• Alison Hodge
    88
    The safeguarding advice on the CCCBR website talks of the training for a Tower captain and for ringers. The requirements seem simple and logical for members of the local band in their "home tower", with the ringing being led by the local Tower Captain - the ringers are trained to the Basic level, some may have the Foundation level for training under 18s, and the Tower Captain will go for the Leadership Level. This will be compliant and recorded within the local Diocesan rules.

    However, many ringers visit towers on outings etc often in other Diocese. The local Tower Captain of the tower being visited may not be present, and the person "leading" the group on that occasion may not be a Tower Captain otherwise so may not have done Leadership Training. Does this mean that for tower outings ringers now have to under go the training and meet the requirements on the Diocese being visited?

    Some churches are now also asking for the leader of a visiting group of ringers to be DBS checked (even if no children are involved in the group and all the ringers are experienced so no teaching / learning will be involved). So does this mean that outings can now only be led by a Tower Captain from the Diocese in which the tower is located, or anyone organising an outing now has to be DBS checked by the Diocese being visited?

    Help please! Organising outings and ringing outside your home Diocese could become rather complicated and frustrating if you live on Diocesan boundaries!
  • John Harrison
    92
    the problem seems to be that safeguarding rules for ringers are bring written by a dominant partner (the C of E) that as well as having a rather over cautious approach also has a mindset the all activity is parish based employees/volunteers, whereas ringing operates in a more diverse way that doesn't fit this model.
    Would it help to look for parallels in other activities that take place in churches but don't share the parish centric model? For example, concerts and associated rehearsals are often held in churches but they are organised by non-parish bodies such as choral societies, and as well as society members singing, the orchestra is quite likely to include unattached musicians. How would the church's safeguarding policies be applied to them?
  • John de Overa
    72
    I think you are right that the CofE safeguarding rules often don't make much sense when applied to ringing, for example our TC has to do Leadership level, he leads practices but I do 1:1 handling teaching and I only have to do Foundation.

    I think the likelihood of getting common sense applied to how the CofE rules are applied to ringing is effectively zero as the safeguarding system is designed primarily to protect the CofE from litigation.

    As far as I can tell, external groups using the church premises are not bound to CofE rules, merely "good practice" and the CofE Safeguarding Handbook says that safeguarding is not the CofE's responsibility for such events. Perhaps the CCCBR and all the regional associations should just break all links with the CofE and then they could come up with a safeguarding regime that's more sensible for non-service ringing? Outings usually pay steepleage anyway, so in such events are already in effect third-party rather than CofE.

    Or is that *too* heretical a suggestion, even for ringers? ;-)
  • Robert Brown
    2
    I think a few point are being missed here - Firstly the Bells in Church Premises are the property of the Church so they can set the rules, no point in arguing about it. If you dont like it go elsewhere. Secondly the analogy's given are a bit misleading as most contracts for use of Church Premises should contain sections around safeguarding appropriate to activity , i.e A Nursery School using a Church hall should have its own policies etc etc. John said TC has to do Leadership Level but i do 1:1 handling and only have to do foundation - That's not correct - the guidance states that anyone in a leadership role should undertaking the leadership module - you will also require a DBS certificate . I think its unfair to criticise the Church of England for being over cautious given the track record in the past and cases involving ringers who went on to be convicted. As for outings , we all have a responsibility to protect the young and the vulnerable and ensure that appropriate care is taken when visiting others locations. As a non vulnerable person turning up at a tower in another Diocese, then if they have appropriate safeguards in place at that tower its not a problem. If you have additional needs then make people aware beforehand so any additional measures can be put in place. There will always be one or two who go over board but in my experience that is not the general case. As for breaking links with the Church of England , thats just stupid given that the bells are there for the service of the Church and as a bonus we are allowed to ring them at other towers . Having said that I personally feel that the CCCBR and Guilds / etc are generally an outdated Victorian left over with most of the work to keep ringing going being undertaken by Individuals and groups, often not based or confined to geographical boundaries. Thats another debate
  • John de Overa
    72
    Yes someone's missing the point, but it's not me.

