Children have a lot to gain from involvement in sport. Like other sports, mountaineering provides an opportunity to learn new skills, explore new environments, gain confidence and of course have fun. The full potential of these benefits can only be gained with a positive and progressive approach to the child’s involvement. The focus should be on the needs of the child rather than on competition or success. A child-centred approach to mountaineering involving children will result in continued participation, a positive public image of our sport and contribute to long-term benefits in terms of the health and well-being of our future adult population.
Mountaineering Scotland recognises that child protection is every member’s responsibility and that we should safeguard all children involved in youth mountaineering activities organised by staff or volunteers. All members have a right to protection, and Mountaineering Scotland policy will be inclusive and take full account of the needs of disabled children and others who may be particularly vulnerable.
This document details the Child Protection Policy and related procedures adopted by Mountaineering Scotland.
The Child Protection Policy Statement is the principle which informs the Mountaineering Scotland approach to Child and Adults at Risk Protection.
The Child Protection Policy Statement and Recommendations for Good Practice define the child protection procedures which have been implemented by Mountaineering Scotland in respect of all activities promoted or organised by Mountaineering Scotland.
The policy statement and recommendations are provided for the guidance of clubs affiliated to Mountaineering Scotland.
Mountaineering Scotland is committed to safeguarding its members, and to ensuring that unaccompanied children on Mountaineering Scotland or club activities are protected from harm, abuse and exploitation.
3.3 Notes to the Policy Statement
By adhering to these Recommendations for Good Practice, Mountaineering Scotland volunteers and staff will ensure that our sport is safe and fun for children, while those undertaking roles within our sport will be protected.
4.1 The Meaning of Good Practice
In the context of climbing and mountaineering activities, good practice means:
It is important that all Mountaineering Scotland volunteers and staff follow these Recommendations for Good Practice. By keeping children at the forefront of our planning and practice we can be confident that participants will enjoy their mountaineering experiences and that our actions will be regarded as safe.
4.2 Activities to Avoid
In addition volunteers and staff must never:
Mountaineering Scotland volunteers and staff, particularly those involved in climbing activities, will be working in an environment where a 'hands on' approach may sometimes be necessary (e.g. demonstrating a technique during coaching or assisting with personal protective equipment such as a climbing harness). Ensure that such contact is kept to the safe minimum, done openly, is in response to the child's need, and is with the knowledge and consent of the child and their parent / guardian.
Minimum reasonable force or restraint may be used in exceptional circumstances; self-defence, preventing risk of injury, or damage to property. Record and report any such incidents to the Mountaineering Scotland National Children's Officer (the Mountaineering Scotland Mountaineering Development Officer) or Club Children's Officer as appropriate.
Challenge sensitively any inappropriate behaviour from a child, such as a crush on an instructor or attention seeking behaviour. If this is focused on you, seek support and inform the Mountaineering Scotland National Children's Officer.
Following any incident where a volunteer or member of staff feels their actions could be misinterpreted, a written report should be submitted to the Mountaineering Scotland National Children's Officer.
Finally, prepare yourself, and those who work with you, by taking preventative measures.
4.3 Use of Photographic & Filming Equipment at Events Involving Children
There is evidence that some people have used sporting events as an opportunity to take inappropriate photographs or film footage of children and / or disabled sports-people in vulnerable positions. Photographers should have the participants' and their parents’ (if under 18) permission or accreditation where appropriate. It is advisable that all clubs be vigilant and that any concerns are reported to the Mountaineering Scotland National Children's Officer or Club Children's Officer.
4.3.1. Use of Video as a Coaching Aid
There is no intention to prevent club coaches and teachers using video equipment as a legitimate coaching aid. However, permission should be sought and performers (and parents / carers) should be aware that this is part of the coaching programme. Care should be taken in the storing of such films, and where possible deleting them at the end of each session.
