Safe to Play campaign launches to help children stay safe in sport this summer
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Bedfordshire sports stars and clubs have teamed up with local agencies responsible for children’s safety to ensure parents and carers are asking the right questions about safeguarding in sport during the summer holidays.
Sport England have partnered with national charity the NWG Network and the Lawn Tennis Association to develop a new safeguarding in sport campaign, using videos to help deliver key messages to parents, sports coaches and children about how to keep safe in sport.
Now different agencies across Bedfordshire have come together to launch the campaign for the summer holidays, when thousands of children across the county will be taking part in sports activities.
The campaign has been endorsed by former British sprinter and hurdler Kriss Akabusi, who now lives in the county.
“I will be forever grateful for what sport has given me. I have enjoyed countless fantastic professional and personal memories, competed all around the world and been shaped into the man I am today,” he said.
“I want our young people in Bedfordshire to enjoy the same experiences and successes.
“But this should only be done in a safe environment. The vast majority of sports and holiday activities here in Bedfordshire have superb safeguarding procedures in place and will do everything they can to keep children safe.
“Sadly though, we know there have been occasions where sports clubs and coaches have not maintained these standards.
“Parents should have a healthy curiosity about what their children are up to this summer. Take an interest, ask the right questions, and know where to turn if you need help.
“I am a huge fan of what the likes of the police and the VERU are doing to keep our young people safe so please, reach out to them for help if you have concerns.”
Local sports clubs supporting the campaign include Luton Town Football Club, Ampthill and District Community Rugby Club, Boxing Saves Lives and the Bedfordshire Football Association, as well as sports centres across the county managed by Active Luton, Fusion Lifestyle and SLL.
All these will be giving out cards advertising the Safe to Play campaign over the summer, as well as other materials advertising the local services available to keep children safe.
Kim Pearce, Senior Safeguarding Manager at Luton Town Football Club, said: “Children should be safe to enjoy sport over the summer holidays and all year around.
“We take our responsibilities incredibly seriously when it comes to keeping children safe in our care, as do a whole host of other sports clubs and activity providers for young people across Bedfordshire.
“Parents and carers shouldn’t be afraid to ask these questions. The Football Association encourages all clubs to share the measures they have in place to keep your child safe, and Luton Town will endeavour to keep every single child and young person it works with safe this summer.”
Keith Garwood, Safeguarding Officer at Ampthill & District Community Rugby Club, said: “Ampthill Rugby Club have always taken the health and wellbeing of every under 18 very seriously.
“Mitigations are in place to ensure that when the young people are on our property and in our care they are properly safeguarded and enjoy the experience of playing the best game in the world.”
JP Smith, from Boxing Saves Lives, said: “We are so proud to be working alongside the VERU to keep our young people safe this summer.
“We have seen countless times the powerful impact that boxing can have on young people’s lives to give them purpose, self-esteem and positive goals to aim for.
“Safe to Play is a really useful campaign for us all to make sure our children are safe when playing sport this summer. We will always work with any and all agencies who want to improve things for young people in Bedfordshire.”
Kevin Murphy, Safeguarding in Sport Lead at the NWG Exploitation Response Unit, said: “We want parents to be more aware of the need to check exactly who they are leaving their children with.
“Treat these clubs in the same way you would when researching your child’s school. You do all the research before you decide which school to send your child to and that’s what we want parents to do with these clubs.
“We know there are many clubs out there doing great work around safeguarding, and we want to see more of that. This is about encouraging a dialogue between clubs and parents.
“We want safeguarding to be embedded as the number one priority of all sports clubs, above performance and results. The children’s wellbeing needs to be at the forefront of everything they do.”
The Safe to Play and other marketing materials will be stocked at leisure centres across Bedford, Central Bedfordshire and Luton, with the support of the county’s three local authorities.
Training and other awareness events for parents, coaches and other staff working in the sports sector are also due to be rolled out over the coming weeks as part of the campaign.
It is one of several different initiatives by local agencies this summer to utilise the power of sport to keep children safe.
In a joint statement, the independent chairs of the Bedford Borough and Luton Safeguarding Children Boards, as well as Alan Caton, Independent Chair of the Safeguarding Board Partnership in Central Bedfordshire, said: “We want our children and young people to enjoy sports and activities, be fit and healthy, but above all, we all have a duty to make sure the environments they train and play in are safe.
“The Safe to Play campaign has resources that give parents and carers more confidence to ask the right questions before allowing their children to sign up to activities and challenge anything which may not seem right.
“We are encouraging parents, carers, coaches and club organisers to get involved, share with friends, family and colleagues to help make sure Bedfordshire is safe to play in.”
Lisa Robinson, the exploitation lead for the Bedfordshire VERU, said: "We all have a responsibility to protect children in the county from violence and exploitation.
"It is fantastic that so many young people will be out and about playing sport with their friends over the summer.
"We want every child in Bedfordshire to enjoy sport. Parents and carers can help them do that by just checking that any club they are involved with has the right safeguarding policies in place."