Our Safeguarding Policy
38 Gillygate, York, YO31 7EQ
Triratna is a worldwide network of friends in the Buddhist life. This is for many of us a source of great richness, support and strength. However, it also carries a risk that we may fail to notice, question or act on behaviours of concern, out of naivety, loyalty to friends or lack of awareness; or an assumption that “it couldn’t happen here” or “they would never do a thing like that.”
This policy is an expression of the first ethical precept taught by the Buddha: to avoid harming living beings. It refers to law and good practice mainly as defined in England and Wales. Triratna bodies in other countries are requested to draw up similar documents in line with local requirements.
The purpose of this policy
This document is for Friends, Mitras and Order members involved in Triratna York Buddhist Group activities (and those of any outreach groups run by this group) as employees, volunteers, leaders, teachers or parents.
It aims to provide
Protection for adults attending Triratna York Buddhist Group activities who may be “at risk” or vulnerable, and
Protection for Friends, Mitras and Order members working with them.
It sets out
information and practices contributing to the prevention of harm of ‘adults at risk’, previously known as ‘vulnerable adults’
a course of action to be followed if harm is suspected.
Although we do not run activities specifically for those with mental illness or addiction, we recognise that people who may be vulnerable in these ways do attend our events and take part in the life of our sangha.
The team of the Triratna York Buddhist Group recognise their responsibility to safeguard adults who may be deemed to be “at risk” visiting our Buddhist group or involved in Buddhist group activities.
Shakyapada is our Safeguarding officer. She is responsible for co-ordinating the protection of children and adults who may be at risk at Triratna York Buddhist Group.
Kate Readman is our Safeguarding contact. She is responsible for making sure the Safeguarding policy is up to date, training attended and information shared with the team.
Who is an “adult”?
In the United Kingdom an “adult” is a person who has passed their 18th birthday.
Who is an “adult at risk”?
This is not currently well defined. However, the following is one widely-used definition:
A person aged 18 or over, who needs, or may need, community care services because they are frail or have a learning disability, physical disability, sight or hearing disability or mental health issues; and cannot (or may not be able to) care for themselves, or take steps to protect themselves from significant harm or exploitation.
Adults who may be ‘at risk’ may also include those who
have learning disabilities
have mental health problems
have drug, alcohol or substance dependency
have physical or sensory disabilities
have been bereaved, suffered grief and loss
through age or illness are dependent on other people to help them
live with domestic abuse
are refugees or asylum seekers and
for any reason may be considered not to have ‘mental capacity’. (See below.)
Whether or not a person is “at risk” or “vulnerable” in these cases will vary according to circumstances, and it should be noted that a person with a physical disability is not necessarily vulnerable or at risk, though they could be. Each case must be judged on its own merits.
What is ‘mental capacity’?
Whether a person has mental capacity is a matter of specialist assessment and not for us to make. However, it may be useful to know something about it.
Mental capacity is the ability to make a particular decision. An adult may be at risk if they are unable to make a decision due to illness, disability, poor mental health, dementia, a learning disability or something else that may impair their judgment.
A person may be deemed to be ‘without capacity’ if they cannot:
understand the decision
retain the information
weigh up the information
communicate their decision
About matters such as
Vulnerability can be variable
As is made clear above in the reference to the vulnerability of those who have suffered grief and loss we recognise that many people who are generally emotionally and psychologically stable in most aspects of their lives may on occasion find themselves vulnerable or at risk. This may be because of illness, relationship breakdown or bereavement, or because their practice of meditation or Buddhism has made them more sensitive and self-aware, particularly if they are new to Buddhism.
For example, we will bear in mind that a person who is emotionally vulnerable for any reason may not be able to make balanced decisions regarding giving money or becoming more involved with Triratna, or entering into intimate relationships, whether friendship or relationships which are more romantic or sexual in nature. We will take great care to help each other avoid exploiting people in such everyday situations of vulnerability.
[Protecting ourselves and others in relationships - removed; see Ethical Guidelines]
Protecting those with psychological disorders
We are aware that those attending our centre and activities include adults experiencing psychological disorders ranging from mild to severe.
We recognise that as Buddhists we do not have the professional skills to diagnose or help people with psychological disorders and that they may not be helped solely by the kindness of Buddhists. In such cases we may need to advise them to seek professional help.
