Here are 6 key safeguarding messages to think about when shaping your club’s approach to safeguarding.
1. Safeguarding Culture
Safeguarding isn’t just about putting in place a policy or carrying out DBS checks, it’s about creating a safeguarding culture within your organisation. I think of it as being a bit like lots of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle - which when they come together send a strong message that your club does all it can to provide a safe place for children. Policies and procedures are great but everyone involved needs to be able to apply policies and procedures on the ground, and to understand that they are taken seriously, and to be aware of possible signs of abuse and grooming.
- 2. Consistent Message
Consistency is important in getting your safeguarding message across. Your commitment to safeguarding should be made clear through all points of engagement with the children, parents and volunteers involved in the club and more widely to the general public e.g. your website, events, publications and also when recruiting staff and volunteers e.g. through all stages of the recruitment process, appropriate checks and a comprehensive induction and training appropriate to the role. Sending out a strong message about the rigours of your organisation’s safeguards could deter an individual with malicious intentions from targeting your charity. Poor practice can be a magnet for someone to find a way to become involved with your club when they shouldn’t. Don’t be complacent.
- 3. Proportionality
Proportionality is key – you need to consider the risk inherent in the activities that your organisation is carrying out and formulate your safeguarding approach with this in mind. As a football club, you will take the lead from the FA’s guidance for grassroots football but your club should be carrying out its own risk assessment and reacting to those risks rather than just applying a standard policy without an in depth review.
- 4. Legal Entitlement
You need to know when you are legally entitled to obtain DBS checks and barred list checks. I often come across organisations who are not obtaining the appropriate level of check for staff and volunteers – either they are not obtaining the checks that they should be or they have carried out blanket checks on all volunteers or members of staff regardless of their role or contact with vulnerable groups. Does your club safeguarding or welfare officer know which checks the club should carry out on its staff and volunteers? Are the staff and volunteers entitled to enhanced DBS checks and if the contact is frequent enough, are they in a regulated activity, which means that a barred list check must also be carried out. Is the club welfare officer familiar with supervision guidance from the Department for Education?
- 5. Volunteer Guidance
Remember when you are dealing with volunteers, they are giving up their time to help your cause - they’re not paid employees. Whilst you should never cut corners where safeguarding is concerned, an overly complicated process could be a barrier to volunteering. Ensure that inductions, policies and procedures are clear and that volunteers can understand what is required. A code of conduct is useful and ensures that well intentioned volunteers and staff know what is expected of them, what’s considered appropriate etc. in order to avoid finding themselves in tricky situations where their actions or intentions could be misconstrued. Ensure that appropriate support and supervision is in place for volunteers.
- 6. Celebrity Status
Just because someone is a celebrity or well-known footballer/scout/coach either locally or nationally does not mean that proper safeguarding measures are not applicable to them. If your club has a visit from a high profile individual, apply the same rules. Many organisations found themselves in the spotlight as the horrors of Jimmy Saville’s prolific abuse came to light because they had not followed appropriate procedures when he visited vulnerable people.