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What is Safeguarding Adult in Sport?

Any of us can experience abuse – scams, domestic abuse, bullying at work or in social activities.  And some of us experience hate crime- being harassed or bullied targeted  at our race, religion, sex, sexuality, gender status, age or disability.

The Police and the Courts are the main places many of us would turn to for help if we were seriously harmed or couldn’t stop the abuse with the help of our friends/colleagues/family.  There are also voluntary sector organisations that can help such as Victim Support, Women’s Aid, Mankind, Rape Crisis and the National Bullying Helpline.

As is increasingly recognised sport isn’t always a safe space.  We can experience abuse from other people within sport including from those in a position of power such as coach or other person who acts as a gateway to a person being able to participate in sports activities.

Sports organisations have a duty of care to all of us.  So if we are being abused within sport we have a right to support to stop the abuse from our sports organisation.  This is particularly true if the person causing harm is a member or employee.  Of course sport also has a duty to take reasonable steps to prevent abuse happening in the first place such as having clear codes of conduct, Safeguarding Adults at Risk Policy, a go to person responsible for embedding policies and communicating a culture of respect and support for everyone.

We know from research that disabled people, including disabled athletes experience higher levels of abuse than the rest of the population.  Some of the reasons for this include the barriers that disabled people face when trying to stop abuse.  For example, finding they are not taken seriously or are not believed when they raise concerns or being reliant for practical help on the person who is harming them.  Some people with cognitive impairments may not be able to understand or communicate what is happening to them.

Sports should provide help and support to any disabled person who is experiencing abuse or neglect within the sport. 

Laws in each of the UK nations give Local Authorities the role of providing extra support to people with needs for ‘care and support’.  Often this is support to get on with ‘daily living’, washing, dressing, cooking, working and having a social life.  When someone is being abused or neglected the extra help to stop what is happening is called ‘Safeguarding Adults at Risk’.  The Local Authority will work in partnership with the adult and other agencies that may be able to help (including the Police).

People with ‘care and support’ needs include some (but not all) people with physical and sensory impairments, some people with learning difficulties or other neurological differences, some people with mental health issues and some older people.

In Wales there is a duty to report any situation where an adult with care and support needs is experiencing abuse or neglect to the Local Authority so they can be offered extra help. 

So Safeguarding Adults in sport means: 1) Making sport a safe place for everyone

2) Taking robust action to address any situation of abuse

3) Working with the Local Authority if the person being harmed has ‘care and support’ needs