• Tristan Lockheart
    18
    What are the responsibilities of towers who are being visited in respect to the safeguarding of visiting ringers? In particular, do we need to check the DBS and training certs of group supervisors? What is the practice at your tower?
  • Tristan Lockheart
    18
    Sorry John, that should read "groups of visiting ringers". Little has been said about what we actually need to do as the host tower if a group books the tower and has under-18s in the band.
  • John de Overa
    72
    I'd assume it's the same as for any other organisation that wants to hire church premises, as in effect that's what it is:

    Hire out church premises
    Ensure an addendum to a hire agreement is always used when any person/body hires church premises (i.e. a church building or a church hall) for activity that involves children, young people or vulnerable adults, for example a pre-school, youth group or mental health support group.

    https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2019-10/ParishSafeGuardingHandBookAugust2019Web.pdf

    Note that specifically says "for activity that involves children, young people or vulnerable adults", it does not say "for all activity", despite what some of the more jobsworth churches have been reported to be requiring from visiting ringers.

    And said addendum: https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2017-11/Roles%20and%20Responsibilities%20-%20Appendix%206.docx
  • Alison Hodge
    88
    I would advise against treating ringers as "hirers". When hiring, there is a commercial transaction usually with money exchanged for use of the facility and that then becomes a rather different (typically more expensive) way of engagement. For example, the local bridge club want to have a bridge match so hire the church hall for their event - nothing to do with the church, other than a financial exchange for use of the hall facility. I am not a lawyer or accountant - I hope someone else will perhaps comment more formally.

    Bell ringers are considered as volunteers supporting a church activity and churches usually need ringers. Visiting ringers may not be ringing at their "home tower" but increasingly now the concept of a home tower is fading and many ringers help and ring in many towers, not just one. Visiting other towers is all part of what we do as volunteers as helpers and to maintain / gain experience.

    So for safeguarding for visiting ringers, John has already noted that this has been discussed elsewhere in this forum. It is the church authorities and the diocese that set the rules, not the ringers so discuss with them. However, as was raised previously, diocese are not making the same decisions on requirements - so it is worth re-reading the earlier set of comments.

    As an aside from safeguarding, we could continue the theme on the nature of the transaction between churches and ringers. If ringers using church bells for ringing were to considered as hiring a church facility, then the equivalent commercial arrangement should apply when the church requests ringers to ring for their services etc. ie the ringers should be paid a proper fee for their skill and time spent while ringing at a fully commercial rate, rather than the token amount that ringers receive when ringing for weddings with nothing for service ringing. As has often been discussed, fully paid ringers would be employees and whole set of additional requirements and regulations would come into effect.
  • John de Overa
    72
    • Visiting ringers have to book the church and pay steepleage. That's no different to any other hiring transaction, good luck persuading any lawyer differently.
    • The last visitors we had were from the other end of the country, not even from our diocese, they were ringing solely for pleasure so in no way could they be considered "volunteers supporting a church activity".
    • Yes, the church authorities have set the SG rules, in the form of the nationally-agreed Parish SG handbook. The SG requirements for hiring are in there, the ones I quoted. Yes, of course confirm with your incumbent as well, but the guidance seems clear and not unreasonable and I see no reason why ringing visits would deviate from it.
    • Parishes deviating from the Parish SG handbook would need to have a justification for doing so. Requirements for all visiting ringers to have SG certs when there are no vulnerable visitors are contrary to the handbook, and probably impossible to achieve anyway as (as far as I know) CofE SG certification is not transferable.
    • Paying ringers is an entirely different issue not related to SG, but I note that Organists manage to get paid, so there's clearly a well-trodden process.
  • Peter Sotheran
    32
    "Visiting ringers have to book the church and pay steepleage. - John de O"

    Not in jthese parts they don't! Certainly they book a time & date but whatever they leave in return for the use of the bells is an entirely voluntary donation.
  • Simon Linford
    152
    If we did have a system whereby only the local band ringing for service were 'volunteers' and all for all other ringing we had to hire the building, pay a proper amount of money, and all carry public liability insurance (because we would not longer be covered by the church) we would have a very different ringing landscape. We would be trying to persuade the Church that ringing bells was always providing some sort of service to the church and that as such we should be conisdered as volunteers to the PCC, so that we could reduce the costs and fall under the church's PL insurance. I think we need to be careful what we wish for!
  • John de Overa
    72
    voluntary donationPeter Sotheran

    Call it what you like, the expectation is that people pay, and if they didn't it's pretty certain they would be refused permission to ring there again. A competent lawyer would have little difficulty persuading people it was a hiring event.

    pay a proper amount of moneySimon Linford

    That's pretty meaningless - churches quite often allow groups that they want to support to pay an amount that's well below the market rate for using the church.

    carry public liability insurance (because we would not longer be covered by the church)Simon Linford

    In most cases you already aren't covered if you are visiting a church as an outside group. The church insurance most likely covers the church from claims by visitors, but does not cover the outside group:

    Public liability insurance

    The public liability (third party) insurance under our Parishguard policy provides an indemnity to the PCC as property owners if held legally liable for accidental bodily injury to members of the public, or accidental damage to their property while the premises are being hired.

