Promoting Best Practice
Child abuse, particularly sexual abuse, can evoke strong emotions in those facing such a situation. It is important to identify these feelings and not allow them to interfere with your judgment about the appropriate action to take.
Abuse can occur within many situations including the home, school and the sporting environment. Some individuals actively seek employment or voluntary work with young people in order to harm them. A coach, instructor, teacher, official or volunteer who have regular contact with young people will be an important link in identifying such cases. All suspected cases of poor practice should be reported following guidelines in this document.
When a child enters the club having been subjected to child abuse outside the sporting environment, sport can play a crucial role in improving the child’s self-esteem. In such instances the club must work with the appropriate agencies to ensure the child receives the required support.
Best Practice Guidelines
All personnel should be encouraged to demonstrate exemplary behaviour in order to protect themselves from false allegations. The following are common sense examples of how to create and promote a positive culture and climate.
Best practice means:
- Always working in an open environment avoiding private or unobserved situations and encouraging open communication.
- Treating all young people equally with respect and dignity.
- Always placing the welfare of each young person first.
- Maintaining a safe and appropriate distance with fencers
- Building balanced relationships based on mutual trust and empowering children to share in decision-making.
- Making sport fun, enjoyable and promoting fair play
- Ensuring that if any form of manual/physical contact is required, it should be provided openly, after consultation with the young fencer and, as much as is possible, with their parent/carer and their agreement gained.
- Keeping up to date with and reviewing technical skills, qualifications and insurance.
- Involving parents/carers wherever possible. For example, encouraging them to take responsibility for their children in the changing rooms. If groups have to be supervised in the changing rooms, always ensure parents, teachers, coaches or officials work in pairs.
- Ensuring that at tournaments or residential events, adults should not enter children’s rooms or invite children into their rooms.
- Being an excellent role model - this includes not smoking or drinking alcohol in the company of young people.
- Giving enthusiastic and constructive feedback rather than negative criticism.
- Recognising the developmental needs and capacity of young people - avoiding excessive training or competition and not pushing them against their will.
- Securing parental consent in writing to act in loco parentis, if the need arises to administer emergency first aid and/or other medical treatment.
- Keeping a written record of any injury that occurs, along with the details of any treatment given.
- Requesting written parental consent if club officials are required to transport young people in their cars.
Practices to be avoided
The following should be avoided except in emergencies. If a case arises where these situations are unavoidable (eg the child sustains an injury and needs to go to hospital, or a parent fails to arrive to pick a child up at the end of a session), it should be with the full knowledge and consent of someone in charge in the club, or the child’s parents.
- Spending excessive amounts of time alone with children away from others.
- Taking or dropping off a child to an event.
Barred Practice from Cobham Fencing Club
You should never:
- Engage in rough physical or sexually provocative games, including horseplay.
- Share a room with a child.
- Allow or engage in any form of inappropriate touching.
- Allow children to use inappropriate language/behaviours unchallenged.
- Make sexually suggestive comments to a child, even in fun.
- Reduce a child to tears as a form of control.
- Allow allegations made by a child to go unchallenged, unrecorded or not acted upon.
- Do things of a personal nature for children that they can do for themselves.
- Invite or allow children into your home unsupervised.
NB It may sometimes be necessary for staff or volunteers to do things of a personal nature for children, particularly if they are young or are disabled. These tasks should only be carried out with the full understanding and consent of parents and the fencers involved. There is a need to be responsive to a person’s reactions. If a person is fully dependent on you, talk with him/her about what you are doing and give choices where possible. This is particularly so if you are involved in any dressing or undressing of outer clothing, or where there is physical contact, lifting or assisting a child to carry out particular activities. Avoid taking on the responsibility for tasks for which you are not appropriately trained.
Mandatory Reporting and Recording of Incidents
If any of the following occur you should report this immediately to another CFC colleague and record the incident. You should also ensure the parents of the child are informed:
- If you accidentally hurt a fencer.
