Government must close loopholes in sport and beyond

Join us to make sure we can trust all adults working with children


We're calling on Government to act quickly to close 2 legal loopholes that leave the door open for children to be targeted in sport and beyond.

Revelations about sexual abuse in football shook the nation in November leading us to set up a dedicated football hotline, funded by the Football Association.

Counsellors have heard from callers how adults working with children had abused their trusting relationship to groom and abuse young players.

The scandal has highlighted gaps in child protection which could make children vulnerable to being abused in sports settings and in other children's clubs too.

Trust to Lead

Our #TrustToLead campaign aims to:

  • increase the number of children being protected
  • extend the most stringent checks with the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) to cover more adults working with children.

This loophole should be closed to better protect children not just in sport, but in other activities too.

From toddlers to teenagers, whether they're on the pitch, on stage, or in a place of worship, all children need the best legal protections to keep them safe.

1. Protecting 16 and 17 year olds from sexual abuse

The law as it stands

  • Sexual activity involving children under 16 is illegal in the UK.

And when the adult is in a 'position of trust':

  • Sexual activity and relationships involving a child under 18 is illegal.

The loophole

Right now, the position of trust law only applies to adults in certain professions such as teaching or care.

But there are adults working closely with children who aren't covered by this law.

This gap allows adults to build a relationship of trust with a child within a trusted environment, which could be exploited for the purpose of grooming

Teachers are covered by the position of trust law. But some professionals working with children aren't: Roles not covered by the position of trust law gif

2. Everyone working with children should get the right DBS check

Book and pencil

Adults regularly working alone with children are legally required to have the top level of Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check (an enhanced DBS with barred list check). But adults trusted to work alongside them can't legally get this check.

This means someone who's been disqualified from working with children and young people can still have contact with them.

A full and proper DBS check is not a lengthy process. We shouldn't sacrifice our children's safety to save a few minutes' paperwork.

Join our call to keep children safe and ensure that everyone working closely with children gets the right checks.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief ExecutivePeter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive, said:
"It makes no sense for the law to potentially give abusers who are barred from working with children, the opportunity to do just that.

"And it is remarkable that the roles like sports coaches are not considered to be a position of trust by law, given the significant amount of responsibility, influence and authority that an individual in this role can hold in a young person's life.

"Sadly, we know that this trust can be abused and it is therefore vital that this legal definition is widened to include sports coaches and other youth workers, bolstering protection for teenagers at risk of grooming once they pass the age of consent.

"This is not about demonising certain jobs, but about protecting young people from a small minority of adults only too happy to take advantage of their standing in society to groom and abuse vulnerable children."

Mr Wanless has written to Home Secretary Amber Rudd asking for these changes to be made.

Getting support

Call our helpline

Don't wait to speak out if you experienced sexual abuse as a young footballer. Our free helpline can offer you support, 24 hours a day.

0800 023 2642

Worried about a child?

Contact our trained helpline counsellors for help, advice and support.

0808 800 5000

Report a concern