We are aware that for people with serious psychological disorders traditional Buddhist practices involving recognition of the illusion of self could be extremely dangerous. We may need to encourage them in traditional Buddhist practices involving the calming of body and mind, or to avoid meditation – altogether, or during periods of relapse.
Where we believe a person to be at risk of suicide or self-harm, or to pose a risk to others, we will alert our centre Safeguarding officer, who will refer to local mental health services and/or the police as appropriate, and consult with the Triratna Safeguarding Team if necessary. email@example.com
Protecting those with psychological disorders - online
Buddhism and meditation are increasingly taught using online media. In person, it is relatively easy to notice where a person may have compromised mental health; online it is much more difficult.
We recognise that among those seeking individual online guidance from members of the Triratna Buddhist Order there may be some reporting meditation experiences which are an indication of serious psychological disorder.
In engaging in individual guidance online by email, blog, social media or text we will take great care at the start to establish with local Order members the identity, location and suitability of the participant, and which local Order members are available locally to support them in person and gaining permission to contact those Order members if we believe they are at risk. (This does not apply where the participant is an Order member and therefore well known to us.)
(Responding to children online With anyone under 18, we will not engage in personal communication online or via social media)
DBS checks (Disclosure and Barring Service)
The Charity Commission expects that anyone working for a charity, paid or volunteering, including trustees, will be DBS checked wherever they are eligible. Since the rules on eligibility are complicated and change from time to time, our Safeguarding officer will check at least annually with external Safeguarding experts such as Thirtyone:eight (www.thirtyoneeight.org) and ensure everyone eligible for a DBS check has been checked within the previous five years.
We understand that the core team (Mitras or Order members, paid or voluntary) directly responsible for any Triratna York Buddhist Group activities or events specifically intended and advertised for adults likely to be more ‘at risk’ of mistreatment/manipulation must be DBS checked wherever eligible. In the case of Triratna York Buddhist Group at present we do not run any such activities but will keep this under review in case this should change.
We will require anyone helping with such activities (paid or voluntary) who has not been DBS checked to be supervised at all times by someone who is DBS checked.
This does not apply to general activities which an adult with mental health difficulties (for example) may happen to attend.
Managing those who pose a risk to others
There are cases where it is known that a person attending our activities is likely to pose a risk to others (for example, a person who is known to have a previous criminal conviction for sexual or other violent offences, or someone who is under investigation for possible sexual or other violent offences).
Such a person will be asked by the Safeguarding officer to negotiate a behaviour contract setting out the terms of their continued participation in Triratna York Buddhist Group activities within agreed boundaries. (See the document ‘Managing those who pose a risk’.) Where it is felt that the charity does not have the resources to manage this relationship safely, we reserve the right to ask the person not to attend our activities.
Triratna York Buddhist Centre leases its own premises.
What is ‘abuse’?
‘Abuse’ is not a legal term, but covers a number of ways in which a person may be deliberately harmed (legally or illegally), usually by someone who is in a position of power, trust or authority over them, or who may be perceived by that person to be in a position of power, trust or authority over them; for example by a Friend, Mitra or Order member who is helping to run Triratna York Buddhist Group activities for those newer to such activities. The harm may be physical, psychological or emotional, or it may exploit the vulnerability of the person in more subtle ways.
However, harm can also occur less consciously, through naivety, idealism or lack of awareness.
Types of abuse
The 2014 Care Act identifies nine types of abuse, all of which have a psychological/emotional aspect.
3.neglect and acts of omission
9.financial or material abuse
Types of abuse, in more detail
Bodily assaults resulting in injuries e.g. hitting, slapping, pushing,
kicking, misuse of medication, restraint or inappropriate sanctions.
Bodily impairment e.g. malnutrition, dehydration, failure to thrive
Rape, incest, acts of indecency, sexual assault
Sexual harassment or sexual acts to which the person has not
consented, or could not consent or to which they were pressured into consenting.
Sexual abuse might also include exposure to pornographic materials,
being made to witness sexual acts; also sexual harassment, with or without physical contact.
Sexual contact of any kind with anyone under 16 is a crime. In the case of Order members “position of trust” law means sexual contact of any kind with anyone under 18 could be considered a crime.
Abuse through neglect
Ignoring medical or physical care needs
Failure to provide access to appropriate health, social care or educational service
The withholding of the necessities of life, such as medication, adequate
nutrition and heating
Neglect or abuse within an institution (eg.hospital/care home) or care provided in own home.