- If s/he seems distressed in any manner.
- If a fencer appears to be sexually aroused by your actions.
- If a fencer misunderstands or misinterprets something you have done.
Use of Photographic/Filming Equipment at Events
There is evidence that some people have used sporting events as an opportunity to take inappropriate photographs or film footage of children. All clubs should be vigilant and any concerns should to be reported to the Child Welfare Officer.
However: there is no intention to prevent club coaches and teachers using video equipment as a legitimate coaching aid. However, fencers and their parents/carers should be made aware that this is part of the coaching programme and such images/films should be stored safely or deleted once they are no longer needed.
Cobham Fencing Club requires:
- Relevant personnel to receive advisory information outlining good practice and informing them about what to do if they have concerns about the behaviour of an adult towards a young person.
- Relevant personnel to undergo national first aid training (where necessary).
- Attendance of update training when necessary. Information about meeting training needs can be obtained from Sports Coach UK, the NSPCC and Sport England.
Responding to Allegations or Suspicions
It is not the responsibility of anyone working in Cobham Fencing Club, in a paid or unpaid capacity, to decide whether or not child abuse has taken place.
However, there is a statutory responsibility to act on any concerns through contact with the appropriate authorities.
Cobham Fencing Club, in line with the similar declaration of support from British Fencing, will assure all staff/volunteers that it will fully support and protect anyone who in good faith reports his/her concern that a colleague is, or may be, abusing a child.
Where there is a complaint against a member of staff there may be three types of investigation:
- a criminal investigation
- a child protection investigation
- a disciplinary or misconduct investigation.
The results of the police and child protection investigation may well influence the disciplinary investigation, but not necessarily.
1. Concerns about poor practice:
If, following consideration, the allegation is clearly about poor practice, the Welfare Officer will deal with it as a misconduct issue.
If the allegation is about poor practice by the Welfare Officer, or if the matter has been handled inadequately and concerns remain, it should be reported to the relevant officer who will decide how to deal with the allegation and whether or not to initiate disciplinary proceedings.
2. Concerns about suspected abuse:
Any suspicion that a child has been abused by either a member of staff or a volunteer should be reported to Cobham Fencing Club’s Welfare Officer, Annelies Bastille -firstname.lastname@example.org
The Welfare Officer will take such steps as deemed necessary to ensure the safety of the child in question and any other child who may be at risk.
The Welfare Officer will refer the allegation to Children Services which may involve the police, or go directly to the police if out-of-hours.
The parents or carers of the child will be contacted as soon as possible following advice from the social work department.
The Welfare Officer should also notify the relevant British Fencing Association officer who in turn will inform the British Fencing Association Child Welfare Officer who will handle and/or direct with any media enquiries as they see proper.
If the Welfare Officer is the subject of the suspicion/allegation, the report must be made to the appropriate Manager or in his/her absence the British Fencing Association Child Welfare Officer who will refer the allegation to Children Services.
Every effort should be made to ensure that confidentiality is maintained for all concerned. Information should be handled and disseminated on a need-to-know basis only to:
The Welfare Officer
The parents of the person who is alleged to have been abused
The person making the allegation
British Fencing Association Child Welfare Officer
The alleged abuser* (and parents if the alleged abuser is a child).
*Always seek social services advice on who should approach the alleged abuser.
Information should be stored in a secure place with limited access to designated people, in line with data protection laws (eg that information is accurate, regularly updated, relevant and secure).
Internal Investigations and Subsequent Action
Cobham Fencing Club’s Welfare Officer will make an immediate decision about whether any individual accused of abuse should be temporarily suspended pending further police and Children Services inquiries.
Irrespective of the findings of the social services or police inquiries the CFC Committee will assess all individual cases to decide whether a member of staff or volunteer can be reinstated and how this can be sensitively handled. This may be a difficult decision, particularly where there is insufficient evidence to uphold any action by the police. In such cases, the CFC Committee must reach a decision based upon the available information, which could suggest that on a balance of probability, it is more likely than not that the allegation is true. The welfare of the child should remain of paramount importance throughout.
