• Simon Linford
    152

    This was also my experience. I found myself trying to put the examples into the context of ringing myself and it was quite difficult. But I could think of ringing related examples which would have been worth sharing with other ringers.
  • Alison Hodge
    88
    Until such time as a special ringing related leadership course may be available, we have to assume that ringing leaders are expected to take a Diocesan course. So are there enough places available on courses for ringers, plus all the other church people with roles who are also expected to take the Leadership level training?

    From looking at a few diocesan websites, it appears that in each diocese there are only a few courses a month and a dozen or so participants on each. Does this mean that there is a shortage of places available? If so, would that help make the case for a separate course for ringing leaders?
  • Simon Linford
    152
    almost certainly. One of the drivers in some Dioceses that have decided against enforcing the Leadership training for tower captains is the sheer number of courses they will need to put on when considering all the other church volunteering roles.
  • Peter Sotheran
    32
    What do you do if the responsible person receives a negative DBS report? Has ny tower asked a ringer or visitor to leave the tower?
  • Paul Wotton
    9
    Having looked into safeguarding when producing our safeguarding policy the answer is pretty simple. A person who is not DBS cleared should not be supervising ringing if children, young persons under 18 or vulnerable adults are present. As someone in that category could turn up as an unannounced visitor, it seems very unwise to have a person who is not BDS cleared as a Tower Captain or Deputy, even if there are no children, young persons under 18 or vulnerable adults in the band.

    If the Tower Captain knows that a member of the band has failed a DBS check then they would be ill-advised to use them as the 2nd adult needed when children, young persons under 18 or vulnerable adults are present.

    I see no reason to ask them to leave, assuming the diocesan authorities have not banned them from being in a ringing chamber. It is then down to good leadership by the tower captain to keep an eye on their behaviour and particularly any attempt by them to arrange to meet children, young persons under 18 or vulnerable adults outside the tower setting. i.e grooming activities.
  • Peter Sotheran
    32
    Regarding the safeguarding of parties of visiting ringers, what requirements do churches make when a group of Mothers' Union members or a choir visit a church? Dare I presume that the same standards of care & safeguarding are required?
  • Peter Sotheran
    32
    Last week I raised a couple of questions:

    1. Has any tower asked a visitor or a ringer to leave as a consequence of a negative DBS report?

    2. Do churches apply the same requirements of visiting church groups (non-ringing) or visiting church choirs?

    In view of the resounding silence, may I assume that the answer in both cases is 'no'?
  • Phillip George
    23

    Answer to Q1.
    A DBS certificate can record police convictions, reprimands and warnings. It can advise of any issues around children and adults barred lists and any other relevant information disclosed at the Chief Police Officers discretion. Having something disclosed would not necessarilly mean that a person is unsuitable to visit a church to ring bells.
    If there were problems with the certificate this should be discussed between the provider (e.g. the church of england) and the applicant, and if necessary appropriate safeguards put in place to monitor or restrict a person from doing a particular activity.
    DBS certificates are strictly private and confidential and the response to a tower asking "Have you got a clean DBS certificate?" would not necessarilly be straight forward.
    An independant third party (tower) cannot fully assess a person based on the certificate alone and in any case it's not authorised to make any judgement without reference to the provider. Also, most ringers will not need to have DBS certificates.
    If we start monitoring them ringing could become more difficult than catching a ferry at Dover!
  • Peter Sotheran
    32
    >An independant third party (tower) cannot fully assess a person based on the certificate alone and in any case it's not authorised to make any judgement without reference to the provider. Also, most ringers will not need to have DBS certificates. - PHILIP<

    Yes, agreed. That highlights one of the weaknesses of the system. And in any case, if questioned, what's to stop a visitor saying "yes, I've been checked and everything's fine, regardless of the truth. When DBS checks were first introduced a church not far from me insisted that any ringers wishing to visit must have been DBS checked. This in effect locked that tower into its own private purdah.

    I still wonder if any towers have actually barred a ringer.
  • John de Overa
    72
    the response to a tower asking "Have you got a clean DBS certificate?" would not necessarily be straight forward.Phillip George

    Indeed, and the rest of your explanation is excellent as well.

