'Position of trust' is a legal term that refers to certain roles and settings where an adult has regular and direct contact with children. Examples of positions of trust include:
- care workers
- youth justice workers
- social workers
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland changes to the law made in 2022 extend the definition to include:
- faith group leaders
- sports coaches.
It's against the law for someone in a position of trust to engage in sexual activity with a child in their care, even if that child is over the age of consent (16 or over).
There are some roles which are not currently legally defined as being positions of trust, such as driving instructors or people running community activities for children. This means it's not currently against the law for people in these roles to have a sexual relationship with a 16- or 17-year-old in their care.
Closing the loophole
In 2022, following our Close the Loophole campaign, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 in England and Wales and the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 were amended to expand position of trust roles to include sports coaches and faith group leaders.
Currently, the ‘positions of trust’ law in Scotland remains as originally set out in the Sexual Offences Act (2009), which does not cover religious or sports settings.
We will monitor the implementation of the new laws and continue to urge Governments to extend protections to all 16- and 17-year-olds in other settings and extra-curricular activities.
Keeping children and young people safe
Although most people who work or volunteer with children have their best interests at heart, organisations that work with children have a responsibility to prevent anyone who is in a position of authority from abusing a child. This page explains how to recognise if someone in your organisation is abusing their position, what to do if you have concerns and the steps you need to take to keep children safe.