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Background to Guidance

For many years in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland it has been against the law for someone in a “position of trust” to engage in sexual activity with a young person in their care under 18, even though the age of consent is 16. The legislation only applied to specific roles including Teachers, Care workers, Youth Justice Workers, Social workers, Police Officers and Medical professionals. The primary aim of the legislation was to protect young people aged 16 and 17, from adults who had power and influence over them. The law related to the specific roles mentioned and in designated settings. In 2016 the abuse in football scandal highlighted how adults used their positions of authority in Sport to abuse children. In 2017 the NSPCC began campaigning to extend the law to include adults working in other settings where they supervise children and have a level of responsibility, power, and influence over them.

In April 2021, the UK Government agreed to extend the existing law to include Sports Coaches and Faith leaders who are coaching, teaching, training, supervising, or instructing in a sport or religion, 16- or 17-year-olds on a regular basis. The NSPCC and National Youth Agency believes the legislation should include all youth workers and they continue to campaign for this. The Government has stated they have no plans at this stage to consider additional roles but have amended the legislation so that this can be considered in the future.

It is recognised that Boys’ Brigade leaders and helpers who are responsible for the care and supervision of young people, have influence and authority over those young people. For the purposes of this guidance, this will be referred to as a “position of trust”.

All Staff and volunteers in The Boys’ Brigade must ensure the relationships they form with BB young people are ALWAYS appropriate, healthy, safe, and positive. Leaders in a position of trust must be especially careful to maintain and demonstrate clear boundaries that are recognised by the young person and leaders alike.

The Boys’ Brigade has a range of guidance, policies and procedures that underpin our youth work, including, but not limited to the Leaders Code of conduct, Safeguarding Policy and Procedures, Whistleblowing Policy, Safe contact and Social Media Guidance. Leaders receive guidance about how to build safe and trusting relationships with young people throughout Youth Leader Training and Development. Of note, a leader does not have to be in the physical presence of a young person for concerns to arise. A breach of position of trust can include the use of electronic media in order to seek to develop an abusive and/or sexual relationship with a young person by a person who holds a position of authority over them. Failure to follow the BB policies, guidance and procedures will be considered a Breach of the Leaders Code of Conduct and may result in the withdrawal of membership.

In 2017 the Republic of Ireland updated their existing Sexual Offences Legislation to broaden the roles in relation to “persons in authority”. This now includes “any other person who is or has been responsible for the education, supervision, training, care or welfare of the child”. As such there are already criminal offences in the ROI, that would apply should a leader engage in a sexual relationship with a BB young person under the age of 18 .

Guidance for Leaders in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland

1. New leaders aged 18 – 20 – Where a romantic/intimate relationship exists at the point a leader is appointed, and their partner is a BB Young person aged over 16, and under 18

  • the relationship must be declared to the Captain by the soon to be leader.
  • BBHQ Safeguarding Manager will be informed and the information will be recorded centrally.
  • The Captain will consider the level of direct contact between the young person and leader in the youth work setting and will manage this locally to avoid situations where the leader has direct supervision or control of their partner. This may mean that the Leader only has responsibilities for Anchors, Juniors or Company section.
  • If any person is concerned that there is a power imbalance between the leader and young person in the declared relationship, they should report their concerns to the captain who will seek advice from the Safeguarding Manager.

2. New leaders – Where a romantic/ intimate relationship exists at the point a leader is appointed, and their partner has reached the age of 18 but is accessing BB as a young person

  • the relationship must be declared to the Captain by the soon to be leader.
  • No further action is required, unless concerns arise that there is a power imbalance in the declared relationship, or significant age difference. This should be reported to the Captain who will seek advice from the Safeguarding Manager.

The Boys’ Brigade would have significant concerns if:

  • a Leader aged over 18, at the point of appointment, was in a romantic/intimate relationship with a young person under the age of 16. (UK age of consent is 16)
  • a Leader aged over 20, at the point of appointment, was in a romantic/intimate relationship with a BB young person under the age of 18.
  • In these circumstances the appointment will not be made and advice should be sought from the BB Safeguarding Manager.

3. Existing Leaders – Once a leader is appointed, whatever their age, they must not develop a romantic/intimate relationship with any young person in their Company. In addition, they should not develop romantic/intimate relationships with other young people in the organisation that they have any youth work care or supervisory responsibilities for.

If any volunteer or staff member has any concerns about a young person, linked to a leader in a position of trust, they should inform the Captain who will report the concerns to the Safeguarding Manager. If any volunteer or staff member believes the Captain has failed to respond correctly to any concerns raised in this area, the volunteer or staff member should contact BB Safeguarding Manager for advice.

NB It is impossible to know with certainty whether the status of a relationship is sexual or non-sexual. Therefore, any relationship should be treated as though it were a sexual nature. In this guidance this will be called a Romantic/Intimate Relationship.

Updated: 10/12/2021