    For those who haven't had to go through the process there are four levels of checking:

    • Basic - unspent convictions and cautions.
    • Standard - spent and unspent convictions and adult cautions.
    • Enhanced - spent and unspent convictions and adult cautions, plus a check on any information held by police forces.
    • Enhanced with barred list - spent and unspent convictions and adult cautions, a check on any information held by police forces, plus a check against the children's and/or adults barred lists.

    So a DBS Enhanced Certificate, which is what the CofE requires for people who work with vulnerable children or adults, contains:

    • The applicant's personal details.
    • The requesting organisations details.
    • Police records of convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings, after the statutory filtering has been applied.
    • Information from the list held under Section 142 of the Education Act 2002.
    • DBS Children's barred list information.
    • DBS Adult's barred list information.
    • Other relevant information disclosed at the Chief Police Officer(s) discretion.

    Note that it is not a requirement for rank & file ringers to undergo Enhanced DBS checks, requiring people to undergo DBS checking unnecessarily is an offence.

    The CofE SG guidance related to ringing says that:

    Bell ringers who teach or train children plus the Tower Captains who manage those adults who teach or train

    must have an Enhanced with children's barred list check, unless they are supervised or do not fulfil the frequency criteria, where they are:

    once a week or more; 4 days or more in any 30-day period or overnight between the hours of 2am and 6am.

    For rank and file ringers, the guidance says they are eligible for a Basic DBS check, but it is not mandatory - but there's a cost involved to the CofE, so I think in practice that will be a "no".

    And as Phillip says, if a DBS certificate isn't squeaky clean it doesn't necessarily mean the person has to be excluded from an activity, it all depends on the activity, what's on the certificate, the judgment of the organisation requiring the check and what, if any, protections can be put in place.
  • John de Overa
    72
    When DBS checks were first introduced a church not far from me insisted that any ringers wishing to visit must have been DBS checkedPeter Sotheran

    Then they were probably committing an offence - you have to be able to show why a DBS check is necessary if you require one. This article specifically uses bellringers & the CofE as a example of such overreach:

    Despite what some funders, local authorities or regulatory bodies seem to believe, simply having contact with children or vulnerable adults does not in itself create a need for a check. Rather, each role should be assessed on its own merits, with factors such as the nature, location and frequency of the interaction considered, and whether the volunteer is supervised or working alongside others. In fact, if a volunteering role does not satisfy the Home Office’s eligibility guidance for checks, an organisation could even be operating outside the law by requiring one.

    And the DBS themselves have cracked down on such overreach:

    It is important to bear in mind that where an institution knowingly requests a level of DBS check that is not permissible for that particular role, the institution could be committing a criminal offence. Whilst isolated instances of incorrect requests are unlikely to result in any adverse consequences, the DBS are taking steps to “crack-down” on institutions that routinely request checks to which they are not entitled.
  • Peter Sotheran
    32
    > simply having contact with children or vulnerable adults does not in itself create a need for a check. - JOHN<

    I suspected that was the case. Thanks for confirming. Would the same apply to Trustees of an educational foundation that is linked to a local college? The Trustees have no involvement wih the students and on the rare occasions when they are face to face with students they are always in the presence of members of staff - typical example being a presentation by staff & students on a project the foundation has funded.
  • John de Overa
    72
    Would the same apply to Trustees of an educational foundation that is linked to a local college?Peter Sotheran

    Under the conditions you described you'd think not, wouldn't you? However the DofE's Keeping children safe in education 2022 document says:

    324. In the case of an academy trust, including those established to operate a free
    school, the trust must require enhanced DBS checks on all members of the academy
    trust, individual charity trustees, and the chair of the board of charity trustees.
    Academy trusts, including those established to run a free school, have the same
    responsibilities as all independent schools in relation to requesting enhanced DBS
    checks for permanent and supply staff.

    That's specifically about academy trusts but my guess is that depending on the exact nature of the trust, it might also require an enhanced DBS check, even though that apparently contradicts the DBS's guidance. Someone has already picked up on the inconsistency and challenged the Charity Commission with a Freedom of Information Request:

    Guidance on DBS checking for charity Trustees

    There's a load of pseudo-legal waffle in the reply, as far as I can tell it's still not definite either way. And even the DBS's own DBS Checks: Working with Children in the Charity Sector is not clear on the subject:

    Trustees of children's charities
    Any trustee of a children's charity can be asked to apply for an Enhanced Disclosure check in the child workforce. For the trustee role, there's no eligibility for a Children's Barred List Check

    Note "can be", not "must", but even if a check is made it must not include a barred list search.