Support to Deal with the Aftermath of Abuse
Consideration should be given to the kind of support that children, parents and members of staff may need. Use of helplines, support groups and open meetings will maintain an open culture and help the healing process. The British Association for Counselling Directory is available from The British Association for Counselling, 1 Regent Place, Rugby CV21 2PJ, Tel: 01788 550899, Fax: 01788 562189, Email: email@example.com, Internet:www.bacp.co.uk
Consideration should equally be given to what kind of support may be appropriate for the alleged perpetrator.
Allegations of Historical Abuse
Allegations of abuse may be made some time after the event (eg by an adult who was abused as a child or by a member of staff who is still currently working with children).
Where such an allegation is made, Cobham Fencing Club should follow the procedures as detailed above and report the matter to the social services or the police. This is because other children, either within or outside sport, may be at risk from this person. Anyone who has a previous criminal conviction for offences related to abuse is automatically excluded from working with children. This is reinforced by the details of the Protection of Children Act 1999.
If bullying is suspected, the same procedure should be followed as set out above.
Action to help the victim and prevent bullying in sport:
- Take all signs of bullying very seriously.
- Encourage all children to speak and share their concerns (If anyone talks about or threatens suicide, seek professional help immediately). Help the victim to speak out and tell the person in charge or someone in authority.
- Investigate all allegations and take action to ensure the victim is safe. Speak with the victim and the bully(ies) separately.
- Reassure the victim that you can be trusted and will help them, although you cannot promise to tell no-one else.
- Keep records of what is said (what happened, by whom, when).
- Report any concerns to the Welfare Officer or the school (wherever the bullying is occurring).
Action towards the bully(ies):
- Talk with the bully(ies), explain the situation, and try to get the bully(ies) to understand the consequences of their behaviour. Seek an apology to the victim(s).
- Inform the bully(ies)’s parents.
- Insist on the return of 'borrowed' items and that the bully(ies) compensate the victim.
- Provide support for the victim's coach.
- Impose sanctions as necessary.
- Encourage and support the bully(ies) to change behaviour.
- Hold meetings with the families to report on progress.
- Inform all organisation members of action taken.
- Keep a written record of action taken.
If there are concerns outside the immediate fencing environment (eg a parent or carer):
Report your concerns to the Welfare Officer, who should contact social services or the police as soon as possible.
See below for the information social services or the police will need.
If the Welfare Officer is not available, the person being told of or discovering the abuse should contact social services or the police immediately.
Social services and the Child Welfare Officer will decide how to involve the parents/carers.
The Child Welfare Officer should also report the incident to the Cobham Fencing Club committee.
The governing body should ascertain whether or not the person/(s) involved in the incident play a role in Cobham Fencing Club, and act accordingly.
Maintain confidentiality on a need to know basis only.
Information for Social services or the Police:
To ensure that this information is as helpful as possible, a detailed record should always be made at the time of the disclosure/concern, which should include the following:
- The child's name, age and date of birth of the child.
- The child's home address and telephone number.
- Whether or not the person making the report is expressing their own concerns or those of someone else.
- The nature of the allegation. Include dates, times, any special factors and other relevant information.
- Make a clear distinction between what is fact, opinion or hearsay.
- A description of any visible bruising or other injuries. Also any indirect signs, such as behavioural changes.
- Details of witnesses to the incidents.
- The child’s account, if it can be given, of what has happened and how any bruising or other injuries occurred.
- Have the parents been contacted?
- If so, what has been said?
- Has anyone else been consulted? If so, record details.
- If the child was not the person who reported the incident, has the child been spoken to? If so, what was said?
- Has anyone been alleged to be the abuser? Record details.
Where possible referral to the police or social services should be confirmed in writing within 24 hours and the name of the contact who took the referral should be recorded.