Protection of Freedoms Bill

Memorandum submitted by the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) (PF 86)


1. The ASA is the National Governing Body (NGB) for the sport of swimming, diving, water polo, open water and synchronised swimming in England. We are responsible for 1,200 affiliated member clubs and swim schools advising and regulating clubs and their members on child safeguarding and protection. British Swimming is the performance and excellence arm for all home country swimming associations and shares many staff and resources with the ASA including the ASA Child Safeguarding Polices and Procedures.

2. The ASA currently has 176,119 members and 70% of our membership is made up of children and young people under the age of 18.

3. The ASA has been pro-active in Child Protection/Safeguarding for over 15 years and actively involved in the development of policies and procedures to maintain the wellbeing of members under the age of 18. Since 1994 the ASA has worked closely with the NSPCC to become the first NGB to develop Child Protection Procedures in Sport after the first major case of child abuse was identified in swimming. The ASA appointed a qualified and experienced children’s social worker as their Independent Child Protection Officer (ICPO) to manage and develop their case management structure, policies and procedure. In 2002 the ICPO, in collaboration with the NSPCC, produced a study of child abuse cases in the ASA from 1997 to 2001 called "In at the Deep End" which provided a new insight for all sports from an analysis of these cases in swimming. The study identified key messages in practice, which assisted the ASA and other Sports NGBs in developing future good practice and procedures.

4. In 2008 the ASA achieved the NSPCC Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) advanced standard for safeguarding children in sport. The ASA Child Safeguarding Policies and Procedures strive to ensure that we provide a safe and encouraging environment to our young people taking part in the sport.

5. Since 2004 the ASA has acted as a CRB registered body providing a criminal records checking service for our affiliated swimming club and school members and submit approximately 8,000 applications a year. The safe recruitment of individuals into paid or voluntary roles in our sport is of paramount importance and the CRB disclosure vitally supports this process.

6. Together with our colleagues in sport we support the submission made to the Committee by the Sport and Recreation Alliance and the CPSU.

Use of CRBs by the ASA

1. Currently the ASA Child Safeguarding Policy and Procedures requires an enhanced disclosure for all roles either paid or voluntary that involve one to one or group contact with a child capable of building a relationship of trust.

2. Every ASA club has a dedicated trained and often professionally experienced child welfare officer who will assess which roles within their club require a check. This decision will be made based on the structured mandatory ASA CRB Policy that all our affiliated organisations adhere to and from the invaluable knowledge the club welfare officer has of their club environment.

3. The resulting enhanced disclosure certificate is received by the ASA rather than the club, ensuring that any disclosed information is known only to the applicant and the ASA as the recruiting organisation. The ASA assesses an applicant’s suitability on a case by case basis with input from the applicant and a secure data-base records whether that applicant is ultimately CRB cleared or otherwise. The disclosure information is only released to third parties with the consent of the applicant ensuring confidentiality of data.

4. Since January 2011 to date the ASA has processed 3119 disclosures. Of these the ASA has risk assessed 52 applicants due to information being disclosed on the CRB that may affect that applicants suitability to work with children or vulnerable adults.

5. A further number of disclosures containing information which is not relevant for child safeguarding purposes are received by the ASA. Such disclosures are cleared without the need to risk assess the applicant.

Regulated activity and the definition of supervision

1. ASA affiliated swimming clubs will typically consist of a Committee managing the clubs affairs day to day with a designated Welfare Officer for all child welfare matters. The coaching team may consist of a head coach and a number of assistant coaches, teachers and team managers. The coaching team are supported by a team of poolside helpers and chaperones. Some coaches will be paid but the vast majority of the club structure will be volunteers. There is extensive opportunity for all of these roles to build a relationship of trust regardless of whether they are "supervised" on poolside. ASA case history examples include an honorary president who contacted a 13 year old female swimmer pretending to be a boy of the same age and was caught in a police sting and placed on the Sex Offenders Register.

2. The ASA supports the proposal put forward by the Sport and Recreation Alliance and the CPSU that the exclusion from regulated activity should be for "close and constant supervision". Ensuring that those who work with children in a position of trust remain subject to regulatory checking and those who help out only occasionally with little or no responsibility are excluded.

Eligibility for checks outside "Regulated Activity"

1. The eligibility criteria proposed will exclude many positions within swimming which are currently checked as they will fall outside the requirements of regulated activity. This is of great concern for our Welfare Officers at club level and for the ASA as the recruiting organisation.

2. The ASA strongly believes that CRB checks should remain available for positions outside the regulated activity criteria and should be at the discretion of our clubs and the ASA as a result of knowing our environment and the risks that certain roles present.

3. The ASA supports the proposals put forward by the Sports and Recreation Alliance and the CPSU to allow sport the discretion to make decisions about the risks presented in our environments.

Issuing of a single disclosure

1. Clause 77 of the Protection of Freedoms Bill proposes that CRB disclosures will be issued only to the applicant and no longer to the Registered Body. We understand the reasoning of this clause in providing the applicant with the opportunity to dispute the information prior to the disclosure being viewed by the recruiting organisation.

2. The recruitment structure within our sport is vastly different from the more formal recruitment process within a Local Authority School for instance with less opportunity for the handing over of information. The ASA strongly believe that this could undermine the safety of our young members and create a significant administration burden on our member clubs and the ASA.

3. The ASA as the recruiting organisation centrally manages the disclosures for our sport ensuring consistency and allowing recruitment decisions to be made by experienced and professional individuals. This ensures the volunteer club welfare officer is not overburdened with information about individuals who they may know personally and which may affect their judgments and opinions of that individual. This would mean that the individual would need to share their disclosure with the ASA rather than their local club.

4. The ASA has concerns over how we would manage receiving copies of on average 8000 disclosures a year and the administrative burden on our NGB that this would ultimately present. In addition the potential for fraudulent certificates to be sent is most concerning.

5. Typically the disclosure process currently takes around 4 weeks. We believe that an individual going through the application process and then having to send off their certificate to the ASA under the new proposals will be perceived as to much hassle and dissuade individuals from volunteering in the first place, impacting greatly on our local club network.

6. The delays in obtaining copies of disclosures may allow an individual to work with children when they may not be suitable. We are concerned that if an incident should occur whilst we are chasing an individual for their disclosure that we may be held liable.

7. The ASA supports the Sports and Recreation Alliance and the CPSU in an amendment to the Protection of Freedoms Bill to allow for the two disclosure system to continue to enable our sport to continue being responsible and safeguarding our young members from harm.

May 2011