Protection of Freedoms

Memorandum submitted by Wiltshire and Swindon Activity and Sports Partnership (PF 62)

The impact of the Protection of Freedoms Bill on Sport

1. The Wiltshire and Swindon Activity and Sports Partnership is one of 49 County Sports Partnerships (CSPs) operating across England. CSP are networks of local agencies committed to working together to increase participation in sport and physical activity. Partners include National Governing Bodies of Sport and their clubs, schools, local authorities, sport and leisure facilities, primary care trusts and many other sport and non-sporting organisations. CSPs are led by a strategic board supported by a central team of professional staff who provide leadership, co-ordination and structures which allow people and organisations to work more effectively together.

2. Sport organisations are an integral part of the community of Wiltshire and Swindon and thousands of children participate in sports clubs on a regular basis. Sports clubs rely on volunteers to operate and it is vital that sports 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 significant effect on sport and recreation organisations if parents or funding bodies lose confidence in the ability of organisations to safeguard children.

3. 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 sports organisations:

4. Definition of Regulated Activity and Eligibility

5. 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 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’.

6. 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.

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.

9. Sport 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 expectation of the safeguards required to take on certain roles.

10. We would support the two proposals made by the CPSU and Sport and Recreation Alliance submission to the public bill committee

Issuing of single disclosures

11. 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.

12. However in sport 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 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.

13. 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.

May 2011