Back “Child Safeguarding in Sport” comes to an end: time focus on its achievements

Child Safeguarding in Sport Strasbourg, France 23 June 2022
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“Child Safeguarding in Sport” comes to an end: time focus on its achievements

The results of the EU-CoE joint project “Child Safeguarding in Sport” (CSiS) were presented at the closing event which took place on 23 June 2022 in hybrid format from Strasbourg. They include the development of country-specific roadmaps for effective child safeguarding in sport policies in the partner countries, the Pool of international experts on safe sport and the Online resource centre on child safeguarding in sport.

The event gathered around 80 participants from a range of countries and organisations, including both, online participants and those present at the venue in Strasbourg.

Representatives of partner countries – Austria (100%Sport and Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, the Civil Service and Sport), Belgium, Federation Wallonia-Brussels (ADEPS - Sport Administration of the FWB Ministry and YAPAKA – Coordination unit for child abuse prevention of the FWB Ministry), Croatia (Ministry of Tourism and Sport), Israel (Ministry of Culture and Sport), Norway (Norwegian Olympic Committee and Confederation of Sports and Portugal (Portuguese Institute of Sport and Youth and National Olympic Committee) – presented their work on the country-specific roadmaps and their experience of the participation in the CSiS project. They also discussed key challenges that countries and organisations face in the implementation of child safeguarding in sport policies. Together with the good practice representatives (the UK National society for the prevention of cruelty to children (NSPCC) – and their Child protection in sport unit (CPSU), German Sport Youth, Sport Ireland, the Dutch NOC*NSF) possible solutions, opportunities and positive effects of having such policies in place have been discussed.

One of the main challenges is related to setting up child safeguarding officers at different levels, especially in small rural clubs with limited resources and capacities, often run only by a couple of volunteers. Countries with a federal structure or regional self-governments face the challenge of different competencies at different levels and in this regard, the need for enhanced cooperation and coordination was pointed out. As a general challenge, ensuring appropriate resources to establish well-functioning structures and systems to respond to concerns about children and young people, as well as systems for advice and support and appropriate education and training was emphasised. In this regard the leadership and support from the national governmental level are indispensable.

The participants agreed that despite the complexity of the process and the time that needs to be dedicated to advancing on the journey of safeguarding, all the efforts are worth ensuring that children in sport have someone to turn to if they need help.

Anne Tiivas, Chair of Safe Sport International presented the lessons learned from the implementation of the project with the key recommendations, emphasising that the strategies have to be evidence-based and developed through a multidisciplinary and multiagency collaborative approach and they need to cover different levels, from national to local. Child safeguarding officers need to have appropriate support and training to be able to respond to concerns. Child’s rights approach and listening to the voices of children and the voices of people with lived experience of violence and abuse must be in focus. To ensure the sustainability of the project and implementation of the roadmaps it is necessary to ensure resources at the governmental level.

Florencia Van Houdt, Head of Sport Unit – DG EAC, European Commission, welcomed the cooperation with the Council of Europe in the area of common interests. She recalled that the use of digital tools should be considered for education and training on safeguarding, as they can enable efficiency and reach more people. She reminded of the opportunities that the Erasmus+ program provides for education and training in and through sport and it can be considered for the implementation of certain activities planned by the CSiS partner countries.

In her concluding remarks, Irena Guidikova, Head of the Children’s Rights and Sport Values Department, Council of Europe emphasised that reporting and whistleblowing should be encouraged, but at the same time, we have to ensure that there are adequate responses. All countries are invited to start immediately to work on developing child safeguarding in sport systems, without waiting to be triggered by some tragic event or scandal. While developing systems, the scientific approach should be taken, and countries are invited to learn from the experiences and outcomes of the CSiS project, which will serve as important basis to the future work under Start to Talk.

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