    I think there's are 3 choices:

    • If you object to the principle of being checked, don't be a trustee.
    • Suck it up and have the check, the process is about as onerous as opening a new bank account.
    • Get legal advice and challenge the decision, which will probably result in your trusteeship being removed, and will also require remortgaging your house.

    SG in general is a confused shambles.

    Anyway, this now has nothing much to do with ringing and frankly I find the topic of SG tedious as it is - I've had to undergo an Enhanced with Child list check for teaching bell handling, and we don't even have any child learners. I really couldn't be bothered to argue the toss - even though I think it's unnecessary, that's not the fault of the poor person who had to ask me to do it.
  • Peter Sotheran
    32
    John,

    Many thanks for quoting 'chapter & verse' - it's all very helpful. In the example to which I referred, the trustees are not part of the Academy Trust and play no role in the management of the college. Ours is a copmpletely independent (320 year old) foundation that supports education in schools across the town. The college very generously provides a venue for our meetings. Since we are very rarely in the presence of students - then only when accompanied by a staff member - the recently introduced DBS requirement seems to be overkill. (Still it's the college's money, if they want to spend it!)
  • John de Overa
    72
    Ours is a copmpletely independent (320 year old) foundation that supports education in schools across the town. The college very generously provides a venue for our meetings.Peter Sotheran

    That seems like a complete overreach to me, as you say. My reading of the rules are that you only need a DBS check to go into a school if you are undertaking a "regulated activity" as defined in the government's Regulated activity in relation to children: scope guide - basically unsupervised access to children more than three times a month. You might try waving that document under the relevant jobsorth's nose, if you are feeling combative...
  • Paul Wotton
    9
    John

    In response to your comment that "SG in general is a confused shambles.", the problem is not in the guidelines. They may be overly voluminous but they are ultimately both understandable and, in my opinion, show a reasonable balance of risk versus ability to carry out desirable activities. The problem is that they are guidelines not authoritatively imposed rules.

    I have a military background were exercises involving different 'sides' are conducted using safety rules that aim to make the training achieved as realistic as possible whilst keeping personnel and material safe. These rules are set by an exercise commander and personnel are trained in there use. This model does not apply in the Church, whose tradition is that individual incumbents and PCC's have individual responsibility. Parishes have considerable licence is how they apply guidelines. If the incumbent, PCC or indeed the Parish Safeguarding Officer is particularly risk adverse and perhaps do not particularly value bell ringing then they can and do place safeguarding requirements on ringers that far exceed CofE guidelines.

    As we increasingly do not have enough suitably skilled ringers to follow the historic tower based ringing model and become more peripatetic, we want common rules to many aspects of ringing that apply across the CofE; not guidelines that can be interpreted or ignored by individual parishes/cathedrals. SG in general is a confused shambles not because SG is inherently confusing, but because CofE governance is, perhaps deliberately, somewhat loose and therefore shambolic.
  • Phillip George
    23
    Paul, you make some interesting points. Ringing lacks stability and experience in some areas. PCCs often lack knowledge and experience in dealing with bell ringers.
    There are also too many "experts". Should ringers refer to the CCCBR, or the church, for safeguarding guidelines? Who are our masters? The result of all this is contributing to a confused and risk averse culture. This is why it is important for towers to be represented on the PCC or at least have a very good, close working relationship with it. I have always said that effective communication can solve a lot of problems!
    I am fortunate in having a foot in both camps, as an SG officer and a ringer, so I do my best to protect people in my parish and visiting ringers from excessive beaurocracy.
    We have visitors next week. No SG qualificiations needed by them, no bits of paper to sign, no forms! As an SG trained person appointed by my PCC I will be there to meet and greet, and stay with them during their visit, as any good host should! (and I might even get a ring!!). Thats all that is needed - just as in the military, a few trained, appointed personnel and then let everyone else get on with it!.
    We are fortunate to have the resource in our tower to manage this, and a deputy as back up. Visiting ringers are always welcome but if we can't personally meet them they are not allowed to come.
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    If it is a visiting peal band does someone SG trained sit in the tower for the duration?
  • Phillip George
    23
    No, neither for QPs but I stay (not in the ringing room) until they go into changes and return before they finish making sure that everything is ok, collect fees and see them safely off the premises.
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