CEO Joanna Coates welcomes review findings and says there is “a lot more work to be done”

UK Athletics (UKA) is to action a series of recommendations from an independent safeguarding review, with the national governing body’s CEO Joanna Coates (pictured) acknowledging that there is “a lot more work to be done”.

UKA, together with the four home country athletics federations (HCAF) of Athletics Northern Ireland, England Athletics, Scottish Athletics and Welsh Athletics, say they welcome publication of the ‘Independent Review of UK Athletics Safeguarding – Executive Summary and Recommendations’, which can be downloaded and viewed here.

The review states that UKA “should enhance its safeguarding function in the sport”, with Christopher Quinlan QC, who conducted the review, adding that a recurring theme during his consultations “was a lack of precision in respect of the safeguarding lines of responsibility”.

Quinlan made a total of 29 recommendations, with six of those deemed “core”. They include creating “one single universally applicable safeguarding policy for athletics in the UK for children and another for adults at risk in athletics in the UK”, with UKA taking operational responsibility for safeguarding in the sport of athletics in the UK.

It adds that UKA and each HCAF should have “dedicated safeguarding links” prominent on their website homepage, together with “clear statements of key principles of safeguarding and readily accessible resources”.

With regards training, it states that UKA, England Athletics, Athletics Northern Ireland and Welsh Athletics “should, like Scottish Athletics, make mandatory a form of face-to-face safeguarding training (including virtually)” which is refreshed at least once every three years, for people such as coaches, club welfare officers and volunteers who work directly with children and/or adults at risk.

Another recommendation is that criminal records checks should be required and carried out every three years for all club welfare officers/designated officers, persons who wish to be licensed and/or those coaching or having close and regular supervision of children.

“To enhance its CRC process, UKA should deny a licence to any person to coach, or to officiate in the presence of, children or adults at risk who refuses, if asked, to disclose their criminal records check certificate,” the review adds.

Quinlan said 17 safeguarding cases from the past 18 months were reviewed and he added: “Auditing those cases demonstrated the need for improvement in the process and the desirability of wider ‘sanctioning’ powers. I was struck by the small number of cases overall and how few there were relating to unlicensed persons.”

The review, which was commissioned by UKA in collaboration with the HCAF, was first announced in December 2019 and launched in March this year.

UKA says timelines for delivery specific to volunteer-organised clubs have been set for an initial 12 months to implement, but will be reviewed, and clubs consulted, at regular intervals.

“I welcome the findings of the safeguarding review which clearly lay out what is required of UK Athletics and the home country athletics federations through the comprehensive set of recommendations,” said Coates, who stepped into the chief executive position in March.

Zara Hyde Peters had been announced as CEO in August but did not take up the role following allegations made about her husband.

“Whilst the report recognised the commitment of all organisations to creating a safe environment, ultimately the number of recommendations demonstrates that there is a lot more work to be done, it’s not enough to be ok or good – we need to strive to be excellent in this area to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable people,” added Coates.

“Working in collaboration with the other CEOs the action plan being developed will enable us to adopt the recommendations as well as ensuring a transparency of reporting every quarter so that progress can be fully monitored across the sport.

“The first steps are under way and we will soon be recruiting the independent expertise needed to enhance the new structure and process for case management. I look forward to making the changes needed and I am fully committed to ensuring we have the very best people delivering in this area.”

Click here to download and view the executive summary document.

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