    • Bells without ringers are just expensive ornaments, it's a partnership, not a dictatorship.
    • I actually said exactly what you are apparently saying I didn't say, which is that 3rd party organisations using church premises are required to have their own safeguarding policies. Their own not (necessarily) CofE ones.
    • I am prepared to do whatever safeguarding training is required of me, I have been told I don't need Leadership, and that's come from the CofE. That overrides whatever you or I think. That doesn't however mean I think it's sensible.
    • The CofE has centrally mandated a set of safeguarding rules, including training, yet as far as I can tell, the approval of an individual only applies within a singe diocese, or even perhaps a single parish? How is that not patently bonkers to the people responsible for management of CofE safeguarding?
    • I think it was pretty obvious that my suggestion about a breakaway from the CofE was (mostly) in jest. The point I was trying to make is that the current situation is inconsistent, particularly when it comes to ringing outings - we'd be treated entirely differently doing the same activity with the same people if we weren't affiliated with the CofE.
  • Simon Linford
    152
    You won't be surprised to know that the CC Safeguarding Officers (and some Trustees) are doing a lot of work in this and have been for about a year. Part of the problem is that the responsibility for implementing the safeguarding regime has been delegated down to Dioceses which are then not consistent with each other. This has been well demonstrated by the different approaches taken by Dioceses over the need for different levels of safeguarding training by Tower Captains. The CofE's safeguarding lead was persuaded that all tower captains did not need to do Leadership and this has become the policy, however some Dioceses published more stringent requirements before this was agreed. Instances are now arising of PCCs saying that visiting ringers need to show Safeguarding training certificates.

    What is also difficult, as identified in this thread, is the concept of 'visiting ringers'. This has been quite hard for DSOs to grasp. We have written a booklet to explain the special nature of ringing to Dioceses which we hope will help DSOs and individual PCCs to understand how ringing 'works'. This booklet is currently being discussed with a small selection of DSOs, however despite the booklet having been reviewed by ringers and the Clerical Guild and considered to be excellent, the DSOs who have reviewed it didn't like it at all!

    The question of visiting ringers is particularly difficult because the church cannot fit visiting ringers into their model of bellringers as church volunteers. However getting ringers out of the 'volunteer' model then has implications for insurance, health and safety and a whole host of other things. We are intending to contact some other groups who might be similar and see if they are treated differently.

    The bad experiences of a small number of DSOs who have been exposed to the more dififcult cases involving bellringers have not made this any easier.
  • John de Overa
    72
    responsibility for implementing the safeguarding regime has been delegated down to Dioceses which are then not consistent with each other. This has been well demonstrated by the different approaches taken by Dioceses over the need for different levels of safeguarding training by Tower Captains. The CofE's safeguarding lead was persuaded that all tower captains did not need to do Leadership and this has become the policy, however some Dioceses published more stringent requirements before this was agreed.Simon Linford

    That's doesn't seem to be what's happened in practice, some dioceses have continued to publish more stringent requirements even after the above mentioned guidance has been published. The CCCBR Safeguarding in Church of England Settings page is dated January 2022 and it says:

    Each diocese will determine whether their tower captains have a local leadership role, based on guidance from their parishes and input from the local territorial ringing society or association
    ...
    The way in which each diocese implements the Framework will vary according to local circumstances, both at parish and diocesan level. In practice, each Diocesan Safeguarding Advisor (DSA) has considerable scope to establish guidance which responds to local conditions.

    But if I look at my diocese's guidance, updated in May this year, it says very clearly that all TCs have to do Leadership training.

    It's appears from the way it is worded that the "agreement" between the CCCBR & the CofE is pretty much worthless and that individual dioceses and parishes can mandate whatever rules they choose. It's the usual CofE shambolic muddle. That's not the CCCBR's fault though.

    however despite the booklet having been reviewed by ringers and the Clerical Guild and considered to be excellent, the DSOs who have reviewed it didn't like it at all!Simon Linford

    What didn't they like? The way the information was presented or the concepts themselves?

    The question of visiting ringers is particularly difficult because the church cannot fit visiting ringers into their model of bellringers as church volunteers.Simon Linford

    Perhaps if the CofE had engaged more with the ringing community over the years, the reality of what's involved would have come as less of a shock to them, and their "model" wouldn't be quite so badly broken?

