The Global Space Science Challenge (henceforth GSDC) is committed to ensuring that:
- the welfare of the child is paramount
- all children, whatever their age, culture, disability, gender, language, racial origin, religious beliefs and/or sexual identity have the right to protection from abuse
- all suspicions and allegations of abuse and poor practice will be taken seriously and responded to swiftly and appropriately
- all staff (paid/unpaid) working in sport have a responsibility to report concerns to the appropriate officer.
Staff/volunteers are not trained to deal with situations of abuse or to decide if abuse has occurred.
GSDC has a duty of care to safeguard all children involved in GSDC from harm. All children have a right to protection, and the needs of disabled children and others who may be particularly vulnerable must be taken into account. GSDC will ensure the safety and protection of all children involved in GSDC through adherence to the Child Protection guidelines adopted by GSDC.
A child is defined as a person under the age of 18 (The Children Act 1989).
The aim of the GSDC Child Protection Policy is to promote good practice:
- providing children and young people with appropriate safety and protection whilst in the care of GSDC
- allow all staff /volunteers to make informed and confident responses to specific child protection issues.
Promoting good practice
To provide children with the best possible experience and opportunities throughout the programme everyone must operate within an accepted ethical framework.
It is not always easy to distinguish poor practice from abuse. It is therefore NOT the responsibility of employees of participants in the programme to make judgements about whether or not abuse is taking place. It is however their responsibility to indentify poor practice and possible abuse and act if they have concerns about the welfare of the child, as explained under “Responding to allegations or suspicions”.
This section will help you identify what is meant by good practice and poor practice.
Good practice guidelines
All personnel should be encouraged to demonstrate exemplary behaviour in order to promote children’s welfare and reduce the likelihood of allegations being made. The following are common sense examples of how to create a positive culture and climate.
Good practice means:
- Always working in an open environment (e.g. avoiding private or unobserved situations and encouraging open communication with no secrets).
- Treating all young people/disabled adults equally, and with respect and dignity.
- Always putting the welfare of each young person first, before winning or achieving goals.
- Maintaining a safe and appropriate distance with participants (e.g. it is not appropriate for staff or volunteers to have an intimate relationship with a child or to share a room with them).
- Building balanced relationships based on mutual trust which empowers children to share in the decision-making process.
- Making the competition fun, enjoyable and promoting fair play.
- Ensuring that if any form of manual/physical support is required, it should be provided openly and with the consent of the young person. Physical contact can be appropriate so long as it is neither intrusive nor disturbing and the young person’s consent has been given.
- Involving parents/carers wherever possible. If groups have to be supervised in accommodation, always ensure parents, teachers, coaches or officials work in pairs.
- Being an excellent role model – this includes not smoking or drinking alcohol in the company of young people.
- Giving enthusiastic and constructive feedback rather than negative criticism.
- Recognising the developmental needs and capacity of young people and disabled adults – avoiding excessive training or competition and not pushing them against their will.
- Securing parental/guardian consent in writing to act in loco parentis, if the need arises to administer emergency first aid and/or other medical treatment.
- Securing parental / guardian consent for the taking and promotional use of photography and videos of events supported by the charity.
- Keeping a written record of any injury that occurs, along with the details of any treatment given.
Practices to be avoided
The following should be avoided except in emergencies. If cases arise where these situations are unavoidable it should be with the full knowledge and consent of someone in charge in the club or the child’s parents. For example, a child sustains an injury and needs to go to hospital, or a parent fails to arrive to pick a child up at the end of a session:
- avoid spending time alone with children away from others
- avoid taking or dropping off a child to an event or activity.
Practices never to be sanctioned
The following should never be sanctioned. You should never:
- engage in rough, physical or sexually provocative games, including horseplay
- share a room with a child
- allow or engage in any form of inappropriate touching
- allow children to use inappropriate language unchallenged
- make sexually suggestive comments to a child, even in fun
- reduce a child to tears as a form of control
- fail to act upon and record any allegations made by a child
- do things of a personal nature for children or disabled adults, that they can do for themselves
- invite or allow children to stay with you at your home unsupervised.
