Safer activities and events

Introduction

Every group or organisation has a duty to safeguard children and young people in their care. This includes making sure that all children who attend events and activities are kept safe.

Things to consider

An event or activity could be regular or one-off and may:

  • include larger numbers of children, young people and adults than you are used to working with, including some who are new to your group or organisation
  • require you to take children to a different venue and location, sometimes for an overnight stay, sometimes involving activities that are less structured than your normal programme
  • be organised with other groups, companies and/or individuals who may not be used to working with children and young people.

All of these factors can make safeguarding children and young people more complex.

What to do

We've highlighted steps you can take to make sure children and young people are safe while they enjoy themselves at your events and activities.

Staff and volunteers

Staff and volunteers

Nominate a key member of staff or volunteer to take overall responsibility for organising the event or activity.

Safer recruitment 

Follow safer recruitment procedures to make sure everyone who works or volunteers at the event or activity is suitable to do so. This includes making sure sub-contractors have been recruited safely and are properly checked before they work with children and young people. Those who are in regulated activity must have undergone a vetting and barring check.

> Find out more about safer recruitment and vetting checks

> Take our Safer recruitment training

Training

All your staff and volunteers should complete child protection training to make sure they are able to recognise and respond to any concerns. 

> See our range of introductory child protection training courses

Code of conduct

Draw up a code of conduct for all the adults who are working or volunteering at the event or activity and make sure everyone understands it and agrees to follow it.

> Find out more about behaviour codes

Plans and procedures

Safeguarding and child protection plan

The event leader should liaise with your nominated child protection lead and the key people in any other organisations involved, to draw up a safeguarding and child protection plan for the event. This might also be called a welfare plan.

What to cover

Your safeguarding and child protection plan should include information about: 

  • your overarching safeguarding and child protection policy
  • who has overall responsibility for child protection at the event or activity and how to contact them on the day
  • how staff and volunteers should respond to any welfare or child protection concerns that may arise during the event or activity
  • how you will respond to any allegations of abuse made against an adult or a child involved with your group or organisation during the event or activity
  • procedures to follow if children go missing during the event or activity (for example who should co-ordinate the initial search for the child, who is responsible for contacting the child’s parents or carers and the police, and when this should happen)
  • your whistleblowing procedures
  • where to go for safeguarding advice and guidance during the event or activity (for example the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or the number of your local child protection services).

Make sure all staff and volunteers who will be taking part in the event or activity are aware of and understand this plan.

If you’re using a venue belonging to another organisation, arrange a meeting in advance to discuss how things will run on the day and make sure your child protection and safeguarding plans are aligned.

> Find out more about writing a safeguarding and child protection policy 

> Find out more about recognising and responding to abuse, including whistleblowing

> Find out more about managing allegations of abuse made against an adult in our safer recruitment section 

> Find out more about managing allegations made against a child 

Photography and filming

Children, young people and their families might want to take and share photos or videos of the event or activity. However it’s also important to be aware of child protection and safeguarding issues surrounding images of children and put measures in place to keep them safe.

> Read our photography and image sharing guidance

After the event or activity

Make time after the event or activity to review what happened and identify any improvements you can make to your future practice.

> Use our safeguarding checklist to review and improve your safeguarding arrangements

Consent and information sharing

Sharing information about the event

Share information about the event with parents or carers, staff and volunteers to ensure everyone knows how the activity will run and what action they need to take to make sure children and young people are safe.

Make sure children and young people know what is going to happen and who they can talk to if they have any concerns.

Consent

Get written consent from parents or carers for their child being involved. 

Ask children and young people whether they would like to be involved and, if necessary, make alternative arrangements for those who don’t want to take part.

The consent form is a good opportunity to check information such as emergency contact details and any medical conditions, allergies, disabilities or other vulnerabilities of the child or young person to ensure they receive the extra support they need.

> See our example consent forms

Emergency information

Create a list of emergency contact numbers for each child and make sure this is easily available to the staff or volunteers who are responsible for the child.

Make sure group leaders know your procedures for contacting the emergency services if they need to. Give parents and carers a number they can call if they need to contact you or their child in an emergency.

Additional needs

Make sure the staff and volunteers are aware in advance of any additional support needs for each child.

Record keeping

Make sure you keep all written records, such as consent forms, medical information and any records about child protection concerns securely.

> Read our child protection records retention and storage guidance

Health and safety

Health and safety

Make sure you have all the necessary health and safety measures in place. For example:

  • make sure the necessary first aid cover is available
  • make everyone aware of fire safety procedures
  • carry out comprehensive risk assessments in advance, including of any external venues
  • check that any organisations you are subcontracting to run activities comply with safety standards.

