Protection of the Young & Vulnerable

Pending any further advice from the Directorate of Social Responsibility of the Diocese of Winchester, the Community of Alton Abbey and its employees shall observe the following protocol when dealing with groups of guests or visitors that include persons under the age of 18, and any individuals who may fall into that category.

The protocol for young people shall also apply to those of any other vulnerable category, such as the mentally or physically disabled. In the paragraphs that follow, the words ‘young person’ or ‘minor’ are used to represent any vulnerable person. In accordance with other community documents, reference to ‘the Abbot’ is to the highest authority in the house at the time: in the absence of the Abbot, authority devolves upon the Prior, and in his absence on the senior among the professed brethren.

The Rule and Customary of the house dictates that contact between individual guests and members of the community should be avoided, except where the individual requests to see a monk. Permission for such access is granted by the Abbot on request from the guestmaster. Free conversation among the community and its guests may normally only take place at the dinner table and in the conference room during times of recreation (morning coffee and afternoon tea).

In appointing a guestmaster to be the primary point of contact between guests and community, the Abbot shall bear in mind the detail of this protocol.

Members of the community who are priests are licensed to function by the Diocese of Winchester, or have received permission to officiate therein. Part of the discernment of the process of licensing or certification of permission includes the use of the Criminal Record Bureau’s ‘Disclosure’ Service. Those members of the community who have not passed through this procedure (whether clerical or lay) shall undertake the diocesan procedure as soon as possible. Any aspirant to join the community shall undertake the diocesan procedure at his own expense (the Abbot having the right to direct that the Community pay if the individual does not himself have the financial resources).

Any visiting group containing one or more minors must include responsible adults who shall provide written evidence of their authority to accompany the young person(s). Responsibility for ensuring that young people are not at risk from the adults in the group shall be the responsibility of the person or organisation that made the booking. The written authority will state that this is the case. In the case of young persons not accompanied by their parent(s), it should be ensured that there is at least one appropriately qualified adult in the group who is of the same gender as the young person(s). Such written undertakings will be retained for 40 years; the Abbot will ensure their safekeeping. If the young person(s) are accompanied by their parent(s), written authority will not be necessary.

If a group containing one or more young persons is staying overnight, no other resident guests will be accommodated during the period of that group’s stay. Over night bookings for a group that includes one or more young persons will not be accepted if there is a pre-existent overnight booking by any other person(s) for the same period, or any portion thereof.

No individual under 18 visiting unaccompanied may stay overnight at the Abbey.

Community members should avoid being alone with a young person visiting the Abbey. If the situation is unavoidable, the encounter should take place only in the areas of the monastery that are of open access: doors should be left open to emphasise this access (e.g. the guesthouse commonroom, the conference room, the nave of the Church). The Abbot should be informed of any such encounter at the earliest opportunity.

Pastoral contact with young persons will be limited ordinarily to group discussion with at least one authorised adult from the group being present. If one-to-one conversation is necessary, including the confessional, this shall take place with an authorised adult from the group present (confidential matters should therefore be discussed in such a way that the third party can not hear, but may observe that there is no improper contact).

In the case of minor accidental injury of a young person, the infirmarian of the monastery should be informed. Except in emergency, any assessment or treatment of the injury should take place in the presence of an authorised adult from the group. If the infirmarian has any doubt about the severity of the injury incurred, medical advice will be sought promptly. The normal procedure with regard to registration in the accident book will be followed.

In the case of any accusation of improper conduct towards a young person by a member of the community or any other person, the Abbot shall be informed, who will contact the police, the bishop of the diocese (and the bishop visitor, if he is not the diocesan) at his earliest convenience.

In order to ensure continuity of insurance provision in Child Protection, all records of insurance will be retained and stored for 40 years. It will be convenient to file them with certificates of Employers Liability Insurance.

A copy of this protocol, and of each and any revision thereof, shall be delivered to each member of community, any aspirant desirous of joining the community, each employee, and any other person who may live alongside the community for a period longer than one month. In addition, copies shall be sent to the insurers, to the secular Trustees of the community, and to the Bishop Visitor.

This protocol will be routinely reviewed each year in January, and may also be reviewed at other times in response to advice given by appropriate authority in the light of new or revised statutory requirements.

 This Protocol was reviewed and re-approved on 31 January 2012