Protection of Freedoms

Memorandum submitted by the Sport and Recreation Alliance and

the Child Protection in Sport Unit (PF 60)

The impact of the Protection of Freedoms Bill on Sport

1. The Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) is a partnership between the NSPCC, Sport England, Sport Northern Ireland and Sport Wales. The Unit 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 unit does this by providing sports organisations with information and advice on safeguarding issues and developing and promoting standards for safeguarding and protecting children in the sports sector.

2. The Sport and Recreation Alliance is the national independent voice for sport and recreation, representing over 320 member organisations including the national governing bodies. Our members account for 151,000 sports clubs catering for some 13 million participants, and the Alliance exists to protect and promote the role of sport and recreation in healthy and active lifestyles, to encourage a policy and regulatory environment in which sport from grassroots through to elite level can flourish, and to provide high quality services to help its members to continually improve and progress.

3. We are united by the belief that sport and recreation organisations should ensure safe environments for children. We are keen to work with Government to ensure that the right balance is struck, allowing sport and recreation organisations to continue to provide safe environments for children at the same time as not being over-burdened with systems that do not help achieve that aim.

4. Sport and recreation organisations are an integral part of society and millions of children participate in sports clubs on a regular basis. Sports clubs rely on volunteers to operate and it is vital that sport and recreation organisations have access to clear information about whether these volunteers pose a risk to children or vulnerable adults. Whilst there is at present no legal requirement for CRB disclosures in sport and recreation organisations, it is clear that members and the wider public have an expectation that the people who volunteer and work in roles with children or vulnerable adults have been judged to be suitable by the sport and recreation organisation. There would be a devastating effect on sport and recreation organisations if parents lose faith in the ability of organisations to safeguard their children.

5. Overall, we welcome proposals from the Government to reform the vetting and barring arrangements and in particular the introduction of portable CRB checks which will make it easier for volunteers working across a number of different organisations to do so without unnecessary burdens. However, there are some proposals that we feel need more consideration, specifically in relation to sport and recreation organisations:

Definition of Regulated Activity and Eligibility

6. We recognised and appreciate that the Government has had to limit and reduce the number of people who are legally required to be ‘vetted’ and as a result the definition of ‘Regulated Activity’ had to be changed. We welcome that there will still be mandatory vetting for people in ‘Regulated Activity’, however we do have significant concerns as a sector about: how the boundaries have been defined for ‘Regulatory Activity’; and about the vetting tools that will be available for organisations who want to get assurances about individuals who are not in ‘Regulated Activity’.

Supervised activity

7. Clause 63 of the Protection of Freedoms Bill exempts many positions from ‘Regulated Activity’ simply because they will be classified as ‘supervised’. We do not feel that ‘supervision’ is the right benchmark for mandatory checks. Regardless of whether an individual is supervised in a sport setting, it is still possible for them to have regular and intense contact with children. Sport takes place in a variety of environments which includes school settings, leisure facilities (local authority and private) and a variety of outdoor spaces. As referenced earlier sport presents an anomaly in the sense that it is not recognised by the law, yet public expectation often places demands that are higher than the legal requirement.

8. Where the term ‘supervision’ is being used, it needs to be clear what this means. Sports organisations will generally risk assess roles in terms of their eligibility for checks. We support attempts to make the definition of ‘supervised’ clearer and to ensure that it is based more on whether an individual is able to build a relationship of trust with a child and not on whether they are working alongside another individual. In sport and recreation it is very difficult to create a definition for ‘supervision’ that would capture all instances where an individual might be able to build up a relationship of trust with a child. An Assistant Coach might be deemed to be ‘supervised’ by the Head Coach but they may still be responsible for taking a group of children to a different part of the pitch to work on specific training drills or tactics. Equally even in a more controlled environment of a sports hall, an Assistant Coach will still have the opportunity to build up a relationship of trust with children and it would be impossible to argue that because a Head Coach is leading a session that they could control the environment completely.

9. Sport and recreation organisations need the definition of ‘Regulated Activity’ to include all individuals that are able to build up a relationship of trust with children, in order to meet public expectation of the safeguards required to take on certain roles. For example, the Rugby Football Union had two club committee members who were on sex offenders register. While not holding roles that gave them unsupervised contact with children, their position within the club provided the opportunity to build up a relationship of trust which could be exploited with these children. The Amateur Swimming Association have similar examples including an honorary president who had been caught by police for contacting a female swimmer aged 13 and pretending to be a boy of the same age; he was caught in a police sting and placed on the sex offenders register as a result.

10. We make two proposals. The first is that the definition of ‘supervision’ is tightened up to include a reference to ‘close and constant’ supervision. This would work more on a risk based approach and ensure that unless supervision was of the nature where an individual working with children was being watched constantly that they would meet the requirements for ‘Regulated Activity’. This would therefore recognise the opportunity to form positions of trust in sports organisations. The second proposal is that the Government recognise the ‘specificity’ of sport that the EU frequently appreciate and exempt the ‘supervision’ requirement from sport completely. This would mean that any individual working in close and frequent contact with children in sport will meet the ‘Regulated Activity’ requirements regardless of whether they are supervised.

