All Weightlifting Wales registered clubs that provide activities and opportunities for children have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to ensure their safety and wellbeing.
Weightlifting Wales requires all registered clubs to:
It is not the role of anyone within the sport to investigate suspected or alleged abuse. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that all concerns are reported without delay, in line with Weightlifting Wales’ procedures, to Social Services and/or the Police.
Abuse and poor practice
1. Recognising Abuse
Children and young people can be abused either through someone inflicting harm, or failing to act to prevent harm. Abuse can be carried out by someone known to the child or (more rarely) by a complete stranger, and by men, women or other young people. It is not always easy to recognise abuse, especially as many of the indicators can have other reasonable explanations.
Abuse in all of its forms can affect a child at any age and its impact can be so damaging that, if not treated, it may follow the individual into adulthood. It is important that everyone understands what constitutes abuse, indicators of abuse, what to do, and where to seek advice if abuse is suspected or alleged.
Working Together to Safeguard Children under the Children Act 2004 provides the following definitions of abuse:
The persistent emotional ill treatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional and behavioural development.
Within sport examples of emotional abuse may include:
The persistent or severe neglect of a child, or the failure to protect a child from exposure to any kind of danger, including cold, starvation or extreme failure to carry out important aspects of care, resulting in the significant impairment of the child’s health or development, including non-organic failure to thrive.
Neglect in a sport may occur if the responsible adult failed to adequately look after children in their care, leading them to be placed at risk of harm for example by consistently failing to ensure the use of appropriate protective equipment or clothing suitable to adverse weather conditions.
This includes hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates or induces illness in a child whom they are looking after.
In sport an example of physical abuse could include:
Forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening, including:
In sport, activities which might involve physical contact with children could potentially create situations where sexual abuse may go unnoticed. Also the power of the coach over young athletes, if misused, may lead to sexually abusive situations developing. There have been a significant number of sexual abuse cases in sport, many of which have involved coaches, both male and female, who have manipulated the child and abused their position of trust.
2. Abuse of a Position of Trust
A relationship of trust exists where an adult, by virtue of their role, is in a position of power or influence over a young person. The Sexual Offences Act (2003) states that it is a criminal offence for a person in a position of trust defined within the scope of the Act, to engage in any sexual activity with a person over sixteen but under the age of 18 with whom they have a relationship of trust, irrespective of whether the young person has ostensibly consented to the relationship. Although the law does not currently apply to coaches and others involved in sports clubs, Weightlifting Wales considers that it is completely unacceptable for anyone to engage in sexual activity within a relationship of trust.
It must be stressed that it is always the responsibility of the adult to ensure that his or her conduct is acceptable. Appropriate boundaries in all relationships of trust must be maintained and adults must not behave in a manner that would encourage any attraction to develop. However, in the event that a young person displays signs of attraction to the adult within the relationship of trust, this must be reported to the club Welfare Officer. If appropriate, the adult may need to remove themselves from the relationship of trust.
3. Indicators of Abuse
Even for those experienced in working with child abuse, it is not always easy to recognise a situation where abuse may occur or has already taken place. Most people are not experts in such recognition, but indications that a child is being abused may include one or more of the following:
unexplained or suspicious injuries such as bruising, cuts or burns, particularly if situated on a part of the body not normally prone to such injuries;
The above list is not exhaustive and the presence of one or more of the indicators should not be accepted as proof that abuse is taking place. It is NOT the responsibility of those involved in Weightlifting Wales to decide that child abuse is occurring. However, it is everyone’s responsibility to be vigilant and act on any concerns.
Bullying may be perpetrated by another young person or group of people, or by an adult. Bullying is defined as deliberate hurtful behaviour, usually repeated over a period of time, where it is difficult for those bullied to defend themselves. Bullying can be split into the following categories:
In sport bullying may arise when a parent or coach pushes the child too hard to succeed, or a rival athlete or official uses bullying behaviour.
Signs of bullying include:
5. Poor practice
There are some behaviours or practices that would be considered poor practice and although highly unacceptable within the sport, would not be fully encapsulated by the definitions of abuse. Nevertheless, they must always be reported, addressed and action taken to prevent reoccurrence.
In some cases, there is a fine line between poor practice and abuse and it may be important to seek guidance from Social Services and/or the Police before a concern is treated as poor practice. If, following consideration by the Welfare Officer, senior officials and, if appropriate, following consultation with statutory authorities and Weightlifting Wales, a concern is deemed to be a matter of poor practice rather than abuse, a suitable course of remedial action should be agreed. Although it is often possible to resolve poor practice through guidance, mentoring and additional training, particularly where the individual is willing to accept their conduct was inappropriate, in some instances, poor practice concerns need to be managed as a disciplinary matter by invoking the appropriate policy and procedures.
Practices never to be sanctioned
The following practices are known to be significant risk factors in cases of abuse and can never to be condoned:
Taking children to your home or other secluded place unaccompanied by others.
Engaging in rough, physical or sexually provocative games. • Sharing a room with a child. • Allowing or engaging in any form of inappropriate touching.
It may sometimes be necessary for adults to do things of a personal nature for children, particularly if they are young or are disabled. This would include tasks such as removing outer layers of clothing, tying up hair etc. These tasks should only be carried out with the full understanding and (preferably written) consent of parents and the children involved. There is a need to be responsive to a person’s reactions. If a person is fully dependent on you, talk with him/her about what you are doing and give choices where possible. This is particularly so if you are involved in a task that involves physical contact. Avoid taking on the responsibility for tasks for which you are not appropriately trained.
Some children, particularly children with learning disabilities or serious physical disabilities may require some assistance with using toilet facilities. In some situations, this may lead to increased vulnerability both for the child and the person providing the care, particularly as some children with learning disabilities can find it difficult to set and maintain physical boundaries. Therefore, where a child requires this type of care, a parent/carer or someone trained in the provision of intimate care must be on hand to address these needs.
Incidents that must be reported/recorded
In the event that any of the following incidents occur, they should be reported immediately to the appropriate welfare officer, who must make a record of the incident and ensure the parents of the child are informed: