Scottish sports fall short in background checks for coaching children

Children being coached
There are a number of coaches without PVG checks working with children in Scotland

Almost a third of sports in Scotland could have active coaches working with children without full background checks, BBC Scotland has learned.

Of 45 governing bodies responding, 14 said they may have unchecked coaches.

Swimming had 170 out of 915 coaches working with children who have not been checked as part of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme.

Overall, there were 1,882 unchecked coaches out of 31,175 according to figures provided by Sportscotland.

MSP Liz Smith, the Conservative spokesperson for young people, is concerned by the statistics coming from the government agency that runs sport.

"I am sure it will be a concern for parents across Scotland," she said.

"Not only do we need a comprehensive system of disclosure checks - that's absolutely essential - but I think we need a consistency.

"And what's come through in these figures is that that consistency is not yet there. So that's a major concern."

Organisation Active qualified coaches Number coaching children Number PVG checked
Badminton Scotland165 165119
Basketball Scotland656247213
Boxing Scotland305305305
Scottish Canoe Association782573469
Scottish Fencing555530
Scottish Youth Football Association1560314305
Scottish Golf158315831583
Scottish Gymnastics115011501150
Scottish Hockey1127352352
Scottish Rowing948469
Scottish Rugby26572479
Scottish Swimming915745
Scottish Athletics300425032503
Scottish Tennis343343343

The statistics for PVG checks follow a series of allegations of historical child abuse that have been made about British football in recent months.

The BBC has uncovered examples of abuse, such as that experienced by Peter Haynes, who said that he was abused for years by youth coach Hugh Stevenson, who was also an international match official.

It led to the Scottish Football Association launching an independent inquiry in December.

Responding to the BBC's findings about PVG checks, John Lunn, Sportscotland's head of child protection, said: "There can be gaps where you have maybe new coaches coming into the system, so PVG checks are in the system and in process.

"We also have coaches who no longer work with children and shouldn't be disclosed because they are not active in those environments any more.

"So this is a changing landscape all the time.

"Ultimately, I would urge parents to go and talk to the child protection officer in clubs, because they are the ones that have the legislative duty to ensure the checks are carried out and are in place and, rightly, that would be the first point of contact for anybody that has any concerns."

What are PVGs
The Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) membership scheme is managed by Disclosure Scotland. It helps makes sure people whose behaviour makes them unsuitable to work with children and/or protected adults, cannot do 'regulated work' with these vulnerable groups.When someone applies to join the scheme, Disclosure Scotland carries out criminal record checks and shares the results with individuals and organisations.The application process involves gathering criminal record and other relevant information, which is always shared with the employer.

Sports organisations gave a number of reasons for coaches not being checked at the time of the survey.

Some coaches are self-employed, others are involved with school clubs where the local authority was responsible for checks, some were in the process of becoming qualified, while some were doing unregulated work that did not require a check.

The SFA, which has 1,298 unregistered coaches, said: "The Scottish Youth Football Association is working on processing the remaining 1,298."

Scottish Swimming has 170 unchecked coaches and said that these are "new/in process members and our policy is that these people will be in supportive and supervised roles assisting and supporting a coach who has been PVG checked".

Scottish Rugby, which has 178 unchecked coaches, said: "It is the responsibility of member clubs to conduct PVG checks for coaches undertaking regulated work with their clubs.

"Scottish Rugby is gathering data from members clubs so that an accurate picture can be provided across the sport in Scotland as a whole but do not believe there is an issue here as coaches doing regulated work with children are PVG checked by their member clubs, or - in the case of new coaches - will be in the process of being checked."