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Child safety in clubs and activities

Advice for parents on ensuring children are safe during organised activities

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If your children are attending organised activities or clubs during the holidays, here are some ideas to help you ensure their safety.

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What to look out for when choosing a club or activity

We know looking after your child is your highest priority, but we also know that it is not possible or desirable for children to be in your care constantly. Sometimes you can't look after your children yourself in the holidays, due to work and other commitments, and knowing they are safe and happy will be important to you.

Alongside other arrangements you might make, organised clubs and activities can help make school holidays fun and safe, whether at home or abroad.

It is important to know what to look for when you are choosing places for your child.

Most play schemes for children aged under eight years need to be registered with the appropriate authorities which means they have to meet certain standards. Provision for older children does not need to be registered but should work to the same standards.

What to be wary of when choosing a club or activity

  • Activities where parents are discouraged from watching or becoming involved.
  • Activities that encourage rough play, sexual innuendo or humiliating punishments.
  • Individuals who take charge and operate independently of organisational guidelines.
  • Encouragement of inappropriate physical contact.
  • Individuals who show favouritism or personally reward specific children.
  • Poor communication and a troubling lack of parental involvement.
  • Children who drop out or stop going for no apparent reason.
  • Invitations for children to spend time alone with staff or volunteers.

Questions to consider when choosing a club or activity

Are the staff and volunteers suitable to work with children?

All staff and volunteers should go through a proper recruitment process which includes interviews, references and police checks.

Does the organisation have a child protection policy and code of behaviour?

All organisations should have a child protection policy and a written code of behaviour which outlines good practice when working with children. Staff should all know what to do if they have concerns about the safety and wellbeing of a child.

Bullying, shouting, racism and sexism are not acceptable behaviours.

Does the organisation have a health and safety policy?

Find out if there is an on-duty staff member qualified in first aid, if there is a first aid box and whether the premises have passed fire regulations.

What are the arrangements when children go on outings?

You should be informed of arrangements, including staffing levels and transport there and back, for every outing no matter how long or short. Your consent should be obtained for each one-off event or at the beginning of a regular outing.

Does the organisation have an internet safety policy?

If the organisation allows children to access the internet, find out what guidelines or filtering software they have in place for safe surfing.

How can you or your child voice concerns?

Organisations should tell you where to go, and what to do, if you, your child, or a child you know have any worries. If you are unhappy about the way your concern is dealt with, contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.

Where to find more advice

Out alone: The NSPCC's free booklet about keeping children safe while they are out and about.

NSPCC: Adults worried about a child can talk to us for advice and support.

Directgov: Advice on finding and choosing childcare, including advice about clubs and activities for younger children.

Family Lives: Advice and ideas about managing the holidays, including childcare challenges.

Safe Network: Advice on keeping children safe in out of home activities.

Jamie and Sheena's story

The long school holidays were a problem for Dave and Claire, parents of Sheena (age 9) and Jamie (age 6) as they both work.

They had no relatives that they could call upon to help but found a list of local holiday clubs in their library. Unsure of what to expect, they decided to use the nearest club but by the end of the first week realised Jamie was very unhappy.

It became apparent that all was not well at the club and so they contacted the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 for advice and support.

The NSPCC helpline counsellor advised them on how to take their complaint forward and sent them a copy of the NSPCC booklet Out alone, which contains advice on how to check out children's clubs in the future.

Out alone: Your guide to keeping your child safe

Out alone provides advice and practical tips to parents on how to prepare children for being out on their own, whether it’s when walking to and from school, attending sports or holiday clubs, or getting involved in other community activities.

Using the guidance they found a well-run club and the children settled quickly to have a great summer.


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