One-off incident or continuing ill-treatment
Poor professional practice, policies or structure of an organization
Examples: working as housemaids, in brothels, cannabis farms, nail bars and agriculture against their will, unpaid
Some possible signs
Physical appearance, inappropriate clothing.
Isolation, not being allowed to travel alone; restricted freedom of movement.
Poor living conditions, few possessions, no ID documents
Unusual travel times – being dropped off early morning or late at night
Modern Slavery Helpline (UK) 0800 0121 700
Physical, psychological, sexual and financial abuse.
‘Honour’-based violence or forced marriage
Involving intimate partner or family member
Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)
16 year-olds can be defined as suffering domestic abuse.
Some signs and symptoms of domestic abuse
Visible injuries or unexplained marks, scars or injuries
Making ‘excuses’ for injuries
Controlling and/or threatening relationships
Discrimination including gender, sexual orientation, race, disability, age, skin colour, language, culture, religion or belief, or politics
Loss of self-esteem
Not being able to access services or being excluded
Financial or material abuse
Misuse or theft of money
Exploitation, pressure in connection with wills, property or inheritance
Unexplained withdrawal of large sums of money
Personal possessions going missing from home
Extraordinary interest and involvement by the family/carer or friend in an individual’s assets
Threats of harm, controlling, intimidation, coercion,
harassment, verbal abuse, enforced isolation or withdrawal from
services or supportive networks.
Bullying, shouting or swearing
Signs of abuse
NB Ageing processes can cause changes which are hard to distinguish from some aspects of physical assault e.g. skin bruising can occur due to blood vessels becoming fragile.
A history of unexplained falls or minor injuries
Bruising in well-protected areas, or clustered from repeated striking
Burns of unusual location or type
Injuries found at different states of healing
Injury shape similar to an object
Injuries to head/face/scalp
History of moving from doctor to doctor, or between social care agencies; reluctance to seek help
Accounts which vary with time or are inconsistent with physical evidence
Weight loss due to malnutrition; or rapid weight gain
Ulcers, bed sores and being left in wet clothing
Drowsiness due to too much medication; or lack of medication causing
recurring crises/hospital admissions
Disclosure or partial disclosure (use of phrases such as ‘It’s a secret’)
Medical problems, e.g. genital infections, pregnancy, difficulty walking or sitting
Disturbed behaviour e.g. depression, sudden withdrawal from activities, loss of previous skills, sleeplessness or nightmares, self-injury, showing fear or aggression to one particular person, inappropriately seductive behaviour, loss of appetite or difficulty in keeping food down.
Unusual circumstances, such as, for example, two people found in a toilet/bathroom area, one of them distressed
Signs of psychological or emotional vulnerability
Unkempt, unwashed appearance; smell
Withdrawnness, agitation, anxiety; not wanting to be touched
Change in appetite
Insomnia or need for excessive sleep
Unexplained paranoia; excessive fears
Signs of neglect
Poor physical condition
Clothing in poor condition
Untreated injuries or medical problems
Failure to be given prescribed medication
Poor personal hygiene
Signs of financial or material vulnerability
Unexplained or sudden inability to pay bills
Unexplained or sudden withdrawal of money from accounts
Disparity between assets and satisfactory living conditions
Unusual level of interest by family members and other people in the
vulnerable person’s financial assets
Signs of discrimination
Lack of respect shown to an individual
Substandard service offered to an individual
Exclusion from rights afforded to others, such as health, education,
Other signs of abuse
Inappropriate use of restraint
Sensory deprivation e.g. spectacles or hearing aid
Denial of visitors or phone calls
Failure to ensure privacy or personal dignity
Lack of personal clothing or possessions
People who might abuse
Abuse may happen anywhere and may be carried out by anyone, eg:
Order members, Mitras and Friends, whether financially supported or volunteering
People you consider good and trusted friends
Informal carers, family, friends, neighbours
Other users or tenants of Triratna York Buddhist Group
Strangers or visitors to Triratna York Buddhist Group
If you have a concern
All allegations or suspicions should be taken seriously and reported to Triratna York Buddhist Group’s Safeguarding officer: Shakyapada (Shakyapada@schnoo.com) Or Safeguarding Contact: Kate Readman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
What to do if an adult alleges abuse
reassure the person they are doing the right thing by telling you.
clarify issues of confidentiality early on. Make it clear that you may have to discuss their concerns with others, on a strictly need-to-know basis, if at all possible with their permission. (See below.)
explain what you are going to do.
write a factual account of what you have seen and heard, immediately.
appear shocked, horrified, disgusted or angry.
press the individual for details.
make comments or judgments other than to show concern. Your responsibility is to take them seriously, not to decide whether what they are saying is true.
promise to keep secrets.
confront the alleged perpetrator.
risk contaminating the evidence by investigating matters yourself.
