Lisburn man urges parents to help keep their children safe from harm

At the beginning of the new school term, Lisburn man Paul Stephenson is looking forward to getting back to his beloved sporting pursuits as well as supporting his children in all their activities.

Paul Stephenson, NSPCC

However, sport is far from just a hobby for the 54-year-old father of three as he’s been working for 20 years at NSPCC Northern Ireland in the Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU).

This Unit is designed to assist sporting organisations to develop safeguarding policies and procedures, as well as creating a safe environment for all participants, staff and volunteers.

The charity is currently launching Parents in Sport Week (October 4-10, 2021) and one of the main aims for this year’s campaign is to give parents the tools they need to understand their role in safeguarding in sport and how to keep their child safe.

To achieve this aim, there is a range of new resources, one of which is a short, free piece of eLearning for parents with children in sport. The course aims to give parents a better understanding of what poor practice or abuse might look like in sport and who they can turn to for help if they have any worries.

Paul said: “Everyone in my CPSU team at NSPCC understands the impact of the pandemic on children’s health and wellbeing and, as a sports fan and a parent of children who take part in sport club’s and physical activities, it is great they can once more get involved in the activities they love with their friends.

“We know parents play a vital role in youth sport. In fact, without their support and involvement in everything from washing the kit to ferrying the children about, it’s likely that youth sport would cease to exist. We also know that without parents being involved, children are less likely to achieve and sustain a lifelong interest in sport and adopt a healthy lifestyle.

“One area that can sometimes be overlooked is making sure the activity is safe, and that’s concerning. It’s not uncommon for parents with children at sports clubs to say they have never received any safeguarding information and many say they don’t actively seek it out either. Without the right information about what is acceptable and what is not ok within a sport many parents are less able to recognise poor practice or report risky behaviour within a sports setting, something which we now know is vital in preventing abuse.”

“Parents in Sport Week is important because it encourages parents to make sure they are positively influencing their child’s involvement and wellbeing. With this in mind, we’ve put together some resources to help parents, including our new Parents’ Hub, which has been created to sign-post parents to lots of advice they need to help keep their child safe in sport, from choosing safe clubs and activities, to supporting children in a positive way. There’s also helpful advice for sports clubs and coaches on engaging with parents.”

Paul concluded; “I appreciate that parents may have many other questions or concerns and I would advise them to contact NSPCC’s helpline which is staffed by trained professionals who can provide expert advice and support. The helpline can help if you’re concerned about a child or if you’re a parent just looking for general advice.

“If you’re worried about something that’s taken place in your child’s club but don’t feel comfortable talking to a welfare officer, or a member of staff, the helpline can also advise and support you. In cases where further help is needed to keep a child safe, the helpline can alert the right people and agencies for you. The service is free and you don’t have to say who you are.”

Parents in Sport week is running from October 4-10, 2021. This year, the charity wants to empower parents with the confidence, knowledge and tools they need to identify and report concerns in their children’s sports.

The CPSU will be providing information and resources to parents via the parents’ hub on their website, which will advise parents on who to turn to for help.

Anyone who needs advice or has any concerns about a sporting club can also contact the charity’s helpline on 0808 800 5000 or email [email protected]