4.3.2 Guidance on Use of Photography
Amateur photographers / film / video operators wishing to record an event or practice session should seek accreditation with the Mountaineering Scotland National Children’s Officer, the Club Children’s Officer, or the leader of the session. The club / organisation should display the following information prior to the start of an event to inform spectators of the policy:
"In line with the recommendation in Mountaineering Scotland’s Child Protection Policy – Guidelines for Good Practice, the promoters of this event request that any person wishing to engage in any video, zoom or close range photography should register their details with the organisers. On no account should children be photographed or filmed without their permission and the permission of their parents”.
Those commissioning professional photographers or inviting the press to an activity or event should ensure the media representatives are clear about expectations of them in relation to child protection. Professional photographers/film/video operators wishing to record an event or practice session should seek accreditation with the Mountaineering Scotland National Children’s Officer, Club Children’s Officer, or event organiser by producing their professional identification for the details to be recorded.
The Children’s Officer / event organiser must then:
4.4 Recruitment and Selection of Staff and Volunteers
The vast majority of Mountaineering Scotland actions are undertaken by volunteers with the aid and guidance of a small number of paid staff. Mountaineering Scotland seeks to position itself to support its members by allowing the recruitment of volunteer workers to provide technical, physical and clerical assistance.
Mountaineering Scotland will endeavour to recruit and select volunteers and staff in a transparent and equitable fashion in line with current guidelines
Mountaineering Scotland recognises that anyone may have the potential to abuse children in some way and that all reasonable steps are taken to ensure unsuitable people are prevented from working with children. When undertaking pre-selection checks the following should be included:
4.5 Dealing with Bullying
Bullying can be a ‘one-off’ occurrence or repeated over a period of time, and can take many forms including children being bullied by adults, their peers and in some cases by members of their families. Bullying can be difficult to identify because it often happens away from others and those who are bullied often do not tell anyone. Bullying is not always deliberate.
Examples of bullying include:
Signs which may raise concerns about bullying include:
When talking about bullying, it’s never helpful to label children as ‘bullies’ or ‘victims’. Labels can stick for life and can isolate a child, rather than helping them to recover or change their behaviour. It is preferable to talk about someone displaying bullying behaviour rather than label them a ‘bully’ – behaviour can be changed with help and support.
Action to help children on the receiving end of bullying behaviour:
Support for children involved in bullying behaviour:
What can Mountaineering Scotland or your club do?
Creating an anti-bullying ethos is the best prevention. We should not underestimate the importance of the behaviour of adults as they are role models for children.
Strategies and solutions do not come in ‘one size fits all’. Each case is unique and requires an individual response to the individual situation. What might work in one situation might not work in another. You might have to adopt different strategies before finding one that is effective.
It is also important to ask for help and support if you need it to deal with a bullying incident. Section 6 has useful contact details for help and advice and RespectMe, Child Line and Parent Line Scotland are also useful contacts to know.
4.6 How to Respond to Concerns about a Child
Child abuse, in any form, can arouse strong emotions in those facing such a situation. It is important to understand these feelings and not allow them to interfere with your judgement about any action to take. Abuse can occur within many situations including the home, school and the sporting environment. Some individuals will actively seek employment or voluntary work with children in order to harm them. A coach, instructor, teacher, official or volunteer may have regular contact with children and be an important link in identifying cases where a child needs protection.
All cases of poor practice should be reported following the guidelines in this document. When a child within the club has been abused outside the sporting environment, sport can play a crucial role in improving the child’s self-esteem. In such instances the club must work with the appropriate agencies to ensure the child receives the required support.
All those working with children within a sporting organisation, whether in a paid or voluntary capacity, have a responsibility to ensure that children are protected from harm, but do not hold responsibility for deciding whether or not abuse has taken place. It is the role of statutory agencies to make enquiries to assess whether a child is at risk of abuse and to take any necessary action to protect that child.
4.6.1. When a Child Tells You about Abuse
4.6.2. Observation / Information from an individual or agency
A concern or possible abuse of a child may be observed by another child or adult and information can come from an individual or another agency/organisation.
Where there is uncertainty about what to do with the information, directly from a child’s disclosure or from someone else, the club’s / Mountaineering Scotland Child Protection Officer can be consulted for advice on the appropriate course of action.
