The First Eleven
The issues we have identified as requiring immediate attention. We have been working on each of these since we came together as a group and have made and continue to make satisfying progress. Here we outline our current 'positions', actions and intentions.
Responsibility for all
- We respect and hugely value the role of the designated welfare officer but believe the task can be very difficult alone.
- Safeguarding must be the responsibility of all volunteers / employees and individual recognition of this is vital.
- We welcome the recent introduction of The FA’s mandatory ‘safeguarding for committee members’ course as a huge advance.
- We advocate the introduction ‘safeguarding committees’ with key volunteer and parental representation.
- We support a change in law towards Mandatory Reporting (out of the setting) of knowledge of or serious suspicion of abuse in a regulated activity setting.
- We believe Regulatory bodies such as The FA require this to underpin any robust child protection system.
- This would bring an end to the days of whistleblowing and offer professional and personal protection to the individual with the knowledge or suspicion.
- ‘Covering up’ of any such abuse would become a criminal act.
- This requires parliamentary lobbying which we have begun.
Criminal Record Checks
- We have little trust in the current Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) system.
- There is no mandatory renewal in law. A ‘clean’ criminal record check has a start date but no end date. In effect it is only fit for purpose on the day it is issued.
- A robust system must register all ‘associations’ and automatically ‘trigger’ back to those settings when an individual’s situation changes.
- There is no fixed period before a new ‘volunteer’ must apply for a criminal record check effectively giving individuals the opportunity to ‘float’ from setting to setting undetected.
- The matter requires legislation change through parliamentary lobbying which we have commenced.
Incident Reporting Protocol
- We believe more understanding and clarity is required in terms of which incidents of concern are reported and where to (designated welfare office, County FA, The FA Case Management Team, the local authority). Successful management of the minor incidents will lead to limiting the major incidents.
- This way The FA can best resource support and additional training and awareness to clubs.
- Consistent reporting with successful solutions should be rewarded (maybe in club rating and/or awards).
- Quarterly ‘incident returns’ should be completed by all clubs with all key personnel to sign off including key volunteers and a parent representative.
- This should also include ‘nil incident’ reporting protocol if applicable.
Induction & Parental Engagement
- It is the responsibility of the club (or any setting) to formally introduce safeguarding policies to the child and parent/guardian. This should be done in the form of a meeting with the club designated welfare officer and the team coach.
- There should be a ‘mandatory’ annual meeting to ‘reaffirm’ existing policy and introduce revised policies.
- The parent/carer must have clear access to the club designated welfare officer’s contact details.
- The parent/carer must have clear access to information on their reporting options when they have a concern.
- We believe it is possible to work towards achieving the above through mandatory club websites/apps with mandatory safeguarding and wellbeing content.
- As good citizens, professionals, adults and parents we have a moral and social duty to ensure we foster an inclusive attitude towards mental health and wellbeing to the same degree, as we have to ensure our physical welfare.
- We want to be part of the culture of breaking the taboo of mental health and the stigmas surrounding it.
- Increasing wealth in football naturally leads others to believe that it is not possible when in such a position to have mental health concerns but money may or may not be just one of many reasons for such concerns.
- Entering professional sport environments with all the fame and wealth they promise and almost inevitably not making the grade is a recipe for the creation of mental health problems. How does the child or young adult adjust to the dream being shattered ? We must ensure that support services are available.
Unaffiliated Junior Football
- We see this as a major issue that requires parliamentary review and legislation change. The issue concerns Start ups, soccer schools, unaffiliated leagues etc.
- All football activity of any kind should be mandated by law to affiliate to the governing body, The FA to ensure best practice in all aspects including safeguarding.
- We are working with The FA towards an awareness campaign aimed at parents/carers signposting them to The FA’s ‘Find your club’ website section where all FA affiliated clubs are listed
- There remains the possibility for abusers to ‘float’ from one unaffiliated setting to another without ever intending to affiliate. This loophole must be closed.
- We believe there must be as an absolute minimum an ‘intention to affiliate’ registered with The FA with timescales to hit certain criteria before mandatory affiliation.
- Parliamentary lobbying has begun.
Education & Accreditation
- We recognise that to effectively and positively change the safeguarding landscape across football and other regulated activities significant resource must continually be put into education and awareness.
- The FA’s ‘Whole Game system’ tracks where such education and awareness programs are most needed, ensuring continuous improvement.
- Incentives should be offered to encourage participation in ‘continuous professional development courses’.
- There needs to be more control over those able to deliver ‘safeguarding courses’. This area is not adequately policed by law and needs to be subject to parliamentary review. We have commenced lobbying.
- Within football we have been instrumental along with The FA, The PFA and ‘Sporting Chance’ in developing a nationwide bespoke support and therapy package for childhood victims of sexual abuse within a football setting.
- We are in further discussions to extend this support network to other family members, particularly parents.
- Our role with survivors who approach us will be to ‘support’ victims through their recovery journey whether that be counselling, the judicial system, the media or indeed any related issues.
- We will walk with survivors ‘through their journey’ to recovery and liaise at the highest level with regulatory bodies, support networks and authorities on their behalf.
- We will endeavor to engage with victims of abuse both prior to and post any disclosure.
- We will identify what messages and method of delivery may assist disclosure at specific times of life.
- We aim to continue contribute towards The FA’s vital research in this area as we have done since our original meeting.
- If disclosure is made we will always aim to encourage survivors, where possible, to be ‘part of the process’ not just in their own recovery but in that of others and in safeguarding moving forward.
- Level and method of victim engagement is very personal and we will always try to work with support networks to identify a survivor’s individual needs.
Judicial System & Victim Liason
- We respect that disclosure and entering the judicial process are not one and the same thing. Both are totally down to individuals and disclosure can be made both privately and publicly without judicial involvement.
- We aim to help to manage survivors’ expectations with the judicial system.
- We recognise the unprecedented call on the police and judicial system since November 2016 and the additional pressure with the escalating terror related incidents in 2017.
- We aim to work with policing to deliver their own ‘Code of practice for victims of crime’.
- We will ensure that victims have been made aware of the availability and the role of the ‘Independent Sexual Violence Advsor’ (ISVA).
- Recognising that all victims will not ‘have their day in court’ we aim to assist ‘Operation Hydrant’ and individual forces in ensuring that all victims of an accused are made to feel part of the process that leads to conviction whether or not their own evidence is used by the Crown Prosecution Service.
- Victim liaison is paramount.