BF continues a series of articles based on the full 2019-20 Annual Report with a look at safeguarding and how we are committed to creating a safe and positive space to participate in our sport.
British Fencing is committed to safeguarding the welfare of children and adults at risk in the sport of fencing across the UK. Creating a safe and positive place to participate in our sport is our greatest responsibility and this commitment sits at the heart of everything that we do.
All sports clubs and sports events should have trained welfare support in place and all BF affiliated clubs must have a welfare officer in place unless they already exist within a formal safeguarding structure (eg a school club exclusively for pupils of that school will have a school Designated Safeguarding Lead). Affiliated clubs that find themselves without a welfare officer must be proactively working with their regional or national welfare officer to ensure there is a suitable welfare structure in place whilst identification and training of a club welfare officer takes place. All BF licensed events must have a welfare officer in place and this is the first point of contact for anyone with welfare concerns at an event.
We must all do more to ensure we have a culture where welfare provision is as much a part of an affiliated club as coaching. Parents and guardians play an important role in checking that fencing clubs have registered coaches and welfare officers.
To support the welfare structure, 10 safeguarding courses were delivered on a needs-led basis with almost 150 participants attending over the 2019-20 period. These supplement external courses delivered by bodies such as UK Coaching. Continued advice and support were provided to those operating at regional and home nation level to help them in turn support local club welfare officers. In response to the lockdown in March, BF moved quickly to provide opportunities for welfare officer training to continue (through online modules and live classes held on Zoom) and this will likely be a continued focus area for 2020-21.
During 2019-20, BF participated in a Sport England funded safeguarding project, along with several other National Governing Bodies (NGBs) including Badminton England and Table Tennis England. As part of the project, BF piloted a system and a process which allows NGBs to manage and record safeguarding cases in a consistent manner with expert support from Sport Resolution. The benefits of participating in this pilot included:
An additional outcome is that anonymised data can be exported from all sports involved to provide government and funding bodies with a comprehensive view of safeguarding cases across sport.
Clubs and members have access through the BF website to a growing set of resources around safeguarding and welfare. Early in 2020 as part of our commitment to keep the conversation around wellbeing alive and accessible we launched an ‘Are you OK?’ webpage, which received a seven fold increase in unique page views (515) in the month following lockdown.
Total numbers of welfare incidents (either reported directly to BF or escalated through the club/regional /home nation structure) remain steady in number.
Most of our cases continue to fall into the poor practice category and are dealt with through training and education.
There has been a fall in the reported number of incidents of poor behaviour in competitive environments (eg aggressive supporting/coaching) and we hope that this continues once competitive fencing resumes. BF published a number of articles and resources on the BF website covering the expectations that we have on those (coaches and parents) supporting young people at events.
The number of incidents involving members of the fencing community that are handled by Statutory Authorities remain steady. We are guided in our response by the authorities, and our initial priorities are typically to take appropriate steps to protect our community, supporting any members (individuals or clubs) affected, whilst investigations take place.
The full 2019-20 Annual Report along with the accompanying accounts can be found here.
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