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The Role of Rokpa Trust Guidelines & Policies

1. Rokpa Trust`s CHILD SAFEGUARDING POLICY was formulated after lengthy discussions with SAFECIC which is a specialist agency which advises the Charity Commission and other government departments on child safeguarding issues.  The policy was adopted by the trustees on 18 December 2016 having been approved by SAFECIC.  A copy of the policy is annexed hereto (Annexe 1).

2. Rokpa Trust has also made general safeguarding provisions which are not confined to children.

3. On 28 October 2017 Choje Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche the Chairman of the Trustees wrote to the centres of Rokpa Trust about the danger of abuse.  A copy of that letter is annexed hereto (Annexe 2).

4. Rokpa Trust has GUIDELINES AS TO TEACHINGS AND TEACHERS AT SAMYE LING AND THE SAMYE DZONGS updated and adopted by the trustees on 24 September 2017.  Much of these guidelines do not relate to safeguarding issues but the following extracts do relate to safeguarding:

 

Complaints about teachers

Disputes between students and teachers, tutors or Dharma helpers should in the first instance be referred to Lama Yeshe Rinpoche or Lama Katen or some senior member of the community who is trusted by both parties  in the hope that the issue can be resolved on an informal basis.  But if it cannot be resolved informally a complaint can be made to the trustees. 

The trustees shall appoint one of their number to investigate the complaint.   This will normally be done by that trustee requesting the complainant to submit a written statement of complaint and then requesting the teacher to respond in writing.  The trustee may then seek clarification by speaking to both parties either in person or by telephone.  The trustee shall prepare a report to the other trustees.  This report shall be disclosed to both parties. Before the trustees rule upon the complaint they must give both parties the opportunity to make representation about the report.  The final decision of the trustees shall be in writing.

All stages of the complaints procedure shall be fully documented and filed at Samye Ling.

Relationships 

It sometimes happens that a romantic relationship develops between a Dharma teacher, tutor or helper and a student.  This must be avoided.  It may seem quite innocent at first but as it develops it may become abusive.  The teachers  are in a position of trust and influence.  Such a relationship must be stopped before it develops.  Otherwise the teacher must stop teaching or the student must cease to be a student of that teacher.

There is an absolute ban on teachers, tutors or helpers making any suggestive gestures or comments or physical contact that could possibly be interpreted as sexual or abusive.

5. Rokpa Trust has a POLICY AS TO THERAPIES AND MEDICAL TREATMENT CARRIED OUT AT SAMYE LING AND SAMYE DZONGS updated and adopted by the trustees on 4 October 2015.  Much is this policy does not relate to safeguarding issues but the following extracts do relate to safeguarding :

 

SUSPICION OF MENTAL ILL HEALTH

Choje Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche has been asked to give advice on what should be done if a volunteer or student at a Samye Dzong is suspected of being mentally unwell.  When centres are being refurbished, developed they are dependent upon the unpaid work of volunteers and the perception may exist that the volunteers are there for the centre.  But the truth ought to be the other way round.  The centre ought to be there for the benefit of the volunteers and to help them practise compassion and wisdom.  Those who run centres must do everything in their power to create a friendly and caring atmosphere in which people can feel secure and confident.   Volunteers should never be made to feel that they are being exploited. 

The centres do not have the facilities or capability to treat people who are mentally unwell and it is important not to create unrealistic expectations.  People coming to the centres as volunteers or students should be asked to disclose any history of mental problems and any medication.  If it appears that a person wanting to come to the centre does have problems which the staff cannot manage it may be appropriate to require that the person accepts professional help.

 

If you are worried that another person at the centre is mentally unwell, you should act with the utmost sensitivity.  The most important thing is to treat that person with great kindness and friendship.  It is usually unhelpful to offer advice unless it is asked for and better to listen.   It is generally inappropriate to discuss your fears that the person is unwell with others.  If you think that there is another person at the centre,  for instance a lama or committee member,  who may be able to help,  you should get the consent of the person about whom you are going to talk and do not go behind his/her back..   Any such talk must be kept confidential.   You should not involve anybody who the person distrusts or dislikes.

The relationship between patient and therapist or psychiatrist is generally unequal. You are probably not a trained therapist or psychiatrist and should be extremely careful not to allow an unequal relationship to develop between you and the other person.  You should try to relate as equals. Avoid thinking of yourself as giving compassion and the other person as receiving your compassion.  The most useful thing is to be a good friend.  If it appears that the person is becoming dependent upon you, you should be very mindful that such a relationship carries risks and you may need to take advice.

Of course there may be extreme situations when it is necessary to intervene without the consent of the person but before doing this you should take the advice of a lama or professional therapist.”

 

6. Rokpa Trust has had a COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE AND GUIDELINES since October 2000 and has updated these from time to time.  The current Policy and Procedures were updated and adopted by the trustees on 2nd April 2023 and are annexed hereto (Annexe 3).

 

 

ANNEXE 1

ROKPA TRUST CHILD SAFEGUARDING POLICY

1. Samye Ling and the Samye Dzongs do not generally cater for children. Children`s courses, classes or activities are not offered.  None of the volunteers are qualified to look after children or are eligible to be checked by DBS in England and Wales or by Disclosure Scotland in Scotland.

