Reporting from the District Officers’ Forum

District Representatives’ Forum, 30th September 2017 – a worm’s-eye view

  1. Chairman’s welcome: Mike Winterbourne, Guild Chairman, welcomed the following eleven District officers and representatives to today’s meeting: Deb Baker (Rotherwick), Brian Baverstock (Titchfield), Ros Brandwood (Burghclere), Tiffany Brown (Longparish), John Croft (unattached/Winchester District), Heather Frazer (Basingstoke St Michael), Peter Jordan (Basingstoke St Michael) Gary Marsh (Winston), Sara Marsh (Wonston) Brian Oakes (St Mary Bourne), Bruce Purvis (Winchester Cathedral). He added that the meting was convened to give the lay members of our Guild the opportunity to bring any concerns, queries, news or other issues to the attention of the Guild Officers for their consideration – in addition to the topics on the agenda.

  2. Action Plan Update: World War One. Mike reported that the Guild’s involvement in marking the centenary of the Great War was still progressing well and to plan. Rachel Anderson, late of the Isle of Wight, now of Australia, continued to research the Guild’s ringers under the colours, and ringing performances during the Great War and subsequently, for inclusion in the Book of Remembrance. The plan remained in place to hold two services early in 2019 at Winchester and Portsmouth Cathedrals to mark the centenary of the end of hostilities, and of Guild members’ sacrifice: it was likely that these services would be programmed evensongs with appropriate additions/alterations. Meanwhile towers throughout the Guild were undertaking ringing to mark the sacrifices both of parishioners and local ringers, which process would continue to the centenary of the war’s end. All of this ringing could be logged on BellBoard with the tag ‘wpww1’ so that Steve can add the details to the Book of Remembrance

  3. Action Plan Update: Guild Report. Mike reported that, following discussion at the Guild AGM, members would only receive a Guild Report upon request. Additionally, one copy would be provided for each tower, so that waste and expense could be avoided.

  4. Child Protection. In introducing this topic Mike advised that Worcester Cathedral had established child-protection protocols and procedures promptly when concerns began to be raised. Our own CPO, John Davey, had advised that one tower had solved the problem by banning children altogether: without resorting to that extreme Mike simply wished to ensure that any of our towers had a procedure in place in the event of suspicions or allegations of abuse. John had no contact with either of the Anglican Diocesan CPOs, but had established good relations with the Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth. Also, the Central Council had produced Guidelines which should be available in every tower, and there was an online awareness course. What, Mike suggested, we needed to consider was how we could ensure that our towers werwe as safe spaces as they could be, and how to address any problem that might arise.

Break-out session – points arising:-

• Central Council wanted all tower captains to be DBS checked, because the captaincy was a leadership role, and DBS checks covered vulnerable adults as well as children. (HF)

• PCCs – unlike the Central Council – tended to be unaware of the problem. (HF)

• What would PCCs require of us? Many ringers wouldn’t want to go through a DBS – or a similar vetting process – as the circumstances in which certification would be a prerequisite would never apply (eg having sole and unsupervised charge of children/vulnerable adults (BB)

• Risk assessment is a continuous, not a one-off, process, which one would expect to see on any policy. (GM)

• Any policy should follow statutory guidelines, and one would wish that it be endorsed by the PCC, given that towers tend to act in isolation from the rest of the church. (GM)

• “Recognise, Record, Report” – three watchwords when considering abuse. (GM)

• Churches are charitable bodies, hence ringers bound by any compliance resulting from the church’s charitable status. (HF)

• Child/Vulnerable Adult protection is part of Health and Safety – any H&S policy should cover safeguarding. (HF)

• There is a need, as well as eliminating risk of abuse, to recognise when someone is being abused. (GM)

• How can the Guild help us – a policy, a unified approach, in case individual churches over-react? Answer: there should be a Diocesan policy, which could be adopted if the PCC has no such policy – or, the Central Council has a policy. (HF)

• The Central Council policy advises a risk assessment before you allow anyone in the tower.

• Which guidelines to be adopted? Diocesan or Central Council – a decision to be taken at a level more senior than that of the tower – one would seek advice of the church in the first instance, as churches have (or should have) designated safeguarding officers. (DB)

• Outings – possible need for a permission form if one is taking unaccompanied children

• Note that parish clergy undertake safeguarding training, and are thus in a position to advise/comment on safeguarding polices adopted in individual towers.(SM)

• Should each district have a Safeguarding officer? (SM)

• John Davey the acknowledged expert in our Guild (MW) The procedure of recognising, reporting and recording, and going straight to the statutory authorities should mean that one safeguarding officer would suffice. (GM)

• We also have a duty to report abuse even if it is nothing to do with the tower, so there should be someone who is safeguarding-aware in each tower. (SM)

• Anomalous situation that an 18-y.o. would not be allowed to accompany their own younger siblings. (SM)

• Definition/recognition of a vulnerable adult – learning disability, mental health issues, dementia.

• Recommendation – to take to the Guild Executive.

  1. Guild AGM.: Mike brought the problem of a date for future AGMs following discussion at the last AGM. Traditionally held on the first Saturday in July, that date now clashed with the National Youth Twelve-Bell Striking Competition – held on that date as being one week after the ordinary National Twelve-Bell competition. The decision had been taken to hold the AGM on the penultimate Saturday in June – but that date would clash with the AGM of the Ladies’ Guild. Whilst the rules of the Guild state that the AGM sets the date for the following AGM, it is clearly a contentious and unresolved issue. So the challenge for the breakout groups was to come up with a date. Maybe the second Saturday in June would work? And what other factors might persuade members – particularly young ringers – to attend? A simulator session – combined with a ringing clinic? Awards/prizes/badges?

Break-out session – points arising:

Heather’s Group:

January-April impossible – too many tower and district AGMs taking place, and – because one function of the AGM is to receive and comment upon the reports contained in the Guild Annual Report – the lead-time for production of the report. May impossible because of the two bank holidays and school half term; July, August and September impossible because of the reasons Mike mentioned, and the school holidays; October-December impractical because of the time elapsed from the publication of the Guild Annual Report. That left June: our suggestion was the second Saturday in June.

Deb’s group:

Arrived at the same conclusions as above, except that – discounting the necessity of discussing the Guild Report when it was newly published and referring to events but recently passed – any of the first three Saturdays in October would work.

Further discussion centred on the format of the Guild Report – that it has to fulfil roles both as a historic record and as a current directory: if the latter role were split off from the Report there would be less pressure on having it published so early in the year – but the work of the Guild Executive and its committees would still have to be examined within a reasonable time from the end of the year reviewed.

Finally there was discussion on the format of the AGM day and whether in its current form – dating back to the 19th century – it met today’s needs, GM querying the need for a service and a striking competition, and if so, on the same day as the AGM. HF suggested that the idea of a ringing clinic – e.g. on raising and lowering, or the use of a simulator – might appeal and could be run with few people.

Ideas for awards were floated, such as for an ‘Improver of the Year’, and for a Youth Day, based on advice from under-sixteens on what they would want (DB)

One thought on “Reporting from the District Officers’ Forum”

  1. I am amazed that all towers are not just following the established Diocesan/parish Safeguarding procedures. There are clear guidelines and training requirements, and each parish should have a Safeguarding Officer, who can give advice. I am shocked that one tower has banned children altogether!
    Melanie Moore, Secretary St. Peter’s Bell Ringers, Petersfield and St. Peter’s PCC Secretary.

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