    However getting ringers out of the 'volunteer' model then has implications for insurance, health and safety and a whole host of other things. We are intending to contact some other groups who might be similar and see if they are treated differently.Simon Linford

    The issue the CofE seem to be struggling to grasp is that ringers have different roles with respect to the CofE at different times:

    • Service ringing - that's a CofE activity and would come under their instance, H&S etc rules.
    • Association outings, ringing trips etc - that's not a CofE activity, people are ringing as a hobby. And most associations have insurance, safeguarding policies etc for just that reason.
    • Weekly practices - who knows? you could argue it comes under either of the above two categories.

    And then as you've said, if you throw the "visiting ringer" concept into the mix it becomes even more complicated... But that's the reality of the way ringing works and it's been like that for a very, very long time as far as I can tell. Why is this a surprise to them?

    The bad experiences of a small number of DSOs who have been exposed to the more difficult cases involving bellringers have not made this any easier.Simon Linford

    I'm sure, but that suggests a lack of knowledge and proportionality on their part - is there any evidence that bellringers cause any more issues - person-for-person, than any other group?
  • Simon Linford
    152
    Not much in here to disagree with but coming back on a couple of points. On the last one, one thing we sought to do was demonstrate statistically that ringing has proportionately far fewer safeguarding cases than the clergy themselves! It is almost certainly true but the statistics were complicated and uncertain so we didn't make the point lest it got picked apart. We made a general point rather than trying to prove it.

    I wouldn't say their model is 'broken' necessarily, it's just that the model they are comfortable with for other church activities, where an activity is led by a leader, people are known, and most are local to the church and Diocese, doesn't work for us. We will talk to the RSCM because there will be parallels there, and other groups that use churches other than for worship.

    We just nearly had the issue when organising some open days for the Jubilee for the Churches Conservation Trust. Their safeguardig person asked who the CC safeguarding lead was for the events and we said ringers were just volunteers working locally. It had potential to get quite complicated because we have to be volunteers in order to be covered by the church's public liability insurance.

    On whether they liked the booklet, it is well written and well produced. Ringers and some clergy who have seen it think it is excellent. It was the content they didn't like and particularly our flowchart that explained who needed to do what sort of training. This was one response from a DSO:

    "Sorry if this sounds over critical – I appreciate that what you have set out in your pamphlet is reflecting the NST advice – but when I am of the view that advice / change of direction is wrong – and state here why I think this is wrong – and when as a diocese we are of the view that all Tower Captains should be required to do the leadership training it creates a problem with ringers who for one reason or another object to safeguarding or being told what they need to do."
  • John de Overa
    72
    thanks, that's all interesting information. Making the general point about the relative incidence of SG issues was hopefully enough, rather than trying to hammer the point home :wink:

    It will be interesting to see what the RSCM say, what about organists, or are they covered by the RSCM as well as choirs and other music groups?

    The first two levels of SG training are centralised so hopefully the certificates are accepted nationally within the CofE - although I note that the certificates do have the diocese on them. I have no idea if that applies to the Leadership level training though. I really think the CofE made a mistake by leaving SG at the diocese level rather than making it truly national - as numbers continue to fall it's going to become more and more common for anyone volunteering for the CofE to be doing so across diocese boundaries.

    The comment from the DSO seems to be pretty tone-deaf and out of touch to me. The objections to the current CofE SG mechanisms aren't just coming from ringers, I think it's just that we may be some of the more vocal critics. My tower is very well connected to the life of the parish (TC on the PCC, etc) and I'm hearing the same complaints from non-ringers. The DSO seems to be claiming people object to the principles of safeguarding which is wrong, it's problems with the implementation that are the issue, because the guidance does not reflect the reality of the relationships different people have with the church. That's entirely their responsibility, and is something they need to fix rather than shooting the messengers.
  • Peter Sotheran
    32
    "The question of visiting ringers is particularly difficult because the church cannot fit visiting ringers into their model of bellringers as church volunteers." - Simon

    This problem of a category of people not fitting with an organisation's procedural model is not confined to the CofE & ringers. I serve as Chairman of a foundation that supports a local college. For the last 28 years I have carried a 'Staff' or 'Governor' badge that admits me to all common areas of the college on the basis that I am a 'trusted visitor'.

