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British Canoeing welcomes UK Sport’s plans to improve athlete welfare

British Canoeing has welcomed UK Sport’s announcement to improve athlete welfare following the results of a survey administered to athletes, staff and stakeholders across the UK high performance system.

The Culture Health Check survey provided an opportunity for respondents to give feedback about their experience and the culture of their World Class Programme.

It found that more than 90 per cent of athletes and staff felt proud to be part of their world class programme, while more than 80 per cent of athletes and staff said that their programme encourages them to be the best they can be. 

It also found key areas of improvement including better whistleblowing and reporting procedures, and more support for mental health.

UK Sport Chair Dame Katherine Grainger said:

“Last year I challenged our system to be the best in the world at culture, governance and integrity in sport, just as we aim to be the best at performance. 

“The Culture Health Check is an essential part of that process that will enable us to improve further and do the right thing more often. Making sure athletes and staff are working in a positive and respectful environment is quite simply the right thing to do as well as the smart thing to do.”

Over the last 12 months British Canoeing has seen a significant culture change within its Performance department. Much of this stems from the formation of a Performance Wellbeing Group tasked with developing and leading on a performance wellbeing action plan.

Significant areas of progress have included:

• heightened awareness of welfare issues amongst staff and athletes
• the recruitment of a Performance Wellbeing Coach to lead on the action plan
• the development of an Athlete Rep Group to represent the voice of all athletes
• improved and more consistent support for athletes exiting the programme
• formation of better feedback mechanisms ranging from surveys to whistleblowing procedures

The Board of British Canoeing have been influential in the prioritisation of this work. Whilst the Board recognise that improvements are still required, they are encouraged by the progress over the last 12 months and look forward to further developments in this area.

Athlete Rep Group

The Culture Health Check also provides valuable insight into key themes for improvement, notably those relating to reporting of feedback and concerns, and mental health support.

These themes are ongoing areas of work at British Canoeing.

For reporting feedback and concerns:

• a new whistleblowing policy was launched in January 2018 
• A clear route for raising queries or concerns was developed to guide anyone wishing to report an issue relating to the Performance department
• Options for communicating with the Athlete Rep Group were published online

For mental health support:

• British Canoeing have supported mental health support national awareness campaigns by running events and engaging with social media
• Selected staff members have attended mental health training, and further training options for staff and athletes are being explored in conjunction with UK Sport’s Integrity team
Guidance for handling mental health concerns, and the available support to athletes, has been recently published online

Paul Ratcliffe, Performance Director at British Canoeing, said:

“The announcement from UK Sport and the findings from the Culture Health Check provides us valuable insights and will help us to further inform our areas of focus. 

"I’m pleased that the findings confirm we are on the right tracks and making good progress with our Performance Wellbeing strategy.  However we will continue to work towards developing a world leading culture and ensure there are continuous improvements in athlete welfare.”