Specialist social workers will form a rapid response team to tackle child protection issues during the London 2012 Olympic Games, Community Care has learned.
Help will be available to the younger athletes who excel in sports including swimming and gymnastics, as well as for any children who have been trafficked into the city.
Philip Ishola, a member of the Olympics subcommittee for the London Safeguarding Children Board, said the team would be available in the Olympic Village 24/7 for any children, adults or agencies requiring support.
“There are a few elements to our strategy,” he said. “Firstly there will be quite a few young athletes and we want them to know who to contact if they have concerns. The second is communication and that’s about providing information to all athletes and adults that this service is available. The last is the increase in trafficking that often accompanies these kinds of events.”
He said he was conscious that such work would require social workers with specialist skills. London already had some social workers expert at dealing with child trafficking but he was keen for such training to be rolled out to social workers nationwide.
“It’s about ensuring a legacy comes out of this as well. If we can increase these kind of skills among social workers, not just in London but across the country, then that’s very exciting.”
Social workers would also need extra skills dealing with the international element the Games bring. However, he said he was confident there was little chance of a diplomatic incident “as long as everyone involved in the Games knows the child protection procedures in this country”.
Ishola admitted the plans, which are in development, were yet to have a confirmed budget.
“If the funding has to come from the host boroughs for the Olympics then that is an enormous commitment. But we’re looking at agreements from councils not only across London but outside of the capital.”
He said while they were already in discussions with police, the Greater London Authority and other safeguarding children boards, their talks with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games had only just begun.
The number of social workers assigned to the team is yet to be determined.
Child protection at major sporting events
● 2004 Athens Olympics
The Greek government found that human trafficking doubled in 2004. A teenage Russian Olympian was trafficked to the Canary Islands during the Games and not found for three years.
● 2006 Germany FIFA World Cup: Germany invested heavily in prevention which was deemed to have paid off with no increase in trafficking, although gang activity in other European countries reportedly increased.
● 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games: Government figures estimated a 50% increase in young girls trafficked for prostitution.
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