    The college is now part of a group of colleges and this larger group does not have a 'trusted visitor' category in its more restrictive protocol. Consequently I and my fellow trustees must now be escorted from the reception desk to our meeting place within the building. Ironically this week I was escorted by a new junior member of staff and I had to give her directions to my destination!
  • Phillip George
    23
    There should be a national (not church) basic safeguarding training which lasts half an hour and refreshed every year. I am a church SO and getting people to do the several different modules of training (which, let's be honest, they then forget) is like pulling teeth. The nature and content of the training is confusing, (and one questions the relevance sometimes), to say the least and some people are not engaging with the church partly for this reason. I am not speaking against SG training but it should be encouraging, proportionate, consistent and above all - easy.
  • John de Overa
    72
    I absolutely agree with everything you said. But your proposal is far too sensible to ever happen :grin:
  • Simon Linford
    152
    As I am going to say in my next blog which will be published shortly, I met someone last week who, along with her husband has been helping out running the Sunday School at her church, basically because her child goes there and she doesn't want to have to go to the service! She and her husband asked to do Leadership training and offered a course that takes four days in all, so they said they wouldn't do it. Now they cannot take the Sunday School without having another observer present and the liklihood is they will stop doing it.

    I don't say all that detail in my blog because it's in the public domain, but she was telling me this as part of a discussion on how the church is having this problem with all sorts of different volunteer groups and there would have to be a reassessment of expectations of the volunteer community is going to withdraw. She works for an organisation connected with the Church so has keen interest.

    The Winchester Diocese has introduced a three hour Zoom course that is specifically aimed at people like bellringers who are not churchgoers, but who need something a bit above Basic and Foundation training. This seems like a very good way to go.
  • Tristan Lockheart
    18
    The Yorkshire Association offers a one day course tailored to ringers, which apparently had very useful content. Unfortunately, our branch has had its turn now, so its a case of shell out for our new officers to trek across the county by train and country bus to an obscure village hall, potentially needing an overnight stay if far enough away, or persuade the parish to send us to a diocese-run session which goes into far too much detail, requires too much prep, and is not really suited to ringers (and is probably on a day when people work). Persuading people to ring is hard enough already; persuading people to take leadership and support roles is harder still. Add in hours of training at inconvenient times and you either end up with a) the rules on training being ignored, or b) people not stepping up to take posts or even ring at all.

    Then again, we have it good where we are. Rabid parishes who demand mountains of paperwork for leaders and ordinary ringers alike are one way to kill off ringing, and putting too much bureaucracy in the way of visiting other towers is also likely to kill off interest as well as affect local bands who benefit from visitors. I am happy to sign a book with my name and home tower, and for this to be enforced. I am not happy to have to bring my "papers" with me as if I am trying to cross the border, and fill in consent forms as if I am applying for a passport.

    When I am organising ringing tours, I am not going to go through this farce for each tower on the tour and subject the participants on the tour to the same, particularly if each diocese and parish does its own thing. Beyond booking the tower and sending ahead details of children and vulnerable adults, I am not prepared to mess about with paperwork for each tower, except for "special" towers like York Minster.

    At the end of the day, this is a voluntary role, as the Sunday School role is for the person you met. I am giving my time up to help ring bells for the church and all I get in return for said activity is the enjoyment of ringing and the associated community. If I am having to put in additional time and effort which have no additional benefit to me, then the church ought to be making it easy for us or compensating us for the additional time accordingly.
  • Simon Linford
    152
    I think that is pretty much 'ringing's' position on this. If you had been in the same 1h 40m conference call with two Diocesan Safeguarding Advisers that I was on on Friday, you would see ringing from a different point of view and you would have thrown your hands up in despair. And that was 1h 40m almost entirely caused by the antics on one individual who could ruin ringing for everyone. We are working on it though and there was a very bright light at the end of the tunnel of that call which could be very helpful to us.
  • Simon Linford
    152
    I was about to post this on the thread about contact with church authorities but it is more relevant to this discussion, because it is about the appointment of Tower Captains by incumbents and PCCs, and the quesiton of Leadership safeguarding training.

