This blog post was originally published on The Safeguarding Company website >> https://www.thesafeguardingcompany.com/resources/blog/safer-recruitment-with-the-sports-sector/
SAFER RECRUITMENT WITH THE SPORTS SECTOR
In 2020* we ran a webinar discussing the issue of Safer Recruitment currently facing sports clubs of all levels. Our expert panel looked at some of the key issues that clubs and coaches must consider when protecting their players, athletes or participants. This blog summarises those discussions.
Safer recruitment is a vital issue within the safeguarding world, especially in sports clubs where it is important each individual working for or volunteering with the club is deemed appropriate to work with children, young people or vulnerable adults. Our panel discussed issues that sports clubs face when practising safer recruitment.
Our panel included:
- Mike Glanville Chief Safeguarding Officer and Co-founder of The Safeguarding Company
- Gareth Kear CEO, Wales Rugby League
- Christine Kane Head of Safeguarding for Aston Villa Football Club
Watch the full Webinar HERE
Why is safer recruitment such an important aspect of safeguarding for sporting organisations?
Mike firmly believes that effective safeguarding starts with safer recruitment as it is your first line of defence against those who wish to harm the children, young people or vulnerable adults within your establishment. Serious abusers will actively seek out organisations that do not have adequate systems or processes in place for safer recruitment and take advantage of this. From his previous policing experience Mike know that child abusers and offenders can be charming and charismatic because they are looking to groom not only children but also all the people within the organisation into thinking they are honest, well-rounded members of their community. It is important to have safer recruitment at the forefront of your mind because there are people out there looking for opportunities to abuse those in your care, and if your safer recruitment processes are not robust those individuals will take advantage of that.
Wales Rugby League wants to ensure that as a governing body they have the highest possible standards when it comes to safer recruitment and to set the bar for other organisations. Every person who joins the organisation is checked and has a DBS certificate. This means people who want to join the Wales Rugby League know that there is a high level of checks in place to deter those inappropriate for working with children and young people. Sometimes volunteers will not want these checks to be done which is a red flag for the organisation and shows their checks are effective.
Christine has a social work background and has worked with children who have been victims of assault, grooming or child abuse and understand the lifelong implications that abuse has on these children. Now working for a premier football league Christine noticed that the reputation damage that occurs when children are victimised is also a factor in safer recruitment practices. They want the highest standard of safeguarding and safer recruitment because they don’t want the negative media interest, instead, they want to be seen as leading the way in safer recruitment.
What are the main challenges in effective safer recruitment?
Christine says that reference checks were an issue when she started her safeguarding role in the world of professional football. Reference checks in education are the norm, people are happy to provide them. In sports, however, it has been a barrier, the quality of reference is not the same as those you would get in education. Christine finds that people are reluctant to share any concerns and safeguarding issues. There needs to be a movement towards recording safeguarding concerns and reference checks improving within the sports sector.
Mike agrees with Christine’s comment about references as there can be issues around the verification of referees, as abusers will often ask their friends or families to pose as references or even create false documentation. Some of these issues are caused by a lack of clear guidance on the recruitment process and what organisations are meant to do when recruiting employees or even volunteers into their organisation. In schools, there is a lot of statutory guidance on the recruitment process including the pre-appointment checks and references which sports organisations are lacking. This creates a problem because it means sports organisations can have different recruitment processes including writing the job descriptions, interviews, and training. Not having this guidance for sports organisations creates a big gap within their recruitment policies and processes.
What do organisations need to think about when recruiting for a new role?
At Wales Rugby League Gareth believes it is important to know how your organisation is perceived in terms of safeguarding and recruitment policies. If everyone knows you have robust safer recruitment and safeguarding policies and procedures that will deter unsuitable people from applying for those positions. When job adverts are put together Gareth ensures it is clear that DBS checks will need to be done and in interviews, he goes through the importance of safeguarding to gauged applicants’ reactions to the topic, and so that the applicant understands that the organisation they are interviewing for takes safeguarding and keeping children safe very seriously.
Christine has similar processes that include deterring suitable people from applying for positions at Aston Villa from the start of the recruitment process including the job description, the job advert, safeguarding, and safer recruitment policies can be found on the website, all the way through to reference checks, interviews, and training once staff and volunteers have been accepted. A lot of this process takes part because someone has been appointed in the new position which is the key to safer recruitment.
During the recruitment process what information needs to be recorded?
Christine records interviews and takes notes for safer recruitment, but also for the quality of the interview. Asking safeguarding questions is vital because if you are concerned with a reply someone has given it is important to record what they said and why you are concerned. A Single Central record is also extremely important so all the information can be found in the same place and accessed by those who need it. Christine also does annual checks to make sure all staff and volunteers DBS checks are up to date; this means if staff are going to different locations e.g., schools for lectures or talks Christine can inform the school that all checks are up to date.
Gareth would do very similar things at his organisation including annual checks for staff, volunteers as well as board members. Gareth does note that due to the pandemic and conducting interviews virtually can be beneficial as it is easier to record interviews and to keep track of questions asked and applicants. Education is also key, so all members of the organisation understand the importance of a safer culture within the establishment.
Audience question: In sport there is a culture where coaches know each other so there is no reason for safer recruitment. Is this true for your organisation?
Gareth and Christine both agree that unfortunately, this can be the attitude in sports clubs where coaches are tight-knit and often know each other and recommend others for job openings. Both are clear that jobs need to be advertised with a job description and all applicants need to go through the appropriate checks. It is important to stand firm and carry out checks for everyone and to ensure the safeguarding policies are followed every time someone is recruited.
Mike stresses that often even the close friends of offenders do not realise because they have also been groomed and manipulated which is why the safer recruitment policy and procedures are so vital. Serious case reviews often show that the offender is the most popular person within the organisation, William Vahey worked across 14 different international schools and abused hundreds of children. At every school he went to, he was a popular member of staff liked by parents and teachers alike, which is why these reference checks and DBS checks are so important.
Do staff need to be trained on safer recruitment and safeguarding?
Part of safer recruitment is also protecting your staff and volunteers; if you are educating everyone on safeguarding and ensuring everyone goes through the same checks, there is faith that your organisation has done everything correctly and followed the right procedures. This will ensure parents and players can trust the people who work in your organisation by creating a zero-tolerance environment for offenders and those who wish to harm children, young people and vulnerable adults.
Educating your employees and volunteers on safeguarding will also ensure they are aware of Situations and behaviours that could be perceived as inappropriate. For example, a coach might buy a present for a player with no malintent, however, it could be perceived as grooming by a parent or another coach. Educating your staff on safeguarding will protect them from false allegations as well as ensure they have a good understanding of safeguarding issues.