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Children, adults or both: should you develop a single safeguarding policy?

Posted: Wed, 19 Jul 2017 12:54

Children, adults or both: should you develop a single safeguarding policy?

by Nick Slinn/Michelle North (CPSU) and Nicola Dean (ACT).

Should organisations try to develop a joint child-adult safeguarding policy and supporting procedures? This article considers the benefits and challenges of a combined approach.

How did we get here?

Many sports organisations and clubs are aware of their responsibilities towards safeguarding children and young people (under 18s) in sport. For many this has been driven by the link between funding and meeting the requirements of the Standards for Safeguarding and Protecting Children in Sport. These support organisations to meet a baseline of policies, guidance and practice in relation to child safeguarding. The Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) based within NSPCC, has been funded by Sport England for over 16 years to help sports organisations meet these requirements.

In contrast, many sports organisations have only relatively recently started to understand and address safeguarding responsibilities in relation to vulnerable adults or adults at risk. For many this has been driven by a combination of diversification into supporting activities undertaken by a more diverse range of adult groups and changes in legislation and government guidance. The Care Act 2014 placed safeguarding adults onto a statutory footing, outlined the responsibilities of local authorities and community services, updated definitions of abuse and neglect and shifted the language of adult safeguarding from 'vulnerable adults' to 'adults at risk'.

There has also been a push from sports coaches and clubs locally seeking guidance in supporting some groups of adults. There is some background to safeguarding adults in sport - The Safeguarding Adults in Sport Steering Group was founded in 2008 and aims to bring together a number of organisations from across elite and grassroots sport to focus on safeguarding adults. However in the last 2 years the issue has been recognised wider with the Sport England decision to fund the Ann Craft Trust (ACT) to provide advice, guidance and support for funded NGBs and County Sports Partnerships on safeguarding adults in sport and activity.

Safeguarding policies

A key part of any organisation's safeguarding strategy is to establish, promote and implement a clear safeguarding policy supported by specific procedures (for example about reporting concerns, safe recruitment, and so on) and practice guidance (codes of conduct, travel and event planning etc). While many organisations generally have well established child safeguarding systems in place, this has proved more challenging in relation to safeguarding adults. An apparently obvious answer seems to be to combine safeguarding adults and children into one policy, set of procedures, and practice guidelines.

In sport the term policy is used to refer to a statement of intent, procedures to achieve specific outcomes, and supporting practice guidance. However, the dictionary definition of a policy is: a course or principle of action adopted or proposed by an organization or individual. On this basis it is reasonable for the front section of most safeguarding policy documents to refer to general principles and aspirations for both children and adults.

Procedures and guidance: square pegs and round holes

The difficulties arise in the subsequent parts of these safeguarding documents, as organisations seek to clarify more exactly how these general aspirations will transfer into practice for both groups. It is here that significant challenges arise as a result of a range of significant and different considerations for the two groups:

  • Often joint guidance (usually developed from existing child safeguarding documents) defaults to a children's focus
  • Definitions of abuse are different (4 categories for children, 10 for adults)
  • Legislation and government guidance are different (Children Acts and Working Together for children, the Care Act and the Mental Capacity Act 2005 for adults)
  • Local statutory structures, reporting procedures and support services are different (LSCBs and Children's Social Care for children, SABs and Adult Services for adults)
  • Issue around the responsibility/right to report are different (consider the capacity of an adult to agree to a referral, and their right to self-determination)
  • Safeguarding training and other practice support are different (generally sports safeguarding adults training is far less available than the equivalent for children)
  • Safe recruitment criminal records eligibility criteria are very different for the two groups.

In short not only is it very difficult to effectively combine practical guidance and systems for these aspects, but having a single policy/procedures document can complicate matters and lead to greater confusion on the part of the user.


CPSU and ACT (supported by Sport England) therefore recommend that to develop and implement robust, easily applicable safeguarding systems CSPs produce separate child and adult safeguarding policy/procedures/guidance documents.

More information about child or adult safeguarding, including guidance and policy templates, can be found at CPSU https://thecpsu.org.uk/ or ACT http://www.anncrafttrust.org/safeguarding-adults-in-sport.php respectively.

For support and information on safeguarding in sport in Northamptonshire contact your sport governing body safeguarding lead or Northamptonshire Sport safeguarding lead Martin Barnwell : martin.barnwell@firstforwellbeing.co.uk

Children, adults or both: should you develop a single safeguarding policy?

Tags: Safeguarding


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