    Imagine the scenario where someone comes along to a tower or towers which do not have many or any ringers, offers to teach a few including youngsters, is charismatic and credible, does not go through any formal appointment process or check because for the incumbent and PCC there isn't really a way of doing it (and they've been duped anyway), and establishes a base, even under the nose of the local association who can do nothing about it.

    For the formal approval process for a tower captain to work, it would actually need the incumbent/PCC to go to the local association and say "is this a fit and proper person to be our tower captain", because the association would almost certainly know. But how many associations would be prepared to make such a ruling?

    Doing the Leadership training would probably not prevent the individual from establishing their base, although refusal to do it would be a red flag. Having all ringers do Basic Awareness training however could alert more ringers to such an issue, especially if that Basic Awareness training was specifically tailored to understand the ringing environment.
  • John de Overa
    72
    all very good points. Do you think there should be national SG training specifically for ringers, transferrable between a towers? Would that be led by the CofE or the CCCBR? I think there's a strong case that the CofE has done a poor job as far as SG in a ringing context goes.

    I'm also unconvinced that SG training should be mandated for all ringers. It isn't for all others in the CofE although it is recommended. That seems about right.
  • Simon Linford
    152
    Do you think there should be national SG training specifically for ringers, transferrable between a towers?John de Overa

    Yes

    Would that be led by the CofE or the CCCBR?John de Overa

    We are trying to steer them towards accepting that we lead on it, or at least have a major role in designing the course, maybe working with one of their trusted safeguarding audit partners like Thirtyone:eight
  • John de Overa
    72
    wow and glad to hear it - thank you. Let's sincerely hope you are successful!
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    I think that a course for ringers designed by ringers and delivered by ringers would remove most of the barriers, where any exist.
  • Tristan Lockheart
    18
    An appropriately-designed course plus a warning to towers to steer clear of 27 pages of required reading before visitors can attend would encourage greater engagement with safeguarding rules.
  • Phillip George
    23
    I feel that a national basic SG course for everyone, which is transferrable, is the simplest way forward. The volunteer role of bell ringer has been singled out but I don't think we need a ringers' SG course.
    It would probably mean, for example, that if a church worker e.g. refreshments helper had taken a church basic SG course (which is all they need) they would then have to take a bell ringing one too if they learned to ring, or visa versa. And if the church accepts either of them what's the point of having two different ones?
    SG in the tower is no different than anywhere else. What is important is that the tower officers are aware of the PCC safeguarding policy and procedures. The PCC must consult the tower officers (whome they have elected or ratified anyway) to understand how ringing works so that the policy is correct. Local tower procedures then underly the SG policy. .(I know - Ideal world - and the problem with this idea is that a high % of PCCs and ringers don't consult each other).
    But if they did all this it stil poses a challenge. It is relativley easy in a one band tower! Shared practices are not so easy to manage. But PCCs will have to manage it whatever level of training is required.- it is their responsibility. So I think the emphasis should be on cooperation not segregation. If we think ringers are a special case we will be made to be a special case. Do we want to be different?
  • John de Overa
    72
    I understand what you are saying but the PCC have no say in setting safeguarding policy, it's decided at diocesan level - even though the diocese then make it the responsibility of the PCCs to implement it.

    The assumption around volunteer SG training is that people only volunteer in one church, so everything is done at that level. That's increasingly untrue for many volunteers, and never has been true for ringers. It's another manifestation of just how out of touch diocesan/national CofE management has become with its parishes that it's come up with a SG policy that's not fit for purpose - but, CofE so no surprise there.

    I agree that in an ideal world there should be national, transferable SG training for all CofE volunteers, but there isn't, despite the obvious need for it and I can't see it happening as they've specifically not done that in the first place. Or we get "special case" training for ringing which allows us to continue to operate in the way we have for aeons.

    I don't think ringers want to be "different" when it comes to SG, but we need something that works for us, which the current setup doesn't.
  • Phillip George
    23


    "I understand what you are saying but the PCC have no say in setting safeguarding policy, it's decided at diocesan level - even though the diocese then make it the responsibility of the PCCs to implement it."

    John, yes, I agree but I don't think I explained what I meant as well as I could.

    The national church has an SG policy which dioceses implement (not necessarilly in the same way). Each PCC must implement an SG policy which includes the overall key elements of the national policy. But, each PCC has license to include in its policy clauses which relate to activities which are relevant (and approved) in their parishes, e.g. bell ringing So there is flexibility.

