There has been lots going on over the last six months within the Safeguarding team at RYA HQ, starting with the turnover of Safeguarding and Equality Manager from Jackie Reid to Katie Loucaides with Andrea Gates still in post as Safeguarding Officer. This changeover has allowed the Safeguarding team to reflect on not only what has been working well, but also look at new innovative ways of making improvements.
Club Welfare Officers (CWOs) and how they are supported within their roles was an area which needed to be reviewed. From past research, the team have established that a significant number of CWOs are volunteered into the role through some duress rather than the role appealing to them personally. A significant number of CWOs have no background at all in safeguarding and that can make the role seem quite daunting, especially if there has been no previous Welfare Officer in post. So the team wanted to ensure that all CWOs had everything they could possibly need from the outset and it was from this starting point that the team created the CWO Engagement Strategy, which looked to focus in on two key areas: Communication and Support.
Although the safeguarding pages on the website were full of useful documents and guidance, it was clear that these needed a refresh, especially as times have changed significantly with the COVID-19 pandemic. Alongside the rejuvenation of the webpages, it was decided that the team would create a Club Welfare Officer Information pack a one stop shop for everything a new Welfare Officer would need to carry out their role.
This piece of work took several months from the initial idea through to completion and involved multiple departments across the RYA, including the home countries and a small team of Welfare Officers who assisted the team to review the packs. The packs include: a welcome letter, registration document, Club Welfare Officer volunteer role description, meet the team document, safeguarding children and adults at risk policies and guidelines, posters, referral processes and procedures, training opportunities, information sharing and safer recruitment guidance, a checklist and code of conduct.
Alongside the information packs, the team wanted to ensure that there were adequate communication channels between not only the CWOs and the safeguarding team but also peer to peer. The easiest way of achieving all the communication goals, was to create a closed Facebook Support Group. This group allows the safeguarding team to provide updates and opportunities to members, another method for CWOs to contact Katie or Andrea as well as allows CWOs to reach out to one another with support and questions. The group has now almost 150 members and the team would like to encourage all CWOs to join the group if they are Facebook users.
Although lots of work has been done, the CWOs have lots more to look forward to, including a season end, season start and midway newsletter, regular meet the team webinars and sessions with sector professionals to help them develop further into their roles.
If you're the Welfare Officer at your club or training centre and require further information, you can contact the RYA Safeguarding team via email: email@example.com or call: 023 8060 4226.