More information about health and safety at events is available from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

You should also make sure you have adequate insurance. Your umbrella body or local council for voluntary service can give more information about this. The Cabinet Office provides information about insurance for voluntary and community events in its guide to organising voluntary events (Gov.uk, 2017).

Everyone’s responsibility

Brief your staff and volunteers so they understand any health and safety risks involved with the event or activity and how to mitigate them.

Make sure parents or carers know about all the activities their children will be involved in, any risks that might occur and what steps you’ve taken to keep children and young people safe. For example, explain what you will do if there are adverse weather conditions that would make an outdoor activity more dangerous. Remind parents or carers about any special kit their child will need, for example safe footwear or waterproof clothing.

Talk to children and young people and explain how you expect them to behave. This is especially important if their behaviour might have an impact on their safety, for example whilst travelling to the venue or taking part in an adventurous activity.

> See our example behaviour code for children and young people 

Standard 4 of our Safeguarding standards and guidance gives more information about running safe activities and events.

Supervision

Supervision

Make sure you provide the right number of adults to supervise the children and young people participating, depending on their age, group size, the activity they are involved in and any specific needs or vulnerabilities that the children may have.

Never allow anyone under the age of 18 to be in sole charge of other children.

Take into account what would happen if a member of staff or volunteer had to leave to accompany a child to hospital.

> Find out more about adult to child supervision ratios

Who's who

Make it clear which adults are ‘working’ (whether paid or volunteers) and which are spectators. For example, you could issue your staff and volunteers with badges, t-shirts or hi-vis vests. This is important in case of emergency. It also helps children and young people recognise trusted adults they can talk to if they have any concerns.

Free time

As a general rule, you should not allow under 11s unsupervised free time.

If older children and young people are allowed unsupervised time, for example if you have taken them on a day trip and they are looking around on their own, they should be in groups of at least three. Make sure they know where and how to contact a member of staff.

It’s good practice for one or two adults to stay in one place, such as a central square, park or café, so that they are easily available and young people can check in with them regularly.

Transport

Transport

You may need to provide transport to get children and young people to and from the event or activity. If you’re using a bus, coach or taxi company, make sure they are reputable, have the right insurance and that their drivers are fully vetted.

Ensure children and young people are adequately supervised on the journey and take the necessary safety precautions depending on what kind of transport you’re using (for example making sure everyone is wearing a seat belt).

> Find out more about adult to child supervision ratios

Avoid using private cars to transport children and young people, unless this involves parents or carers making private transport arrangements with each other.

Make sure parents or carers know what time and where to drop off and pick up their children. Make sure they tell you in advance who will be picking up their children if they aren’t doing so themselves.

> Find out more about best practice for dropping off and picking up children

Overnight stays

Overnight stays

If you are taking children and young people on an overnight stay, there are some extra things you’ll need to consider.

Preparing parents, carers and children

Meet with parents or carers in advance to explain the arrangements for the trip and answer any questions they may have. Explain the steps you are taking to keep their children safe.

Ensure parents or carers know the address of where you will be staying and have an emergency telephone number they can call if they need to.

Talk to children and young people about keeping themselves safe and well while they are away. Give them the address of your accommodation and an emergency contact number, and make sure they know what to do if they get lost.

Make sure children and young people know who to talk to if they are unhappy or worried about anything – for example if they are being bullied, feel frightened or are or homesick. Make sure all staff and volunteers are prepared to help and know how to respond to child protection concerns that may arise.

> Find out more about recognising and responding to abuse

Overnight accommodation

Make sure there are separate sleeping, washing and toilet areas for:

  • adults and children
  • older and younger children
  • boys and girls.

Overnight trips for mixed groups should include at least one female and one male supervising adult. Although accommodation for adults should be separate from children, it should be nearby. 

If possible, arrange to have exclusive use of the accommodation. If this isn’t possible, try to negotiate the use of a whole floor and keep all the children’s rooms close together.

If children’s rooms are on different floors, adults should be available on each floor.

Make sure children know what to do if they need help in the night and if there is an emergency, for example a fire alarm.

What helps children and young people feel safe and happy on overnight trips?

Things that children and young people find helpful when they are away from home include:

  • being able to take a special personal belonging
  • having help finding their way around a new place – for example being shown where the toilets, eating area, recreational and meeting places and bedrooms are
  • adults selecting who is sharing rooms fairly and making sure nobody is left out
  • having communal areas for playing or meeting people
  • being allowed to phone home
  • having an identified adult to talk to about anything
  • adults having a sense of humour and making jokes
  • feeling like part of a team – adults making sure nobody is left out and arranging activities that involve teamwork

(Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) and NSPCC, 2017).