2. There is no bar to parents bringing their children to the centres provided that they accept full responsibility for the children at all times.  Children under the age of 16 may not stay at any centre except with a parent.  Young people over the age of 16 but under the age of 18 should not normally be allowed to stay at any centre without a parent, however, the committee may relax this rule if it appears that the person is mature and responsible but only after careful discussion with the parents.  In such case a written consent from the parents must be obtained.

3. Some centres hold “family days” when parents are invited to bring their children.  It must be made clear to the parents that they are responsible for their children.

4. Some centres have school parties.  When a visit is arranged it should be made clear to the school in the invitation letter that teachers are responsible for the wellbeing of the children and that as far as possible the children should remain in the present of the teachers during the visit.  Should there be any welfare concerns about children in school parties these should be raised with the School`s Designated Officer normally via the head teacher.

5. When children are in the presence of volunteers without parents or teachers,  the following rules must be observed:

a. The parents or teachers should not be far away and the volunteers must know where they are.

b. If possible there should be more than one volunteer with the children.  This is not only to protect the children but it is also to protect the volunteer and the centre against the possibility of unfounded complaints.

c. No volunteer should be with a single child, only with a group of children.

d. The volunteers may not touch a child or make any gestures or say anything that might be construed in a sexual and threatening way.

e. The volunteers may not reveal to the children any details about themselves save their first name and may not make any enquiry about the identity of the children save their first names.  Nothing should be done that might facilitate further contact between the child and the volunteer.  However it is recognized that in the case of “family days” the volunteer may already be well known to the parent and children in which case a ban on further contact may be impracticable. In any case no volunteer should use their position within the trust to have direct contact with the child including personal social media or other electronic communication.

f. Volunteers who escort children round the centres or who give explanations to the children must be vetted by the committee who must be satisfied that the volunteer fully understands what is required.  The volunteer must satisfy the committee and sign a declaration that he/she is fully conversant with this Child Safeguarding Policy and understands why the Policy has been made and is committed to preventing anything happening which would be detrimental to the wellbeing of children at the centre.

6. The ultimate responsibility for legal compliance by all the centres rests with the trustees of Rokpa Trust who have delegated the responsibility of running the centres to committees.  In any centre where a child is likely to come the committee must constitute itself as a Child Safeguarding Committee (CSC) or appoint a CSC.

The CSC must be familiar with all the statutory obligations and advice which is available on

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/safeguarding-children-and-young-persons (a website published by the Charity Commission) and also https://safecic.co.uk (SAFE cic is an advisory organisation which has advised the trustees of Rokpa Trust as to this policy). There must be a clearly defined line of responsibility so that one member of the CSC should be appointed as Child Safeguarding Officer (CSO) and another should be appointed as Deputy Child Safeguarding Officer (DCSO).

7. In the unlikely event that a child makes a disclosure to a volunteer that he/she has been the subject of abuse (whether by a parent or teacher or somebody else) the volunteer should not attempt to enter into discussion with the child about the allegations and should certainly not ask any leading question. S/he should refer the matter to the CSO or DCSO who will contact the local social care services or the police if a crime has or may have been committed. In an emergency dial 999.   If the child makes disclosure of something which falls short of abuse but is causing the child distress this should be referred to the local social care services.  The details of any such disclosure should if possible be recorded contemporaneously by the volunteer, or CSO or DCSO or member of the CSC hearing the disclosure and if this is not practicable must be recorded as soon as possible.

8. It is possible (but unlikely) that a child might ask to speak to a volunteer alone which would be contrary to the rule in paragraph 5(c) above.  A child may have very pressing reasons for wanting this and to refuse might demonstrate a lack of compassion.  Volunteers should use their utmost endeavours to avoid speaking to a child alone and should only do so in extreme situations and must exercise common sense and do what is necessary in the interests of the child.     

9. If anybody at the centre sees or hears or becomes aware of anything that is untoward in respect of a child (including on-line safety issues) they must report the matter to the CSO or the DCSO who must inform the CSC.  If anything happens which might indicate a breach of duty by anybody at the centre the CSO or DCSO must report this to the trustees who will follow this policy if relevant and refer the matter to Social Service and/or the police if this has not already been done.

10. If any disclosure is made by a child or if any report is made of a matter causing concern about a child,  the CSO or DCSO must make a written report as soon as possible which is signed and dated.  The report should annexe any record made by a volunteer.  The report (whether written or in electronic form) should be stored in a file marked “Child Safety” and kept permanently and a copy should be made available to any relevant authority.

11. A copy of this policy and also the names of the members of the Child Safeguarding Committee of the centre and the CSO and the DCSO must be exhibited on the notice board at the centre and must be shown to teachers and parents if asked.

12. If the committee of a centre hires out rooms to another organization for a function which will be attended by children a written undertaking must be obtained from the organizers that they will comply with this policy.”

 

ANNEXE 2

28th September 2017

Dear friends,

In view of recent events in some Buddhist organisations around the world, I feel it is my duty as Abbot of Kagyu Samye Ling to send this message to all the centres within our organisation of Rokpa Trust.