Eligibility for checks beyond ‘Regulated Activity’

11. Noting that the Government want to reduce the number of people legally required to be checked, we appreciate that the line needs to be drawn somewhere and it is inevitable that some individuals working in sport and recreation organisations will not meet the requirements for ‘Regulated Activity’. We are concerned as a sector that we may still want to ‘check’ individuals working outside of ‘Regulated Activity’ as a result of knowing our environment and the risks that certain roles present. We are unclear whether we will have access to the same ‘vetting’ tools for an individual outside of ‘Regulated Activity’ as we would for an individual captured by ‘Regulated Activity’ and if the ‘vetting’ tools are different, if they will allow sport and recreation organisations to make the judgements they are expected to make about the suitability of individuals.

12. We again make two proposals for consideration. The first is that the ‘vetting’ product which is developed and becomes a legal requirement for individuals working in ‘Regulated Activity’ is made further available to individuals not working in ‘Regulated Activity’ as optional. This would ensure that organisations are still given the responsibility of raising the requirements for safeguarding beyond the legal requirement where appropriate. The second proposal is again that the Government recognise that sport and recreation organisations are an anomaly and they have remained self-regulated because they are the best placed organisations to make judgements on where the risk is present in their environments. An exemption is granted for sport and recreation organisations to be able to use the ‘vetting’ tools in the way they deem appropriate regardless of whether an individual meets ‘Regulated Activity’ requirements or not. In some ways, trying to make ‘Regulated Activity’ fit all sport and recreation organisations is impossible and therefore it would be sensible to allow sport and recreation organisations the discretion they deserve as a self-regulated sector to make decisions about the risk presented in their own environments.

Issuing of single disclosures

13. Clause 77 of the Protection of Freedoms Bill proposes that only one disclosure is released directly to the applicant to allow the applicant to dispute information and to have it removed prior to the disclosure being viewed by a recruiting organisation. We understand this perspective and that in a regular recruitment setting there would be an appropriate juncture for the individual to share with their prospective employer their disclosure.

14. However in sport and recreation organisations there can be a less formal structure and less opportunity for the ‘handing over’ of this information. In addition the infrastructure of many sport and recreation organisations relies on the centralised management offered by a national governing body. The centralised management by an NGB ensures consistency across a sport (from club to club); that decisions are made by an experienced individual; and that a club level volunteer is not over-burdened with information about individuals they know on a personal level that will affect their relationships and ultimately may influence their judgements. Where an individual needs to share their disclosure with the organisation in sport, this will mean sending it to the national governing body rather than giving it to the club. We are seeking assurances that identity verification will be possible where a centralised national governing body structure needs to operate.

15. However, ultimately we have real concerns that within the informal sport setting national governing bodies will be forced to chase individuals for their disclosures and this will create an administrative burden at the same time as allowing an individual to work with children when they may not be suitable. Our concern is that if an incident occurs whilst a national governing body is chasing an individual for a disclosure, that the national governing body will be liable. We appreciate that a system may be developed to ensure that an organisation will only need to chase the disclosures that have content on them. Whilst we have been told that this represents only a small number of disclosures, in sport and recreation organisations we have a spread of disclosures with content on, ranging from 3% per year in one sport to 15% per year in another. For sport and recreation organisations to continue being responsible and rehabilitating individuals into society appropriately the organisation needs to see the disclosure as soon as possible and we advocate that the single disclosure to the applicant is amended in the Bill to allow for the two disclosure system that operates currently to be retained. The percentage of errors made on CRB disclosures is not enough to justify the percentage increase in the work required by a national governing body to chase up disclosures with content.

The following national governing bodies of sport would like to express their support for this submission:

1. Lawn Tennis Association

2. British Judo

3. British Rowing

4. Volleyball England

5. The Football Association

6. Badminton England

7. England Netball

8. British Canoe Union

9. Amateur Swimming Association

10. British Water Ski and Wakeboard

11. English Golf Union

12. England and Wales Cricket Board

13. British Fencing

14. Archery GB

15. Snowsport England

16. Rugby Football League

17. England Squash and Racketball

18. Baseball Softball UK

19. British Weightlifting

20. England Hockey Board

21. UK Athletics

22. English Women’s Golf Union

The following county sports partnerships would like to express their support for this submission:

1. Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Sports Partnership

2. Northamptonshire Sports Partnership

3. Lincolnshire Sports Partnership

4. West of England Sport Trust

5. Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin County Sports Partnership

6. The Humber Sports Partnership

7. Kent Sport

8. Coventry Solihull and Warwickshire Sport

9. Active Dorset

10. North Yorkshire Sport

11. South Yorkshire Sport

12. Sport Cheshire

13. Dudley Safeguarding Chil dren Board

14. Active Cumbria

15. Active Norfolk

16. Cheshire and Warrington Sports Partnership

17. Active Sussex

18. Cornwall Sports Partnership

19. CP Sport England and Wales

20. Team Beds and Luton

21. Lancashire Sport Partnership

22. Hertfordshire Sports Partnership

April 2011