If the club’s / Mountaineering Scotland's Child Protection Officer is unavailable or an immediate response is required, the police and social work services must be consulted for advice. They have a statutory responsibility for the protection of children and they may already hold other concerning information about the child. Record any advice given.
Concerned adults are sometimes reluctant to report concerns about abuse for fear that the person suspected will sue them for defamation if the allegation turns out to be unfounded.
To be defamatory a statement must first of all be untrue. Even if subsequently shown to be untrue, the statement will be protected by 'qualified privilege' if it is made to the appropriate authority "in response to a duty, whether legal, moral or social or in the protection of an interest" (Norrie K, Defamation and Related Actions in Scots Law, 1995). Unjustified repetition of the allegations to other persons will not be protected by privilege.
The qualification on privilege refers to statements made by malice. If a statement, even to the appropriate authority, can be shown to be motivated by malice, then an action of defamation could be successful.
(Taken from Guidelines for Child Protection Prepared for the Independent Schools in Scotland, Kathleen Marshall, Second Edition, January 1997)
4.6.4. Actions to Avoid – and Types of Questions to Ask
The person receiving a disclosure of child abuse should not:
4.6.5. Responding to Non-Verbal Concerns
Changes in a child’s behaviour can be the result of a wide range of factors and this makes it difficult to identify if the changes are linked to abuse. Even signs such as bruising or other injuries cannot be taken as "proof" of abuse (see appendices). However if you have concerns, you have a responsibility to act on those concerns.
4.6.6. Allegations of Previous Abuse
Allegations of abuse may be made some time after the event (e.g. by an adult who was abused as a child or by a member of staff who is still currently working with children). Where such an allegation is made, the club should follow the procedures as detailed above and report the matter to the social services or the police. This is because other children, either within or outside sport, may be at risk from this person.
4.6.7. Flowchart - Responding to Concerns about a Child
4.6.8. How to Respond to Concerns about the Conduct of Staff / Volunteers / Members of a Club
Mountaineering Scotland assures staff / volunteers that it will fully support and protect anyone, who in good faith reports his or her concern that a colleague is, or may be, abusing a child.
These procedures aim to ensure that all concerns about the conduct of a member of staff / volunteer are dealt with in a timely, appropriate and proportionate manner. No member of staff / volunteer in receipt of information that causes concern about the conduct of a member of a staff / volunteer towards children shall keep that information to himself or herself, or attempt to deal with the matter on their own.
In the event of an investigation into the conduct of a member of staff / volunteer all actions will be informed by the principles of natural justice:
In all cases where there are concerns about the conduct of a member of staff / volunteer towards children, the welfare of the child will be the paramount consideration.
Where there is a complaint against a staff member or volunteer there may be three types of investigation:
The results of the criminal and child protection investigation may well influence the disciplinary investigation, but not necessarily.
Every effort should be made to ensure that confidentiality is maintained for all concerned.
Information should be handled and disseminated on a need to know basis only. This may include the following people:
Information should be stored in a secure place with limited access to designated people, in line with data protection laws (e.g. that information is accurate, regularly updated, relevant and secure).
Internal Enquiries and Suspension
Support to Deal with the Aftermath
If You (an Adult) are Accused of an Abusive Action
Think about your relationship with a colleague who is under investigation. Ask management to confirm the contact arrangements and what support is available to your colleague and all other staff they work with.
4.6.9. Responding To Concerns about the Conduct of a Member of Staff / Volunteer
4.7. What Is Child Abuse? Signs and Indicators
The following examples are ways in which children may be abused or harmed, either within or outwith sport.
What is child abuse and child neglect?
"Abuse and neglect are forms of maltreatment of a child. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting, or by failing to act to prevent, significant harm to the child. Children may be abused in a family or in an institutional setting, by those known to them or, more rarely, by a stranger.”
