01 August 2006
Blaenau Gwent’s Sports Centres are to be made even safer with the introduction of Leisurewatch – a training programme for staff to protect children.
Staff will become the eyes and ears of the community in the workplace after being trained to understand how sex offenders may operate in leisure facilities.
They will learn how to identify behaviours that may be a cause for concern. Leisurewatch also establishes clear protocols between Council staff and the police to ensure that individuals of concern are dealt with appropriately.
Blaenau Gwent is the first authority in Wales to pilot the scheme, which has already been a success in parts of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Leisurewatch brings together trained staff in leisure venues and named police officers responsible for community safety in order to reduce the risk of harm posed by people who may use leisure facilities to gain access to children.
The scheme was originally developed by The Derwent Initiative (TDI), a charity set up to promote inter-agency response to sexual offending. Evaluation of Leisurewatch has shown a reduction in all aspects of crime in and around leisure sites, which have implemented the scheme.
With further support from the Home Office, the scheme is now being rolled out to other parts of the country.
Leisurewatch complements procedures already in place within the leisure facility. Information gained through the scheme may result in early intervention that prevents offences against children from taking place.
The majority of staff has been trained prior to the launch of Leisurewatch and there will be a rolling programme of training for new leisure staff.
The scheme is being launched across all four sports centres to coincide with the summer holidays, which sees a large number of children taking advantage of sports centre activities including free swim and playschemes.
Councillor Steve Thomas, Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing – Healthy Living, said: “We hope that the implementation of this scheme will offer further reassurance to parents that children will be safe when using our leisure facilities. We already offer a safe environment, but feel that the protection of children is vital and this scheme provides our staff with suitable training to ensure that they are looking out for the appropriate signs. We don’t have a particular problem with sex offenders in Blaenau Gwent but are taking proactive steps to safeguard our children. By working with our partners in the Police, we can ensure that our staff proactively report any behaviour that is of cause for concern.”
In the future, Leisurewatch may be extended to other services run by Blaenau Gwent Council, such as libraries, theatres and Parc Bryn Bach. .