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UK Coaching Team
Safety and Welfare

How and Why Coaches Should Safeguard Adults in Sport and Physical Activity

In this recording of a Time2Learn session, Emma Gibson of the Ann Craft Trust explores the importance of safeguarding when working with adults

Safeguarding adults isn’t the same as safeguarding children: a different approach is required. It’s crucial that you have the knowledge required to safeguard adults effectively.

This session explores:

  • the principles of safeguarding in sport and physical activity
  • the similarities and differences between safeguarding adults and children
  • increased vulnerabilities and barriers to reporting 
  • safeguarding in your coaching.

The most important element in sport is the people involved, whether they are taking part, volunteering, coaching or paid employees. The success of sport, in terms of helping people achieve their potential, making the most of existing talent, and attracting new people to sport relies on putting people – their safety, well-being and welfare at the centre of what sport does."

Tanni Grey Thompson, Duty of Care Report 2017


What does adult safeguarding mean to you?


Principles of safeguarding in sport and physical activity

  • Everyone has the right to enjoy sport and physical activity, free from all forms of abuse and exploitation.
  • All participants have equal rights to protection from harm.
  • All participants should be encouraged to fulfil their potential and inequalities should be challenged. 
  • Everybody has a responsibility to support the care and protection of all participants.
  • Organisations have a duty of care to everyone taking part in sport and physical activity.

Safeguarding is everyone’s business!

What is safeguarding?

At [06:58] in the recording, Emma explains what safeguarding involves.

Safeguarding includes taking steps to promote an individual’s general well-being by addressing:

  • abuse and serious harm (prevention and responding to incidents)
  • wider welfare issues and concerns
  • poor practice and lower-level concerns.

Who requires safeguarding?

At [10:57] in the recording, Emma discusses the importance of the need to safeguard all adults.

All adults have the right to live in safety and be protected from abuse and harm. Any adult could find themselves in circumstances where they are at increased risk of harm at any point in time, although we need to be aware that some adults may be at increased risk because they have care and support needs and are unable to protect themselves.

Our guide, Safeguarding Adults: Your Questions Answered, provides the different legal definitions of adults at risk across each Home Nation.

Safeguarding adults and children

At [13:47] in the recording, Emma explores the similarities and differences between safeguarding adults and children.

Similarities Key Differences
  • Abuse is usually more common from someone they know (including professionals).
  • There is often more than one type of abuse taking place.
  • There is often a power imbalance between the abused and the abuser.
  • The abuser often takes time to groom the person they are abusing.
  • Everyone has the right to enjoy participating safely in sport and physical activity.
  • There is a legal requirement to have safeguarding children and adult arrangements.
  • Safeguard and promote welfare: focus on protection from harm.
  • Duty to report.
  • Consideration of the views and wishes of the person at risk.
  • Inter-agency cooperation and information sharing.
  • Designated officer for safeguarding.
  • There is different legislation and guidance for safeguarding adults and for safeguarding children.
  • Children and adults face different types of abuse.
  • Adults have the right to self-determination: the ability to make their own decisions (unless it is proven they cannot).
  • Information sharing and referral-consent should be sought from adults, and they should be part of the conversation about what they want to happen.
  • Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) enhanced check requirements differ slightly.
  • There are no Local Authority Designated Officers (LADO) for adults.



What might increase a person’s vulnerability to abuse or neglect in sport and physical activity?


Barriers to reporting concerns

At [22:00] in the recording, Emma explores some of the barriers to reporting concerns from a personal and organisational perspective.

What stops adults from reporting they are being or have been abused? What stops people or organisations from acting on concerns about possible abuse?
  • Feeling they won't be listened to or believed.
  • Previous experience of reporting.
  • Fear of repurcussions.
  • Effect it might have on others.
  • Threats from the perpetrator.
  • Concerns of escalation of harm.
  • Not being aware of wrongdoing.
  • Not sure of the process.
  • Fear of being wrong.
  • Personal beliefs.
  • Lack of time/too busy/too much paperwork.
  • Prioritising reputation over reporting.
  • Not having all the information.
  • Not sure of the process.
  • Thinking it is someone else's reponsibility.

Where to go for further advice and information

  • Your National Governing Body (NGB) Safeguarding Officer or Lead.
  • Active Partnerships.
  • Local Safeguarding Adults Team (Adult Social Care or Local Authority).
  • Voluntary and Community Groups.
  • Community Police Teams or Safety Partnerships.
  • UK Coaching.
  • The Ann Craft Trust.


Everyone has a right to be treated with respect and dignity. Everyone deserves to be safe.

Top Tips

  1. Listen to and involve people.
  2. Inclusion in its widest sense.
  3. Know where to report.
  4. Know your National Governing Body’s (NGB) or sports organisation guidelines.
  5. Don't make assumptions – ask!

Safeguarding Adults eLearning

Learn how you can support and promote the welfare of adults


Duty to Care Hub and Digital Badge

Learn about the importance of Duty to Care and earn our free Digital Badge


Related Resources

  • A Guide to Safeguarding

  • A Guide to Safe to Practice

  • Safeguarding Adults: Responding to Concerns


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