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SAFEGUARDING: It's something we take very seriously

DSO Scott Taylor on creating a safe environment

23 November 2021

With the club lending its support to the FA Play Safe campaign this week, we spoke to our Designated Safeguarding Officer [DSO] Scott Taylor about the importance of the campaign, and of the equally important need for everyone connected with the game to have a full understanding of safeguarding roles and responsibilities, as the welfare of our players and of those who work with us remain at the top of the agenda.

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The Play Safe awareness initiative is being run in partnership with the NSPCC and has the full backing of the Premier League, EFL, Barclays FA Women’s Super League and the FA Women’s Championship, as well as at grassroots level here in Cumbria, and across the country.

Speaking about the campaign, Scott told us: “It’s an opportunity for the club to add its voice to the national call to action about raising awareness of safeguarding responsibilities.

“I’m pleased to be able to say that Carlisle United has safeguarding high on its agenda – it’s something we take very seriously.

“Clubs across all levels are involved and it’s a chance for us to use a national message to remind supporters, players, coaches, parents, guardians and everyone involved in the game that the safety of our players is paramount.”

Some very high-profile cases have come to the fore in recent years and the 700-page report issued by Clive Sheldon QC, who led the inquiry into what were extremely serious allegations of historical abuse suffered by young players, removed any doubts that a need for review and action was immediate.

“As difficult as it was for the players to come forward and share the horrible experiences they had, I think we’ve seen things have changed for the better, in my opinion, because they decided to end their silence,” Scott told us. “It was an extremely brave thing for them to do, and people have taken notice.

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“This subject and area is now being taken very seriously, not just in football but across sport and anywhere where working with young people is part of the daily business.

“We were very fortunate to have Paul Stewart here with us recently and he spoke to our scholars about safeguarding, and about the traumatic experiences he had which affected his whole life.

“Paul has been championing safeguarding from before the Sheldon report was published, along with David White and others who have come forward, and when you hear those stories it really its home at how important it is not to allow that kind of thing to happen again.”

One of the key awareness messages being highlighted this week is the simple but important question – as a young player, or as a parent or guardian, do you know if your child’s coach has an in-date DBS check?

“Coming from a teaching background I’m very aware of the safeguarding element of looking after young people, and DBS checks are the mandatory and minimum check we have now for our coaches and for anyone who may come into contact with any of our young players,” Scott confirmed.

“All of our coaches go through a DBS check, which is a national level check of CRC and police records, and we share safeguarding good practice across the FA, EFL and locally.

“There is mandatory FA safeguarding training that our coaches have to go through, and that’s regularly refreshed over a three-year programme. We see it as extremely important that all of our staff understand their responsibilities, and that our young players understand what they can do if they feel something isn’t quite right.

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“We can never be complacent and the high-profile cases we’ve talked about have really brought things to the fore in terms of that. That’s why the FA, EFL and other authorities are putting such an emphasis on this area.

“It can’t be allowed to happen again. What we need to acknowledge is that a lot of these cases happen when young people are with someone they know, and perhaps even trust.

“That barrier of trust is broken when something like this happens and it can be very hard for a young person to deal with that, particularly if there is nothing in place that allows them to even take the first step of getting or looking for help.

“The Paul Stewart case was one where a boy as young as 10 was influenced by a coach who infiltrated the family, showered them with gifts, and really manipulated the situation.

“For a young player in that situation, as he was, their dream is to be a footballer, and that’s another tool which can be used to manipulate and keep them quiet when these horrible things are happening.

“The infrastructure, procedures and tools are now in place to help young players to recognise the dangers and to get the help that people like Paul didn’t have access to.”

“Players now know who to turn to, how to report things and how to flag things up so that people will listen and act,” he continued. “Poor practice often leads to opportunities for predators, and the checks and balances we have in place reduce the risk of poor practice even existing.

“There’s always work to do, but we’re on top of things and we’re looking to ensure that our procedures and policies are there for everyone to see.

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“They’re updated regularly, they’re visible on our website, we have regular safeguarding action group meetings to ensure that we’re up to date and current, and that all action points we pick up are completed.

“We have a very good handle on all matters relating to safeguarding but we will never ever be complacent. We want our young players to know that this is a safe environment, and we can only do that by being thorough and vigilant.”

Having taken over as DSO at the beginning of August, he explained more about the work being done by the club at all levels when it comes to looking after our young players.

“I’m still fairly new into it, and I was very fortunate to find that Dave Wilkes had already put a lot of things in place,” he said. “He’d worked closely with Nigel Clibbens, who is the senior safeguarding lead at the club, and they already had many of the procedures up and running smoothly.

“What I’m bringing to the table is more of a focus on making sure we’re up to date with our safeguarding education and training, with both the staff and our young players, and we hold regular meetings to ensure that we are completely up to date with all of the ever-changing requirements, be that from the Barnardo report or from new guidelines issued by the relevant authorities.

“We have an extensive self-evaluation report, regarding our own procedures, and I’ve also launched a case management tool – a reporting system – that allows our academy players to report any concerns they may have.

“That’s an app called Tootoot, which is something the club has invested in, and it means our academy players and coaches can report things that they feel might be of interest to me, as their safeguarding officer.

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“Without going into specific detail it covers things like parents shouting at games, occasional swearing, and things like that, as well as more serious concerns, like bullying.

“Once the report has come via the app I can then look into it and have a much more informed view than it being word of mouth or perhaps even gossip. With a system like this we can trace, track and log issues and follow them through to their conclusion.”

“I’m also very fortunate to have a close link with the Cumberland FA,” he added. “I think that’s really important.

“I’ve been a referee for a while now [20 years] and I work closely with the referees at Frenchfields on a Sunday morning, with the academy games we have there, and I’m a referee development officer with the Cumberland FA as well.

“I’m heavily involved with providing DBS checks and safeguarding education for my referees, so that has given me a strong safeguarding background.

“I have close links with the Cumberland FA DSO Mel Sandwith, and she’s very supportive of the work I’m doing here in my new role.

“It’s good that we’re able to work closely on this and in a number of other areas, because it’s all about finding and implementing best practice for all of us.”

Click HERE to visit the Safeguarding section of the club website.

Anyone who has any safeguarding concerns, however minor, can contact club DSO Scott Taylor on scott.taylor@carlisleunited.co.uk or by using the Tootoot app (if you have a player login lined to the club account).


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