While it is not necessary to identify a specific category of abuse when adding a child’s name to the Child Protection Register, it is still helpful to consider and understand the different ways in which children can be abused:
These categories are not mutually exclusive, for example, a child experiencing physical abuse is undoubtedly experiencing emotional abuse as well. The following definitions show the different ways in which abuse may be experienced by a child but are not exhaustive, as the individual circumstances of abuse will vary from child to child. (All definitions taken from ‘National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland 2010’).
Identifying Child Abuse
Although the physical and behavioural signs listed may be symptomatic of abuse, they may not always be an indicator and, conversely, children experiencing abuse may not demonstrate any of these signs.
Child abuse is often difficult to recognise. It is not the responsibility of anyone involved in sport to decide whether or not a child has been abused. This is the role of trained professionals. We all however, have a duty to act on any concerns about abuse.
4.7.1. Emotional Abuse
"…is the persistent emotional neglect or ill treatment that has severe and persistent adverse effects on a child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to a child that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. ”
It may involve the imposition of age or developmentally inappropriate expectations of a child. It may involve causing children to feel frightened or in danger, or exploiting or corrupting children. Some level of emotional abuse is present in all types of ill treatment of a child; it can also occur independently of other forms of abuse.
Examples of Emotional Abuse in Sport
Signs which may raise concerns about emotional abuse include:
4.7.2 Physical Abuse
"…is the causing of physical harm to a child. Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning or suffocating. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer feigns the symptoms of, or deliberately causes, ill health to a child they are looking after”.
Most children sustain accidental cuts and bruises throughout childhood. These are likely to occur in parts of the body like elbows, shins and knees. An important indicator of physical abuse is where the bruises or injuries are unexplained or the explanation does not fit the injury or the injury appears on parts of the body where accidental injuries are unlikely e.g. on the cheeks or thighs. The age of the child must also be considered. It is possible that some injuries may have occurred for other reasons e.g. skin disorders, rare bone diseases.
Examples of Physical Abuse in Sport
Bodily harm that may be caused by:
Signs which may raise concerns about physical abuse include:
"...is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development. It may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food, shelter and clothing, to protect a child from physical harm or danger, or to ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment. It may also include neglect of, or failure to respond to, a child’s basic emotional needs”.
Neglect may also result in the child being diagnosed as suffering from ‘non-organic failure to thrive’, where they have significantly failed to reach normal weight and growth of development milestones and where physical and genetic reasons have been medically eliminated. In its extreme form children can be at serious risk from the effects of malnutrition, lack of nurturing and stimulation. This can lead to serious long-term effects such as greater susceptibility to serious childhood illnesses and reduction in potential stature. With young children in particular, the consequences may be life-threatening within a relatively short period of time.
Examples of Physical Neglect in Sport
Signs which may raise concerns about neglect include:
4.7.4. Sexual Abuse
"…is any act that involves the child in any activity for the sexual gratification of another person, whether or not it is claimed that the child either consented or assented. Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts. They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or in watching sexual activities, using sexual language towards a child or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways”.
Some of the aforementioned activities can occur through the internet. Boys and girls are sexually abused by males and females, including persons to whom they are and are not related and by other children. This includes people from all walks of life.
Some children may never be able to tell someone they have been sexually abused. Changes in a child’s behaviour may be a sign something has happened. In some cases there may be no physical or behavioural signs to suggest that a child has been sexually abused.
Examples of Sexual Abuse in Sport
The following signs may raise concerns about sexual abuse:
4.7.5. Children with a Learning or Physical Disability
Research, including "It doesn’t happen to disabled children” Child Protection and Disabled Children, NSPCC (2003), tells us that children who have a learning or physical disability are more vulnerable to abuse. This is because:
Particular care should be taken by all staff and volunteers when with working with children affected by disability.
This form must be completed as soon as possible after receiving information that causes concern about the welfare or protection of a child. The form must be passed to the Mountaineering Scotland National Children’s Officer as soon as possible after completion; do not delay by attempting to obtain information to complete all sections.
Complete Part A of this form if the concerns relate to the general welfare of a child.
Complete Parts A and B if the concerns relate to possible child abuse.