is a complete open learning experience available in English, French and Spanish. It is designed to strengthen and professionalise safeguarding standards.

UEFA, in partnership with Terre des hommes, has developed a dedicated safeguarding platform with a range of resources (available in various languages) to improve safeguards for children in European football

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is launched an International Safeguarding Officer in Sport Certificate in September 2021.

More information on child protection and safeguarding

This article is from the free online

Sport for Sustainable Development: Designing Effective Policies and Programmes

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