Funders take critical steps to safeguard young people in sport
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Charities promote the health and social benefits of sport to young people around the world, but are the safeguarding procedures, which ensure the risks of harm to children's welfare from their involvement in sporting activities sufficiently in place?

British charity, International Development through Sport (IDS), which uses sport to transform the lives of some of the poorest children in the world, has taken the lead in supporting key staff from their international partners such as Comic Relief and UNICEF UK, to provide the necessary support to ensure young people participating in their programmes have access to safe sport.

Although policies in this area exist, more funders need to take on the responsibility of enhancing the mechanisms in place to safeguard children in those countries where they are supporting programmes.

Sports coaches from grassroots NGOs to decision makers were among those present for the first child-safeguarding meeting at the offices of the UK's strategic lead body for high performance sport, UK Sport, in London in May.

UNICEF UK has been working in partnership with UK Sport over the past 4 years to deliver the Olympic and Paralympic Games social legacy programme, International Inspiration, which has reached out to over 12 million children in 20 countries. Liz Twyford, International Inspiration Programme Specialist, said, “These policies start with the rights of the child and these resources have been developed over a long period of time so there is a lot we can now work with. Funders need to take a more responsible approach by dedicating funds for their partners to develop knowledge and capacity to deal with these issues and encouraging them to include these needs in funding proposals. IDS has taken a terrific lead to address this.”

Corinne Davey, Director of the Keeping Children Safe Network, a membership network of organisations working together to increase safeguards offered to children, echoed these sentiments. “Meeting with a range of IDS’s partners has highlighted the important issues that need to be addressed in this area. It is also a chance for funders and their implementing partners to share the responsibility of the tasks that need to be done,” she said.

All organisations left the meeting at UK Sport with a task list of actions their organisations will address to respond to the issues raised.

Anita White OBE, trustee of IDS, and leading sports advisor Ollie Dudfield from the Commonwealth Secretariat, also added their weight to the discussions. Dudfield, who is currently developing guidelines for strengthening SDP initiatives for Commonwealth Sport Ministers, believes,” The work of IDS reinforces the importance of the safeguarding system, of which policy is just one part. It is the responsibility of each member agency, from grassroots level all the way to management level, to see that these policies are understood and implemented.”

Invited sport for development practitioners from Africa also shared the practical issues that can arise from working with children in a sporting environment. Raymond Vries, from sport and development organisation SCORE, in Namibia, said, “Although all organisations have measures in place, the question we need to ask is ‘are they being implemented?’ and ‘are the children we work with speaking up?’ These avenues are not yet open for children.”

For Evelline Ajing from Kenyan based organisation MYSA, a key outcome of this meeting has been “How we report these issues to donors and how we can convince other donors to make this issue part of our key discussions.”

UNICEF will continue these discussions at the international Beyond Sport Summit in London this July.

Visit the IDS website




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