What to do next
Your first concern is the safety and wellbeing of the person bringing the allegation. Do not be distracted from this by loyalty to the person who has been accused or your desire to maintain the good name of Triratna or your centre.
If you are not the Safeguarding officer the first thing you should do is to tell the Safeguarding officer. However, if this is not possible and you think the person is in immediate danger phone social services or police straight away. A telephone referral should be confirmed in writing within 24 hours.
Every person has a legal right to privacy under the International Convention on Human Rights and data protection legislation; therefore if possible you need to get the person’s consent to share the information they have given you, within the limits described here and below.
However, if necessary it is legal to pass on information without their consent if you believe they are at risk of significant harm.
If you are not the Safeguarding officer, tell the Triratna York Buddhist Group’s Safeguarding officer or contact. They will co-ordinate the handling of the matter.
The Safeguarding officer or contact should contact the Triratna Safeguarding team to discuss what to do next: email@example.com
Meanwhile, make detailed factual notes about the conversation/concern/incident as soon as possible, including time, date and location. Give them to the Safeguarding officer. If you are the Safeguarding officer, keep notes yourself and keep them either locked away or password-protected.
No sangha member should attempt to investigate a criminal allegation. This is the job of the police and to attempt this could prejudice a court case and put the person in danger.
Finally, if the allegation may be criminal, without giving personal details of those involved you should email the Charity Commission that there has been a serious Safeguarding incident, that your charity has addressed it according to your Safeguarding policies and the police have been informed. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-to-report-a-serious-incident-in-your-charity
Who else needs to know?
Confidentiality, sharing information only on a need-to-know basis, is very important. Under data protection legislation nobody has a right to know about the matter – except, for Safegarding purposes, with those in a position to prevent further harm, and your Chair, who holds ultimate responsibility for the governance of the charity. For example, where there is a criminal allegation against a mitra it would be justifiable for the Safeguarding officer, Chair and mitra convenor to know about it. Normally it is illegal to share personal information about a person without that person’s permission in writing; however, where there are Safeguarding concerns it may be necessary, and therefore legally justifiable, to report without consent, for the prevention of harm.
This is not a matter of concealment, but is intended to protect all concerned from further harm. It will also protect your sangha from fear, rumour and disharmony which will make it much harder to deal with the matter effectively without causing further harm.
Secure, confidential record-keeping
We understand our responsibility for secure and careful record-keeping. Our Safeguarding officer will keep a detailed log of all Safeguarding-related incidents as well as conversations, actions and the reasoning behind them. These will be stored on the charity’s computer, in a password protected section accessible only to the Safeguarding officer and one or two others approved by our trustees. If this is not practicable, they will be written on a computer, printed out and the paper copies stored in a locked cabinet, box or drawer accessible only to the Safeguarding officer and one or two others approved by our trustees. In this case the computer files must be deleted promptly. We understand that such records must not be stored on individuals’ own private computers.
We also understand that under data protection law we need to word our records in a form we would be happy for the subjects to read if they ask to, as is their legal right. This means notes should be factual and respectful, free of interpretations and value-judgements.
Keeping confidential records
We understand that because many abuse cases come to light 30 or more years later our insurers may require us to keep our logs for up to 50 years. (This is a requirement of the UK’s Buddhist Insurance Scheme.)
If our charity closes down, we will give our records to another Triratna Buddhist centre/charity to keep with their own confidential Safeguarding logs.
Reviewing our policies annually
All our Safeguarding policies will be reviewed by the Safeguarding contact annually and the review recorded in the minutes of their meetings.
Chair's name and email address
Safeguarding officer's name and email address
Safeguarding officer's signature
Safeguarding contact name and email address:
Kate Readman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Safeguarding contact signature
This document will be reviewed annually by the Safeguarding contact of Triratna York Buddhist Group
This model document published May 2019 by the Triratna Safeguarding team, part of the Triratna Ethics Kula.