Scottish youth football coach checks must be robust, says review

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Image caption,
Previously, coaches could receive "provisional membership" while checks were being carried out

An independent review looking at background checks on youth football coaches in Scotland has called for "robust" monitoring to be put in place.

Children 1st began its review in April after the Scottish Football Association (SFA) was accused of being "asleep on the job" over protecting children.

BBC Scotland had earlier found that 2,500 youth football coaches did not have full background checks.

The review said no adult should work with children until PVG checked.

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The PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups) checks are carried out by Disclosure Scotland which searches databases, including criminal records, and makes sure an individual is not barred from working with children.

Previously, the SYFA allowed coaches to be granted "provisional membership" while checks were being carried out, but it announced in September that this would be axed from April next year.

There are more than 15,000 volunteers involved in delivering football to 60,000 children and young people in the 3,300 clubs affiliated to the Scottish Youth Football Association (SYFA).

Children 1st said that until recently there was little evidence of co-operation between the SYFA and Scottish football's governing body, the SFA.

It said there was "a lack of transparency" in the SYFA on safeguarding provision and "a lack of sufficient challenge by the Scottish FA".

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After a string of historical child sex abuse cases in youth football came to light at the end of last year, BBC Scotland revealed that thousands of coaches were working in youth football in Scotland without full background checks.

It emerged that of the 15,385 coaches registered with the SYFA, 2,500 did not have Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) clearance.

In April, Holyrood's health and sport committee also accused the SFA of being "asleep on the job" over the issue.

The committee said there was a "compelling case" for the current voluntary PVG scheme to be made mandatory for all sports organisations in Scotland.

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Image caption,
Hundreds of youth football coaches were suspended for not undergoing background checks

Children 1st's Safeguarding in Sport service was commissioned by the SFA to carry out the review of the SYFA's appointment and selection practice.

It made 13 recommendations, including:

  • A robust process to monitor and evaluate all safeguarding procedures of all affiliated associations, setting out the consequences for non-compliance.
  • SYFA to include a board member whose remit includes safeguarding children
  • All SYFA board members to participate in a basic child wellbeing and protection awareness-raising session
  • The appointment of a Child Wellbeing and Protection Officer to provide an operational lead on safeguarding in the SYFA
  • A detailed review of the structure and purpose of the SYFA Protection Panel, to ensure it is sufficiently resourced to support the 3,000 clubs in youth football
  • SYFA end the practice of Provisional Membership, ensuring that no adult is appointed into regulated work with children until they have been confirmed as a PVG scheme member
  • Individuals are required to complete a PVG Scheme Update once every three years

All the recommendations were accepted by the Scottish FA and the SYFA.

They said an implementation plan had been developed for each recommendation.

Children 1st said the SFA had already been implementing some of the recommendations and the remainder would be completed in the first half of 2018.

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