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Carl Field

Carl Field

Today (Friday June 16th) marks exactly one year since the publication of The Whyte Review.

It was a watershed moment for gymnastics and shone a spotlight on the issues of abuse within the sport.

The recommendations from The Whyte Review were accepted in full, but that wasn’t enough for Welsh Gymnastics – we wanted to go even further.

As part of that ongoing commitment, our work has included the commissioning of our own independent Wales-specific review, undertaken by specialist independent safeguarding advisor, Jan Pickles OBE.

This review had led to the creation of the Welsh Gymnastics Safeguarding and Wellbeing Plan for the next three years.

Key appointments have also been made at both Board and executive director level.

Sonia Mason was appointed to the Welsh Gymnastics Board as the Non-Executive Director for Safeguarding in September 2022, while Lisa O’Connell was appointed Executive Director of Safeguarding in April 2023.

There has been a significant increase in budget allocation to ensure we respond effectively and efficiently to complaints, with two National Safeguarding Officers to be appointed shortly.

In addition, we have invested heavily in digital technology, including the development of a ‘whistleblowing’ app – currently in the pilot phase – to make it easier and quicker for anyone to raise a concern.

Even before The Whyte Review was published, some key culture work within our own performance environments had already begun.

“We have made a strong start in delivery of our Safeguarding and Wellbeing Plan, but it’s only the start,” said Welsh Gymnastics CEO Victoria Ward.

“One of our key objectives for the year was to ensure we appointed a safeguarding specialist to the new role of Executive Director for Safeguarding, to lead change.

“Our Safeguarding and Wellbeing Plan will also form the foundation of our new 10-year strategy, to be published later this year.”

Executive Director of Safeguarding Lisa O’Connell, a qualified social worker and safeguarding specialist, brings more than a decade of experience to Welsh Gymnastics, including four years working in Canada.

She said: “We are doing everything in our power to safeguard our community and address the concerns that The Whyte Review brought to light.

“But that is not enough. We cannot do this alone.

“We need the support of the whole gymnastics community in Wales to ensure that this plan is achieved and that all our members are safeguarded.

“We pledge that the wellbeing of all of our members is at the heart of everything we do.”

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