If a child or young person needs confidential help and advice direct them to Childline. Calls to 0800 1111 are free and children can also contact Childline online.

Use of your premises

Letting third parties use your premises

If your organisation allows others to use your premises for activities or events, you have a responsibility to make sure they are taking the right steps to keep children safe.

This applies regardless of the size of the room(s) people are using and whether they are paying you to use the venue.

Sharing policies and procedures

Make sure the groups using your facilities are doing everything they can to safeguard and protect children.

  • Ask groups to share their safeguarding and child protection policy and procedures with you and check that these are adequate.
  • Alternatively, you could share your own safeguarding and child protection policy with the groups and ask them to comply with it (agreement should be given in writing).

Make it clear that groups must put adequate health and safety measures in place and check that they have the right insurance.

Sharing information and resources

Arrange an induction to familiarise the club/activity leader with the venue and share relevant safety information, for example where the fire exits and fire extinguishers are located.

Share our safeguarding and child protection resources with the groups using your premises, to make sure they are taking the right action to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm.

> Safeguarding and child protection resources

> Safeguarding checklist

Legislation and guidance

Legislation and guidance

Across the UK statutory guidance highlights the responsibility of those in the education, community and care sectors to safeguard children from all forms of abuse and neglect:

There is also specific guidance for organising events and activities in different sectors which we have outlined below.

Educational visits and activities

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) has published guidance on planning and leading visits and adventurous activities (PDF) for schools and colleges teaching children and young people from 5- to 18-years-old (ROSPA, 2013).

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provides guidance on health and safety for school trips (PDF) (HSE, 2011).

In England, the Department for Education (DfE) has published guidance about health and safety on educational visits in England (DfE, 2018).

The Education Authority Northern Ireland (EANI) has also published interim guidance on educational visits for schools (EANI, 2017).

In Scotland, the government provides guidance on health and safety on educational excursions (Scottish Government, 2004).

The Care Inspectorate, Inspiring Scotland and the Scottish Government have also produced practical guidance for creating outdoor play experiences in early learning and childcare (PDF) (Scottish Government, 2018).

Voluntary and community sector

If your group is affiliated to a national organisation or body they may provide guidelines and/or standards to help ensure your activities and events are safe.

Our Safeguarding standards and guidance include a range of information to help voluntary and community sector organisations keep children and young people safe. Standard 4 covers running safe activities and events.

The Cabinet Office has also provided a guide to organising and running voluntary and community events. This includes information about legislation surrounding insurance (Gov.uk, 2017).

Sports activities

The Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) provides guidance on safe sport events, activities and competitions (Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) and NSPCC, 2017).

Guidance on using school premises for community sporting activities is available from Sport England (Sport England, 2019).

Overseas trips

If you are travelling abroad with children, make sure you comply with the legislation in the country you are travelling to. Wherever you travel you are still responsible for the safeguarding and protection of the children in your care and should comply with UK legislation and guidance.

References and resources

References and resources

Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) and NSPCC (2017) Safe sport events, activities and competitions. London: NSPCC.

Department for Education (DfE) (2018) Guidance: health and safety on educational visits. [Accessed 08/01/2019].

Education Authority Northern Ireland (EANI) (2018) Educational visits. [Accessed 08/01/2019].

Gov.uk (2017) Guidance: organising a voluntary event: a 'can do' guide. [Accessed 08/01/2019].

HSE (2011) School trips and outdoor learning activities: tackling the health and safety myths. [Bootle]: HSE.

NSPCC (2017) NSPCC safeguarding standards and guidance (England) London: NSPCC.

ROSPA (2013) Planning and leading visits and adventurous activities: guidance for schools and colleges teaching children and young people from 5 to 18 years (PDF). Birmingham: ROSPA

Scottish Government (2004) Health and safety on educational excursions. [Accessed 08/01/2019].

Scottish Government (2018) Out to play: practical guidance for creating outdoor play experiences in early learning and childcare (PDF). Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

Sport England (2019) Use our school. [Accessed 08/01/2019].

Elearning

Our online and face-to-face training courses can help develop your understanding of how to protect children from abuse and safely recruit staff and volunteers to work with children:

Related NSPCC resources

Use our safeguarding resources to make sure you are taking the right steps to keep children safe:

> Find out more about keeping children safe in the voluntary and community sector

> Use our recommended adult to child ratios when supervising children

> Find out more about how to safely recruit staff and volunteers to work with children

> Read our safeguarding standards and guidance

> Use our safeguarding checklist to assess and improve your practice

The Child Protection in Sport Unit (CPSU) provides resources to help you organise safe sporting events.

> CPSU safe sports events management tool