Op-Ed: We'll be here for children this Christmas. Will you?

18 Dec 2020

By: Sport Industry Group

The NSPCC Sports Network is a group of senior figures in sport who volunteer their time, expertise, and connections to support the work of the NSPCC. Board Chair, Alex Horne, looks at the role sport plays in transforming the experiences of young people.

The group is trying to raise £30,000 to run the NSPCC’s Childline for a day, to help save and change young lives for the better. You can support your peers in this cause by donating, or read on to learn more about their work and how they will be there for children this Christmas.

For the past eight years I have had the privilege to lead a Board of senior level volunteers within the sport industry whose objectives are to raise funds for and awareness of the great and varied work of the NSPCC.

This Board was established more than 20 years ago and, in that time, some of the great and the good of the sporting world have been involved and have helped secure over £25 million to protect children, prevent abuse and keep more children safe. It was back in the heady days of February 2020 that we launched our NSPCC Sports Network, from the Central London office of the British Olympic Association to further harness the power of the sports industry to fundraise and promote the important work of the NSPCC. 

The Network recognises the workload and time-poor nature of many within the industry, particularly when so many are battling to adjust to COVID life. It is specifically designed to engage and inform members but with a moderately light-touch commitment. 

Members of the network are all senior figures in the UK sports industry who are invited to networking events and sent regular information about the charity’s key activities and successes. They also give a personal commitment to identify and secure ways to raise funds for the charity during the year. 

We are brought together by our shared belief that we can do more for children. As a group, we all believe in the NSPCC’s values and the charity’s views that the protection of children from harm is a societal issue that we all have a responsibility towards. It is the role of all adults in society to help play a part to keep more children safe. As many as half a million children suffer abuse or neglect in the UK each year.

The sports industry plays an essential role in child development through offering its activities in an engaging and accessible way. But this must, and does, sit alongside a vital role in the protection of children. 

With the huge number of children taking part in sport on a regular basis the safeguarding of child participants is of huge importance. Whilst the sector can show some fantastic examples of work in providing the right environment to ensure children can enjoy sport safely – often assisted and guided by the NSPCC’s own Child Protection in Sport Unit – we cannot be complacent. 

Here for the most vulnerable children

The pandemic has had a huge impact on the sports industry. It has also had a tremendous impact on the lives of children and young people. Throughout 2020, the NSPCC’s Childline service has remained available seven days a week both on the phone and online. 

While many of us see Christmas as a time of celebration, it also puts additional pressures on families and children who are already struggling. With the added fallout from the coronavirus, this year may be even harder. Last year Childline delivered 6,566 counselling sessions between 24th December 2019 and 4th January 2020 alone. 

Childline receives a contact from a child on average every 25 seconds. It delivers in-depth 1-2-1 counselling sessions to around 650 children, every single day. The volunteer counsellors and staff have heard from children and young people who have felt anxious, isolated, scared and afraid - more than ever before during the pandemic, and it is taking its toll. 

Counselling sessions about mental health and emotional wellbeing concerns have been as high as 57% of the reasons around 19,000 children and young people have been counselled by Childline each month, since March. More than enough children to fill The Sir Bobby Charlton Stand at Old Trafford twice over!

It is support for this vital service and the insatiable need for it by young people that has galvanised our Network to raise funds. It costs £30,000 to run the entire Childline service for a day. This is the target that the collective membership of our NSPCC Sports Network has set itself to aim to raise before the turn of the year; so that we can say with pride that we have enabled the counsellors at Childline to be here for children, specifically on New Year’s Day.

The support of our peers within the industry will be gratefully received and if you feel that you can contribute to this effort then it is easy to do so via our Just Giving page. Christmas parties have been cancelled this year, other budgets may not have been used in full or you may feel you have the personal capacity to support. 

Such contributions can help us to reach our goal, but most importantly, could change the life of a child.