31st July 2020

UKA must ‘take ownership’ of safeguarding

An Independent Review into safeguarding in UK athletics has recommended that UK Athletics (UKA) should take ownership of safeguarding through a single policy for UK athletics, rather than the current approach involving different policies in each of the four home countries. An Executive Summary of the Review (PDF below) outlines that it makes a total of 35 recommendations, six of which are considered ‘Core Recommendations’. They are:

• A single Safeguarding Policy for athletics in the UK;
• A review of the UKA Child Safeguarding policy in line with the Review’s recommendations;
• A similar review of the Adults at Risk Safeguarding Policy;
• UKA to take operational responsibility for safeguarding;
• That responsibility to include a safeguarding procedure based on risk assessment, a bespoke case management system, and safeguarding investigations;
• UKA should establish a case management group, an independent panel of safeguarding experts, and an independent appeal panel.

The Review was commissioned by UKA in December 2019, after media reports suggested that the body was in danger of putting children at risk because of poor practice. Zara Hyde-Peters was prevented from taking a role as CEO of UKA later that month, following reports that her husband, Mike Peters, was allowed to continue coaching at Coventry Godiva Harriers despite being banned from teaching due to an ‘inappropriate relationship’ with a 15 year old.

The Terms of Reference (PDF below) for the Independent Review outline that its purpose was never intended to be critical of safeguarding policies in UK athletics. The purpose is to ‘provide assurance to UKS [UK Sport], SE [Sport England] and other stakeholders that safeguarding is managed effectively at UKA and the HCAFs [Home Country Athletics Federations]’. It outlines that this will be done by ‘reviewing the existing welfare and safeguarding governance structure for the sport of athletics in the UK’, and ‘analysing and reviewing current safeguarding policies and processes at UKA and the HCAFs’ before ‘providing recommendations to improve safeguarding governance and practice at UKA and the HCAFs’.

Despite this aim, the Review found that there is a ‘lack of precision in respect of the safeguarding lines of responsibility’ within UK athletics. It also found that there is ‘scope for improvement in the drafting, scope and operation of some of these policies and procedures’. 

This is despite UKA clarifying that an in-depth analysis of those policies and procedures was not necessary. ‘The Commissioning Body’s view was that a line-by-line analysis of the policies and procedures was neither necessary or appropriate’, reads Footnote 1 of the Review. ‘In light of my core recommendations, that proved wise’. 

Sir Christopher Quinlan QC, who conducted the Independent Review, asked UKA, England Athletics (EA), Athletics Northern Ireland (ANI), Scottish Athletics (SA), and Welsh Athletics (WA) for details of all safeguarding cases in the last 18 months. He selected 11 managed by UKA, three managed by EA, two managed by ANI, two managed by SA, and two managed by WA.

‘My task was not to re-investigate them nor was it to make any findings of fact, adjudicate or pronounce upon the decisions made’, reads the Review. ‘Auditing those cases demonstrated the need for improvement in the processes and the desirability of wider ‘sanctioning’ powers’.

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