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.
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 possible 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 Procedure and Guidelines were updated and adopted by the trustees on 4 October 2017 and are annexed hereto (Annexe 3).
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 organization 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.”
28th September 2017
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
ROKPA TRUST COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE AND GUIDELINES
These procedures and guidelines apply to all the Rokpa Trust centres ie Samye Ling and all the Samye Dzongs. Samye Ling has a Management Committee. Some of the Samye Dzongs have committees but not Management Committees and in respect of those Samye Dzongs, any reference in these guidelines to the Management Committee shall mean the committee.
Any complaints about the centre or an individual at the centre should be addressed to the Management Committee and should be addressed as promptly as possible and in any event within 21 days.
Handling the Complaints
As far as possible, a complaint should be resolved informally and by seeking to reach agreement between the conflicting interests.
The procedures should be flexible and within reason should be agreed with the complainant and any interested party.
As far as possible any request for confidentiality by a complainant should be respected. It should be explained that an absolute guarantee of confidentiality cannot be given. There may be circumstances when the information given in purported confidence is of such importance that it has to be passed on. If this happens, it should be fully explained to the complainant what information is to be passed on, to whom it is to be passed on to and why. If possible, agreement from the complainant should be obtained.
If the matter complained of is a criminal offence it should normally be reported to the police.
The Management Committee hearing the complaint has the discretion not to report the matter to the police if the apparent offence is trivial.
If the complainant is the victim of an offence it should normally be the decision of the complainant and not the committee whether to report the matter to the police. It is proper for the committee to counsel the complainant as to the implications of reporting the matter to the police but never should the complainant be persuaded not to report a matter which he/she wants to report and advice should never be given that reporting a matter to the police would be detrimental to the reputation of the centre.
In some cases the public interest may require a matter to be reported to the police even though the complainant does not want this. In such a situation it should be fully explained to the complainant what information is being given to the police and why.
Misconduct may technically constitute a criminal offence but it may be more appropriate to deal with it as an issue of mental health and a committee may decide to report the matter to the Department of Social Services or a mental health agency, rather than involve the police.
Misconduct not the subject of a complaint
If members of the Management Committee learn of misconduct or breach of the centre`s rules the committee may investigate and make decisions in the same way as if a complaint had been made. This includes failure to pay money due to the centre.
It is unlikely that any member of the Management Committee is qualified to address issues of mental health. If it appears that a complaint involves such an issue, instead of treating it as a complaint the Management Committee should refer the matter to Social Services, a mental health agency or a professional therapist or practitioner. It may be appropriate to request advice from somebody at Tara Trust. The Management Committee should be aware of the Rokpa Trust Therapy Guidelines.
The Management Committee may appoint one of its members to investigate the complaint and prepare a report for them. The Management Committee will then review the report and decide on the appropriate action to be taken. The investigating committee member must act fairly and impartially obtaining both sides of the story. They shall inform the parties of the contents of the report to the Management Committee and any party shall have the opportunity to make representations about the report before the committee makes its decision.
The investigating committee member must be a person who is trusted by the complainant and the person complained about. If any of the parties to the dispute do not trust any of the members of the Management Committee or if the complaint is against the centre itself, it may be appropriate for the complaint to be made directly to the trustees of Rokpa Trust.
The investigating committee member should normally keep a full note of the investigation. The report should normally be in writing and the Management Committee’s decision should normally be in writing. If the parties to the complaint are in agreement that they would prefer the matter not to be fully recorded in writing, the committee has a discretion whether to record it fully, in short summary form or not at all. The only circumstances in which there should be no record at all is when the parties have reached complete agreement and the complaint is treated as withdrawn.
Powers of the committee
The Management Committee has the power to request or require somebody to leave the centre.
The role of the trustees of Rokpa Trust
The duty to ensure that the centres are administered in accordance with the law and under the terms of Rokpa Trust rests with the trustees.
If the Management Committee handling a complaint or issue is uncertain how to proceed the trustees should be consulted. It is difficult to convene a trustees’ meeting quickly but it is generally possible to consult the trustees who live at or near Samye Ling immediately and they will consult the other trustees by telephone.
If a complainant or interested party is dissatisfied with the decision of a committee they may appeal to the trustees. The trustees in dealing with an appeal are not bound to reinvestigate the whole issue but may rely on findings of fact made by the Management Committee. The trustees may hear a dissatisfied party or receive written representations. If it is not possible to convene all the trustees, the appeal may be heard by a quorum and the interested parties should be told that the absent trustees will be consulted by telephone. Trustees may consider such appeal notwithstanding that they were on the original committee and party to the decision appealed against. However such trustees may in their discretion take part in the discussion but recuse themselves from the actual adjudication.
If the matter considered by a committee is serious, involves misconduct which is reported to the police, involves misconduct which is not reported to the police but came near to the borderline of what should be reported, has the potential to involve Rokpa Trust in any legal liability or to adversely affect the reputation of Rokpa Trust, then it should be promptly reported to the trustees even though the Management Committee is able to and resolves to deal with the issue. However the trustees have the power to take the matter out of the hands of the Management Committee and deal with it themselves or to offer advice to the Management Committee.
Sangha members are subject to the Sangha guidelines which contain their own complaints procedure and disciplinary powers of the Sangha Committee. The Sangha guidelines relate to matters such as Sangha discipline and breach of vows upon which it is not appropriate for the trustees to adjudicate. But if a complaint is made against a Sangha member by a lay person or the complaint is about a matter which affects the community as a whole or which might affect the reputation of Rokpa Trust then it should be referred to the trustees under these Complaints Procedure and Guidelines. If the trustees come to the conclusion that the matter ought to be treated as a Sangha discipline issue rather than a general issue for the trustees they shall have the power to redirect the complaint to the Sangha Committee. If the complaint is about any form of abuse (sexual, physical, emotional, etc.) this must be dealt with by the trustees and not the Sangha committee.