27th September 2021

Safeguarding Update

As a follow up to our last month’s update confirming full implementation of the recommendations of the Quinlan review and following discussion with Charlie Webster on the back of the release of the ‘Nowhere to Run’ documentary, it is important we continue to provide an update to the sport. Whilst significant progress has been made over the last year, we are very much aware that there is yet a lot to do.

I am also particularly grateful to Charlie for the bravery shown by herself and her former training partners in bringing these horrific experiences to the public consciousness over the past week. The documentary raised a number of major issues for our sport (and others) and it is crucial we face them head on to make sure athletics is the safest sport it can possibly can be.

Whilst a number of past failings in the system were identified in the film, it is important we continue to build on the positive work that has been carried out recently, and even more important is the fact that we communicate the progress that is taking place.

There has been a lot of progress over the last few months, including:

  • A completely new Safeguarding Team, having recruited two new safeguarding officers earlier this year we have further added a third employed position to that head count in the last month. We now have more than 60 hours per week of case management and investigation support.
    We have now provided additional support for those reporting complaints as well as anyone involved within a case. This can vary from the structured type of input e.g. counselling and psychological support, to an increase in the ‘softer’ support for example, more updates and regular communication from the team.
  • We have agreed a three-tier support and education plan for roles across the sport that we have been developing along with support from CPSU/ NSPCC that we will roll out early 2022. This includes raising general awareness of safeguarding issues and good practice amongst everyone, to roles that require specific knowledge such as unsupervised roles, and a third that is more strategic around processes and systems, for example safeguarding and welfare in relation to club officers and leaders.
  • Using the incredibly valuable feedback from some victims involved in previous cases we will work with advisors to develop an awareness programme for athletes and parents that identifies good practice, poor practice and what signs to look out for. This advice is particularly pertinent given the evidence and examples we saw provided within the recent documentary.
  • We continue to support the Home Country Athletics Federations in their support and compliance work with their member clubs that is now a mandatory requirement for annual affiliation.
  • As previously announced, the UK Athletics Board has committed both within a policy and case decision-making context, to adopt a zero-tolerance approach where our approach is to investigate and prosecute and ask for the maximum ban available where the case merits it. This includes lifetime bans for anyone found guilty of sexual, physical assault or psychological offences.
  • Finally, we have written and recently met with Government officials requesting that all controlling abuse (sexual, physical or psychological) becomes an offence by law, whether on children or adults.

Having discussed the documentary with Charlie Webster which included various points and ideas of how we continue to improve our systems, we are also creating an external safeguarding advisory panel to provide support, guidance, check and challenge to our work. There is a lot of expertise within the sport in this area so we will soon be requesting individuals to apply to be part of this panel.

I am also aware there has been a lot of discussion and debate online over the weekend on historical cases and case handling. If anyone would like to report or discuss any concerns, we urge them to come forward and contact safeguarding@uka.org.uk . You will be listened to, and you will be taken seriously, and supported.

We would also remind clubs and those within the sport that we have a completely new safeguarding team and contacts and details should be updated and linked to the new UKA safeguarding pages ( https://www.uka.org.uk/governance/safeguarding_2021/ ) . We are also in the process of recruiting a Head of a Safeguarding position. We will communicate that appointment following the completion of the recruitment process.

Lastly, if anyone wishes to discuss anything please do not hesitate to contact me on 07557433856 or at mmunro@britishathletics.org.uk. Alternatively, any concerns or complaints can be reported to safeguarding@uka.org.uk or reported via the MyConcern portal at https://www.uka.org.uk/submit-a-concern/

Mark Munro

UKA Development Director