    "The assumption around volunteer SG training is that people only volunteer in one church, so everything is done at that level. That's increasingly untrue for many volunteers, and never has been true for ringers. It's another manifestation of just how out of touch diocesan/national CofE management has become with its parishes that it's come up with a SG policy that's not fit for purpose - but, CofE so no surprise there."

    I entirely agree. Hence my belief that a national basic training which is transferrable is the thing to aim for. There still has to be a management process. Currently this is done through a PCC, or individuals can manage it themselves. The advantage with PCCs managing it is that they can then ensure that ringers do a refresh every three years (currently), whereas left to individuals it would never get done. But as ringers become even more detached from the church there certainly has to be a management sysem of some sort.

    "I agree that in an ideal world there should be national, transferable SG training for all CofE volunteers, but there isn't, despite the obvious need for it and I can't see it happening as they've specifically not done that in the first place. Or we get "special case" training for ringing which allows us to continue to operate in the way we have for aeons."

    I am not sure that its the type of training which is the problem. Its more the management of it. Why will "special case" training make the process any easier? It's the organisational arrangement between ringers and church which needs to change, as I think we both agree. As you say, the current set up doesn't work for us.

    Thanks for the exchange of comments, it is interesting to hear the wide range of views on this subject.
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    whereas left to individuals it would never get done.Phillip George

    Please sir I did my refresher training of my own volition, unprompted.
  • Phillip George
    23
    I apologise unreservedly for using such a generalisation.
  • John de Overa
    72
    Each PCC must implement an SG policy which includes the overall key elements of the national policy. But, each PCC has license to include in its policy clauses which relate to activities which are relevant (and approved) in their parishes, e.g. bell ringing So there is flexibility.Phillip George

    Umm, that's not true in my diocese - at the PCC level there's no flexibility with regard to deciding what training is needed for ringing, they just have to implement what they are told by the diocese. The only relevant optional training is safer recruitment for TCs, if they are involved in the recruitment of paid staff - which I suspect is almost never going to be the case.

    I agree with your point that it's not the type of training that's the issue, I should have been more exact. It's the management of it and the apparently limited applicability of the resulting certification that's the issue. Because of geography I ring regularly in four different dioceses - am I supposed to do safeguarding training for each?
  • Phillip George
    23
    Umm, that's not true in my diocese - at the PCC level there's no flexibility with regard to deciding what training is needed for ringing, they just have to implement what they are told by the diocese. The only relevant optional training is safer recruitment for TCs, if they are involved in the recruitment of paid staff - which I suspect is almost never going to be the case.John de Overa

    I agree. The same in my diocese, training modules are determined by them, not the PCC.
  • John Harrison
    92
    I don't think we need a ringers' SG course.
    It would probably mean, for example, that if a church worker e.g. refreshments helper had taken a church basic SG course (which is all they need) they would then have to take a bell ringing one too if they learned to ring, or visa versa. And if the church accepts either of them what's the point of having two different ones?
    Phillip George

    We should distinguish between the training, which will be more effective if it is tailored to draw on the experience of those on the course, and the result, which is the possession of relevant knowledge and judgmental skills, which are transferable between contexts.
    When I did the courses (both the new C0 and the old half day course) the examples used bore little resemblance to situations I would meet as a ringer, which made the less effective.
    If I moved into a different context I would learn 'how things worked in it', and I'm confident that having done so I could then transfer my SG skills to the new context.
    So tailored courses leading to transferable qualifications.
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    So tailored courses leading to transferable qualificationsJohn Harrison

    Agreed.
  • Tristan Lockheart
    18
    We should distinguish between the training, which will be more effective if it is tailored to draw on the experience of those on the course, and the result, which is the possession of relevant knowledge and judgmental skills, which are transferable between contexts.
    When I did the courses (both the new C0 and the old half day course) the examples used bore little resemblance to situations I would meet as a ringer, which made the less effective.
    John Harrison
    Yes, being surrounded by child and youth workers on one of these courses with the focus being on their situations would do little to fill me with confidence that the training would provide me with a satisfactory level of skills needed in the tower environment.
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