Incidents that must be reported/recorded
If any of the following occur you should report this immediately to the appropriate officer and record the incident. You should also ensure the parents of the child are informed:
- if you accidentally hurt a competition participant
- if he/she seems distressed in any manner
- if a competition participant appears to be sexually aroused by your actions
- if a competition participant misunderstands or misinterprets something you have done.
Recruitment and training of staff and volunteers
GSDC recognises that anyone may have the potential to abuse children in some way and that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure unsuitable people are prevented from working with children. Pre-selection checks must include the following:
- All volunteers/staff should complete an application form. The application form will elicit information about an applicant’s past and a self disclosure about any criminal record.
- Consent should be obtained from an applicant to seek information from the Criminal Records Bureau.
- Two confidential references, including one regarding previous work with children. These references must be taken up and confirmed through telephone contact.
- Evidence of identity (passport or driving licence with photo).
Interview and induction
All employees (and volunteers) will be required to undergo an interview carried out to acceptable protocol and recommendations. All employees and volunteers should receive an induction, during which:
- A check should be made that the application form has been completed in full (including sections on criminal records and self-disclosures).
- Their qualifications should be substantiated.
- The job requirements and responsibilities should be clarified.
- Child protection procedures are explained and training needs are identified.
- They should sign up to the organisation’s Code of Conduct and Child Protection Policy.
In addition to pre-selection checks, the safeguarding process includes training after recruitment to help staff and volunteers to:
- Analyse their own practice against established good practice, and to ensure their practice is not likely to result in allegations being made.
- Recognise their responsibilities and report any concerns about suspected poor practice or possible abuse.
- Respond to concerns expressed by a child or young person.
- Work safely effectively with children.
- Relevant personnel to receive advisory information outlining good practice and informing them about what to do if they have concerns about the behaviour of an adult towards a young person.
- Relevant personnel to gain a national first aid training (where necessary).
- Attend update training when necessary. Information about meeting training needs can be obtained from Sports Coach UK, the NSPCC, and the Sport Council.
Responding to allegations or suspicions
It is not the responsibility of anyone working in GSDC, in a paid or unpaid capacity to decide whether or not child abuse has taken place. However there is a responsibility to act on any concerns by reporting these to the appropriate officer or the appropriate authorities.
GSDC will assure all staff/volunteers that it will fully support and protect anyone, who in good faith reports his or her concern that a colleague is, or may be, abusing a child.
Where there is a complaint against a member of staff there may be three types of investigation:
- a criminal investigation
- a child protection investigation
- a disciplinary or misconduct investigation.
The results of the police and child protection investigation may well influence and inform the disciplinary investigation, but all available information will be used to reach a decision.
Action if there are concerns
- Concerns about poor practice:
- If, following consideration, the allegation is clearly about poor practice; the designated Child Protection Officer will deal with it as a misconduct issue.
- If the allegation is about poor practice by the Organisation Child Protection Officer, or if the matter has been handled inadequately and concerns remain, it should be reported to one of the charity trustees who will decide how to deal with the allegation and whether or not to initiate disciplinary proceedings.
- Concerns about suspected abuse:
- Any suspicion that a child has been abused by either a member of staff or a volunteer should be reported to the Organisation Child Protection Officer, who will take such steps as considered necessary to ensure the safety of the child in question and any other child who may be at risk.
- The Organisation Child Protection Officer will refer the allegation to the social services department who may involve the police.
- The parents or carers of the child will be contacted as soon as possible following advice from the social services department.
- If the Organisation Child Protection Officer is the subject of the suspicion/allegation, the report must be made a charity trustee who will refer the allegation to Social Services.
Every effort should be made to ensure that confidentiality is maintained for all concerned. Information should be handled and disseminated on a need to know basis only. This includes the following people:
- the Club Child Protection Officer
- the parents of the person who is alleged to have been abused
- the person making the allegation
- social services/police
Seek social services advice on who should approach the alleged abuser (or parents if the alleged abuser is a child).
Information should be stored in a secure place with limited access to designated people, in line with data protection laws (e.g. that information is accurate, regularly updated, relevant and secure).
Internal enquiries and suspension
- The GSDC Child Protection Officer will make an immediate decision about whether any individual accused of abuse should be temporarily suspended pending further police and social services inquiries.