    This insurance, however, doesn’t extend to indemnify any outside groups hiring the premises.

    With the previous comments in mind, the PCC should obtain written confirmation from any hirers that they have public liability cover for their activities while the church premises are being hired.

    https://www.ecclesiastical.com/risk-management/hiring-out-premises/

    As I understand it, that's the reason many ringing societies provide indemnity insurance for their members:

    https://derbyda.org.uk/insurance/

    I think we need to be careful what we wish forSimon Linford

    I'm not wishing for anything, I simply think it's unwise to just assume that a group of visiting ringers are going to be covered by the hosting church's insurance. Because if an insurance payout is ever needed, it's too late to find out.
  • A J Barnfield
    127
    We float in an uncertain sea and hope not to sink.
  • Peter Sotheran
    32
    "and if they didn't it's pretty certain they would be refused permission to ring there again. - John de-Overa"

    Is that a fact? Then I'd rather not ring in a tower that takes such a hard-nosed attitude to visitors. Here in North Yorkshire, visitors are always welcome. If they care to contribute to the tower fund, that's a kind gesture that we appreciate. It's not a hire fee or subject to any sort of contract, it's a free will offering.

    If the village choir hires the church for a concert or the local slimming group hires the church hall, those are very different circumstances.
  • Chris Birkby
    2
    We need to differentiate between a donation to the church and a donation to the local ringers tower fund. The tower fund, sometimes called the rope fund, is often a form of donation to the church organised by the local ringers to cover wear and tear, sometimes even to the extent of providing new ropes. Some bands use it to save towards their own outings or a ringers' dinner. I am not sure, for the majority of cases, that a visiting band's donation could be regarded as a direct payment to the church itself.

    If it were a donation to the church, it could be gift aided.

    Now peal fees...
  • John Harrison
    92
    If the village choir hires the church for a concert or the local slimming group hires the church hall, those are very different circumstancePeter Sotheran
    Apart from changing the name of the group involved, what is the difference between a band of ringers booking the tower for a peal and a band of singers booking the nave for a a rehearsal?
  • Peter Sotheran
    32
    " what is the difference between a band of ringers booking the tower for a peal and a band of singers booking the nave for a a rehearsal?"

    A booking for a concert in the church or a meeting in the hall is a formal arrangement for a fixed period and (generally) a fixed sum. A tower booking for a branch meeting, qp or peal is generally arranged on a goodwill basis and the participants may or may not choose to leave a donation in appreciation of the facilities that were provided.

    It could be that the hard-nosed b*st*rds dahn sowf insist on formal bookings and fixed fees for every visit to their towers. Thank heavens for the more more relaxed and goodwill-based attitude oop norf!

    Tonight we had 1 ringer +1 non-ringer made a pre-arranged visit to our tower to raise funds for their own tower renovation. Should we have demanded sight of their DBS certificates? Did we need to check our public liability policy with the church wardens and with our ringing assoc? Should we have made a fixed charge? Lighten up guys - or you risk legistlating our ringing activities out of existence!

    I think this topic began by considering DBS checking for visitors and it seems to have morphed (doesn't it always!) into insurance liability and fees.
  • John Harrison
    92
    I think Peter is missing the point when I said 'what is the difference'. We all know the way things are done tends to be different, with ringers assuming they can have free use of facilities without formal agreements, and considering themselves generous if the make a token donation. But that wasn't what I asked.
    What is the inherent difference between two groups using someone else's building and facilities in order to persue their activity that justifies one group paying a sensible amount with a formal agreement and the other group not doing so?
    We like to think ringers are different, and we've got used to acting as if we are. But I think I would find it hard to make the case that it should be that way to someone who assumed that all groups shoul be treated similarly.
  • Simon Linford
    152
    When ringing resumed after lockdown at St Martin's Birmingham, the main higher numbers practice in Birmingham, we found that the church had made an arrangement with a choir to hire the building on a Tuesday night and that such a commercial booking needed to take precendence over a practice night that didn't pay anything. It wasn't stated quite so explicitly, but they explained how the church needed the income, the choir was paying quite a lot of money, and perhaps we could consider practice on a different day or being finished by 8. And that is in a church where relationship between ringers an church is very good. The situation has now resolved itself (not sure how) but it was a very real threat at the time because we didn't have much of a defence.
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