Abuse, whether emotional, physical or sexual, causes great harm and has no place anywhere, least of all in a Dharma Centre. No form of abuse at any Rokpa Trust centre is acceptable.  Generally abuse occurs in the context of a relationship where one person has influence over another such as teacher/student, but it may occur in other situations too.  

I am very confident that Samye Ling and the Samye Dzongs are places of spiritual purity.  This purity depends upon the ethical standards of the centres and compliance with the law.  We engage auditors to make rigorous checks of our finances.   A specialist lawyer has given instruction to the trustees and the Samye Dzong committees on how to run the centres in strict compliance with the legal requirements and guidance from the Charity Commission.  The good reputation of our centres depends upon the transparency of our affairs.    

If anybody knows of any abuse or irregularity they are under a duty to reveal this to me, or the committee members or the trustees.  You can send a message to me at Samye Ling and I will arrange to speak to you confidentially.

Please join me in prayers that Samye Ling and the Samye Dzongs will continue to uphold our ethical standards and bring great benefit to all.  

With best wishes,

Choje Lama Yeshe Losal Rinpoche

ANNEXE 3

ROKPA TRUST COMPLAINTS POLICY & PROCEDURE

 

Whilst Rokpa Trust continuously aims to create an environment that does not give rise to Complaints, it is recognised that these do occur. When they do, it is important that they are dealt with in a prompt and competent manner.  Whether appearing to be a justified Complaint or not, any expression of dissatisfaction may indicate an issue with Rokpa Trust’s service offering, which we may need to address to protect those who come into contact with Rokpa Trust and to prevent systemic issues from developing.

This document sets out how to raise complaints about Rokpa Trust and the process we will apply to address those.

APPLICATION

This policy applies to all Rokpa Trust centres and branches throughout the United Kingdom except for Lothlorien Therapeutic Community which maintains a separate complaints’ policy and procedure.

All staff, volunteers and Trustees are required to read, understand and comply with this policy and its procedures.

CUSTODIAN

The custodians of this policy are the Trustees of Rokpa Trust, who have overall responsibility for ensuring the proper handling of complaints. The Trustees are supported by all branch managers, staff and volunteers of Rokpa Trust in implementing this policy.

This policy will be reviewed biennially, and appropriate changes will be made should these be required.

 

DEFINITIONS

A Complaint is any expression of dissatisfaction, whether justified or not, about any aspect of Rokpa Trust.

 

BACKGROUND

It is essential to the proper operation of Rokpa Trust that people are able to report complaints in a structured and transparent manner. The timely identification of issues allows Rokpa Trust to reflect upon and improve its processes, thereby protecting Rokpa Trust and those who come into contact with the charity.

 

POLICY STATEMENT

Rokpa Trust:

  • is committed to enabling those that come into contact with the charity to easily voice their views and opinions

  • will take seriously any concern or complaint and will investigate it promptly, for resolution as quickly as possible

  • will deal with complaints in line with Rokpa Trust’s Data Protection policy

  • will keep a register of all complaints, which will be reviewed regularly by the Trustees

 

COMPLAINTS’ PROCEDURE

 

  1. Making a Complaint

A complaint should be addressed to the Branch Manager as follows:

  • By phone: 0203 327 1650

  • By email:  ksdlondon@samye.org          

  • By post:  Kagyu Samye Dzong London, 15 Spa Road, Bermondsey, SE16 3 SA, London

 

Please include your name, address and contact telephone number in your email or letter so that we can get back in touch with you easily.

 

Complaints received anonymously will be recorded and considered, but action may be limited if further information is not available to ensure a full and fair investigation.

 2. Complaint Details

To help us to deal with your complaint promptly and accurately Rokpa Trust needs to know:

 

  • Exactly what the problem is and how it has occurred – give as much information and evidence, if available, as possible

  • How it has affected you

  • What you consider should be done to correct the issue or prevent this happening again

 

 3. Complaints’ Procedure

We will acknowledge your complaint within five (5) working days of receipt. If we think it will take longer, we will let you know.

 

We will record your complaint in our complaints’ register and between us we can agree on the best way and time to get back in contact with you.

 

As far as possible, we endeavour to resolve complaints within thirty days (30) days through open and constructive dialogue with the complainant and other interested parties.  Depending on the nature of the complaint however, it may require to be escalated to the Trustees and they reserve the right to determine the course of action to be followed.  This may include a decision that a formal internal investigation is required, and who needs to be involved in this to ensure that all complaints are dealt with impartially and promptly. Where necessary, Rokpa Trust will draw on support and advice from suitably qualified independent third parties or advisors to assist with any complaints.

 

 

 4. Data protection

To process a complaint Rokpa Trust will hold personal data about the complainant, which the individual provides, and which other people give in response to the complaint.

Rokpa Trust will hold this data securely and only use it to address the complaint. The identity of the person making the complaint will only be known to those who need to consider the complaint and will not be revealed to other people or made public. However, it may not be possible to preserve confidentiality in some circumstances, for example, where relevant legislation applies, or allegations are made which involve the conduct of third parties.

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