- Irrespective of the findings of the social services or police inquiries the GSDC Disciplinary Committee will assess all individual cases to decide whether a member of staff or volunteer can be reinstated and how this can be sensitively handled. This may be a difficult decision; particularly where there is insufficient evidence to uphold any action by the police. In such cases, the GSDC Disciplinary Committee must reach a decision based upon the available information which could suggest that on a balance of probability, it is more likely than not that the allegation is true. The welfare of the child should remain of paramount importance throughout.
Support to deal with the aftermath of abuse:
- Consideration should be given to the kind of support that children, parents and members of staff may need. Use of helplines, support groups and open meetings will maintain an open culture and help the healing process. The British Association for Counselling Directory is available from The British Association for Counselling, 1 Regent Place, Rugby CV21 2PJ, Tel: 01788 550899, Fax: 01788 562189, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Internet: www.bacp.co.uk .
- Consideration should be given to what kind of support may be appropriate for the alleged perpetrator.
Allegations of previous abuse
Allegations of abuse may be made some time after the event (e.g. by an adult who was abused as a child or by a member of staff who is still currently working with children).
Where such an allegation is made, the club should follow the procedures as detailed above and report the matter to the social services or the police. This is because other children, either within or outside sport, may be at risk from this person. Anyone who has a previous criminal conviction for offences related to abuse is automatically excluded from working with children. This is reinforced by the details of the Protection of Children Act 1999.
Action if bullying is suspected
If bullying is suspected, the same procedure should be followed as set out in ‘Responding to suspicions or allegations’ above.
Action to help the victim and prevent bullying in education:
- Take all signs of bullying very seriously.
- Encourage all children to speak and share their concerns (It is believed that up to 12 children per year commit suicide as a result of bullying, so if anyone talks about or threatens suicide, seek professional help immediately). Help the victim to speak out and tell the person in charge or someone in authority. Create an open environment.
- Investigate all allegations and take action to ensure the victim is safe. Speak with the victim and the bully(ies) separately.
- Reassure the victim that you can be trusted and will help them, although you cannot promise to tell no one else.
- Keep records of what is said (what happened, by whom, when).
- Report any concerns to the Club Child Protection Officer or the school (wherever the bullying is occurring).
Action towards the bully(ies):
- Talk with the bully(ies), explain the situation, and try to get the bully (ies) to understand the consequences of their behaviour. Seek an apology to the victim(s).
- Inform the bully’s parents.
- Insist on the return of ‘borrowed’ items and that the bully(ies) compensate the victim.
- Provide support for the victim’s coach.
- Impose sanctions as necessary.
- Encourage and support the bully(ies) to change behaviour.
- Hold meetings with the families to report on progress.
- Inform all organisation members of action taken.
- Keep a written record of action taken.
- Most ‘low level’ incidents will be dealt with at the time by coaches and volunteers. However, if the bullying is severe (e.g. a serious assault), or if it persists despite efforts to deal with it, incidents should be referred to the designated/Club Child Protection Officer as in “responding to suspicions or allegations” above.
Information for social services or the police about suspected abuse
To ensure that this information is as helpful as possible, a detailed record should always be made at the time of the disclosure/concern, which should include the following:
- The child’s name, age and date of birth of the child.
- The child’s home address and telephone number.
- Whether or not the person making the report is expressing their own concerns or those of someone else.
- The nature of the allegation. Include dates, times, any special factors and other relevant information.
- Make a clear distinction between what is fact, opinion or hearsay.
- A description of any visible bruising or other injuries. Also any indirect signs, such as behavioural changes.
- Details of witnesses to the incidents.
- The child’s account, if it can be given, of what has happened and how any bruising or other injuries occurred.
- Have the parents been contacted?
- If so what has been said?
- Has anyone else been consulted? If so record details.
- If the child was not the person who reported the incident, has the child been spoken to? If so what was said?
- Has anyone been alleged to be the abuser? Record details.
- Where possible referral to the police or social services should be confirmed in writing within 24 hours and the name of the contact who took the referral should be recorded.
If you are worried about sharing concerns about abuse with a senior colleague, you can contact social services or the police direct, or the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000, or Childline on 0800 1111.