Sports Coaches (Positions of Trust)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 4th March 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Tracey Crouch Tracey Crouch Conservative, Chatham and Aylesford 11:00 am, 4th March 2020

As somebody who coached in football for a very long time, I understand where the hon. Lady is coming from. I completely agree that the relationships that coaches build with the people in their care as they develop in their sports journey are incredibly important. I vividly remember an email that I received from somebody after the abuse stories came to light. They were also a teacher, but they had not realised that the positions of trust legislation, under which they operated every day in their professional life as a teacher, did not extend to times when they independently stood at the side of a football pitch as a coach.

Our colleague, Sarah Champion, has done some excellent work on this matter. The report from the all-party parliamentary group on safeguarding in faith settings should be required reading for anyone who cares about the issue.

We should perhaps reflect briefly on why we have that particular section of legislation in the 2003 Act. People who work in schools, as carers or as youth workers, will have gone through the required disclosure and barring service checks. Although some might fall through the cracks, ultimately, people who pose a known risk to children or vulnerable adults will not, if the system works properly, be allowed to work in that sector. The legislation adds an extra layer of safeguarding to prevent those in positions of trust from forming relationships with children who, although they are over the age of consent, are not considered legal adults and could be abused given the nature of the power balance.

I have spent a significant amount of my life coaching, so I can tell the Minister that I concur with sports and the NSPCC that in sport especially, but not exclusively, the elite pathway is a vulnerable area. In my view, the Ministry of Justice should have acted positively and straightaway to close as soon as possible the loophole in the 2003 Act.