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Since 2015, ‘Safeguarding’ has become an integral part of the life of Triratna organisations in the UK, and indeed those in many other countries, even where Safeguarding as understood in Britain is unknown. (See below for an explanation of Safeguarding.)
All Triratna centres in the UK now have Safeguarding policies and named Safeguarding officers. Triratna centres in other countries are encouraged to do the same, or to do whatever is required locally; and many have done so.
Earlier this year Triratna’s Ethics kula (including the Triratna Safeguarding team) published updated model Safeguarding policies for 2018 and the complementary model Ethical guidelines 2018. Triratna Centres and other charities are invited to use these as the basis of their own policies.
More recently we have drawn up a publicly accountable ‘Panel process’ for addressing allegations of serious ethical misconduct by members of Triratna, and we are continuing to address controversial matters in Triratna’s past, as can be seen in the recently updated version of the Frequently Asked Questions document produced by the Adhisthana kula.
Working with other Buddhist organisations
Following the Triratna Safeguarding training days we offered in 2016 and 2017 (Safeguarding children and adults), further child protection training is being provided on 1st December in Birmingham, this time for all UK Buddhist organisations, via the Network of Buddhist Organisations UK. (An earlier NBO day in November (Safeguarding adults) has had to be postponed as it clashed with Sangharakshita’s funeral and most of the bookings were from Triratna.)
As with the first two training days, the training will be led by an external trainer from Thirtyone:eight (previously the CCPAS) who specialise in Safeguarding for faith groups.
Sexual misconduct by Dharma teachers is a growing concern among western Buddhists. It was a key theme at September’s meeting of the European Buddhist Union at Adhisthana, where I was among the speakers, explaining what Safeguarding is and how we do it in Triratna. Those present published a Statement against abuse in Buddhist communities.
Sexual misconduct was also a key topic at the April meeting of the German Buddhist Union, where I was invited to speak about Safeguarding and how we have been addressing the controversial aspects of Triratna’s past.
Safeguarding in Triratna’s development and fundraising charities
Safeguarding is now recognised as a very important aspect of the work of UK development charities, such as Triratna’s Karuna, working in India and Nepal. Karuna is actively contributing to the Safeguarding work led by BOND, the consortium of UK development charities. As required by the Charity Commission, all Karuna’s partner projects in India are now required to adopt Safeguarding standards as a condition of funding and many have now received training from the Indian Safeguarding charity Arpan.
India Dhamma Trust, which funds Triratna’s ordination process in India, is also developing its Safeguarding in co-operation with its Indian partners.
Since 2017 Triratna’s central fundraising charity, FutureDharma Fund, has required evidence of Safeguarding provision as a condition of funding.
What is Safeguarding?
‘Safeguarding’ is a term used in England and Wales to refer to the duty of legally established bodies to protect from harm children and adults. (In Scotland it is referred to as ‘Protection’ or Safeguarding.) While there are parallels in some other countries, there are many in which there is no such concept or requirement.
The Charity Commission for England and Wales and the Scottish Charity Regulator hold charitable trustees responsible for Safeguarding/Protection in the course of charities’ activities. Though it’s not a legal requirement to have policies or officers, if concerns are reported to the Commission or Regulator about misconduct connected with a charity, they will immediately ask to see its policies.
However, Safeguarding is not merely a matter of meeting external requirements. All Triratna charities are expected to have Safeguarding policies and officers because these are recognised as among the best means of avoiding or addressing the suffering caused by failures in Safeguarding.