Thousand hands of Avalokiteshvara

Triratna’s response to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (England and Wales)

On Wed, 9 February, 2022 - 17:59
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ECA Safeguarding

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) is a UK government-commissioned legal inquiry into child sexual abuse in England and Wales. Since 2015 it has held a series of hearings about child sexual abuse and child protection in many institutions of public life in those two areas of the UK, including the Catholic and Anglican Churches.

Triratna’s ECA Safeguarding officer, Munisha was called to give testimony under oath in May 2020. Watch her testimony here.

Please note: Munisha was not called because of concerns about risk of harm to children in Triratna.

September 2021 saw the publication of the report arising from the 2020 hearings, which cited Triratna as a positive example of good practice. It also made this key recommendation:

All religious organisations should have a child protection policy and supporting procedures, which should include advice and guidance on responding to disclosures of abuse and the needs of victims and survivors. The policy and procedures should be updated regularly, with professional child protection advice, and all organisations should have regular compulsory training for those in leadership positions and those who work with children and young people. 

All faith organisations are required to respond to this recommendation. Here is our response:

We thank the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse for its report ‘Child Protection in religious organisations and settings’ and all its work to highlight the conditions which have enabled child sexual abuse to take place in faith organisations in England and Wales in the past, and failures in addressing such abuse adequately.

The Triratna Buddhist Community
Each Triratna Buddhist centre and retreat centre in England and Wales is an independent charity, responsible for its own Safeguarding standards. These form part of the worldwide Triratna Buddhist Community and are members of a central charity registered in England and Wales: the Triratna Chairs Assembly (known as the European Chairs Assembly or ECA).

The ECA’s Safeguarding team provides Safeguarding support and advice for Triratna Buddhist centres and retreat centres in the UK and Europe; and elsewhere in the world where required. Since 2015 Triratna charities have been provided with annually updated model Safeguarding policies and guidance documents related to protecting children and adults from harm in the course of charities’ activities, including guidance on receiving disclosures of child sexual abuse. Our 2020 model documents were audited by Thirtyone:eight, external specialists in Safeguarding for faith groups.

The ECA Safeguarding team have closely followed the work of IICSA in its investigations of child sexual abuse in faith organisations in recent years and have publicised each report within Triratna.

The Safeguarding team regularly reminds trustees of Triratna centres and retreat centres of the Safeguarding standards of the Charity Commission for England and Wales. They recommend that each centre or retreat centre has at least one Safeguarding officer and a Safeguarding trustee; and that trustees, Safeguarding officers, teachers, staff and volunteers receive training, whether from external specialists such as the NSPCC or Thirtyone:eight, or provided by the Safeguarding team.

The Triratna Buddhist Order
The members of the worldwide Triratna Buddhist Order have no collective existence in law. However, some aspects of the Order’s life are administered by charities registered in England and Wales, and many of the Order’s members are active in the running of a number of charities, including those of the centres and retreat centres mentioned above.

Together with the ECA Safeguarding team and other Safeguarding specialists within our Order, those in leadership in the Order are working to further develop understanding and practice of Safeguarding in the Order; in particular recognising the importance of a victim/survivor-focus alongside our existing ethical framework that encourages confession and making amends.

Two particular initiatives at this level are a working group within Triratna’s College of Public Preceptors and a working group set up by Triratna’s International Council to look at building common standards in ethics and Safeguarding at all levels of our Order and Community.

We were glad to contribute written and verbal testimony to IICSA’s May 2020 hearings on child sexual abuse in religious settings. Though conscious of the need for continuous improvement we are also glad to note in the resulting report reference to Triratna as providing a positive example of good practice in Safeguarding.

Munisha (Catherine Hopper), ECA Safeguarding officer
Amaladipa (Rebecca Remigio), ECA Safeguarding adviser
Ratnadharini (Anne Morgan), Chair of Triratna’s College of Public Preceptors
Saddhanandi (Rachel Lovering), Chair of the Triratna Preceptors’ College Trust
Subhadassi, Order ethics convenor
Aryajaya (Robyn Smith), International Order convenor

The Triratna Buddhist Order and Community

Read digests of IICSA’s reports from hearings about child protection in the Catholic Church and Anglican Church in England and Wales.