HCPT-The Pilgrimage Trust

HCPT-The Pilgrimage Trust

HCPT-The Pilgrimage Trust was initially formed in 1956 when the founder Doctor Michael Strode first took four children with disabilities on a pilgrimage holiday. It revolutionised the way children with disabilities could experience a trip to this famous international shrine in the foothills of the French Pyrenees.

The Trust now take nearly 7000 children, young people and vulnerable adults on pilgrimage holiday to Lourdes cared for by voluntary helpers, including doctors, nurses and chaplains. The children and young people, (aged 7-17), and vulnerable adults who travel on holiday pilgrimage to Lourdes have many types of disabilities, special needs, or social or emotional needs. They are supported and helped by dedicated and caring groups of volunteers who are tireless in ensuring that each ‘pilgrim’ provides an enjoyable and memorable experience.

There are over 3,000 volunteers annually involved in holiday pilgrimages. The children’s pilgrimage takes place during the Easter holiday period with the adults travelling to Batres Village with the Hosanna House groups between Easter and November.

The HCPT–Pilgrimage Trust is a charity and raises funds throughout the year by volunteers holding parish events and meetings.

The Athena Programme | HCPT-The Pilgrimage TrustThe Athena Programme | HCPT-The Pilgrimage Trust

The Challenge

Although some of the Trust’s volunteers are recruited from professional roles i.e. doctors, nurses; the Trust realised that many of its dedicated volunteers were being expected to respond to and deal with safeguarding issues and concerns which were beyond their level of actual knowledge and experience.

The Board of Trustees had identified risks and threats to the Trust in respect of:

  • Out of date policies and procedures for protecting and safeguarding children and vulnerable adults providing inconsistent and ad hoc safeguarding responses and recording. I.e. the Trust did not have a Policy or Procedure for dealing with vulnerable adult abuse or concerns.
  • Non-compliance issues being raised around the recruitment and selection process and the mandatory vetting requirements brought about by the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006.
  • A lack of internal safeguarding structures with nominated leads to provide expert safeguarding guidance and support to Group Leaders. I.e. only one Trustee was responsible for dealing with all safeguarding concerns in the Trust.
  • A lack of a safeguarding training programme for all volunteers in respect of basic awareness and internal reporting structures in safeguarding.
  • Lack of clear reporting pathways and documentation
  • Lack of robust guidance in securing safeguarding information.

The Athena Solution

We researched all aspects of HCPT-The Pilgrimage Trust as an organisation and their ethos. From the work around the actual pilgrimage travel and fund raising activities, to the recruitment and vetting of its volunteers. We also identified key roles and structures already in place that could be used to support a new more robust safeguarding structure. Analysis of excellent existing administration functions and communication pathways also assisted in our ability to introduce a new Safeguarding Concerns reporting form.

To familiarise ourselves with all aspects of The HCPT-The Pilgrimage Trust’s work we have taken time and undertaken two safeguarding audits by  attending the children’s Easter pilgrimage in Lourdes and the Hosanna House groups pilgrimage. We were able to obtain the widest perspective of the organisation’s safeguarding requirements by;

  • experiencing first-hand the inspirational work done by the volunteers,
  • speaking with pilgrims,
  • seeing the actual needs / vulnerabilities of pilgrims and,
  • completing risk assessments of all activities  .

Working closely with the Trustees and senior HCPT staff in key roles and following lengthy internal consultation we developed a new Safeguarding structure for the Trust – This identified clear lines of accountability for safeguarding. Two new roles of Safeguarding Advisors and Safeguarding Leads were created in this structure to provide accessible internal support networks.

We wrote bespoke Safeguarding Policy and Procedures for Children and Vulnerable Adults, together with simple and easy to read role specific Handbooks for all volunteers. This also included a bespoke safeguarding information card that fits into every volunteers lanyard whilst on the pilgrimage. A new bespoke Safeguarding Concern reporting form was designed and introduced for all safeguarding concerns together with clear secure storage protocols.

Following our guidance HCPT’s existing application forms for both pilgrims and potential volunteers were expanded in order to illicit relevant information and maximise the safeguarding of the pilgrims. These forms were also amended to ensure compliance in respect of vetting of persons employed in regulated activity.

Athena developed and delivered a comprehensive national safeguarding training programme that was based upon the new policy and procedures. There were different levels of safeguarding training. i.e. Trustees, Safeguarding Advisors, Group leaders, nurses and doctors. Two ‘train the trainer’ packs for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults – basic awareness training were developed for an internal cascade model to all volunteers by Group Leaders.

The Outcome

Since 2011 we have worked with HCPT on developing a safer culture and making them a safer organisation. We have provided a vast range of safeguarding consultancy and training at all levels.

We worked closely with HCPT key personnel (sometimes daily) to identify the Trust’s safeguarding requirements, and remained flexible and adaptable at all times. We delivered key products and services on time as well as providing consultancy safeguarding advice to help manage the most complex safeguarding concerns.

We provided advice on safer recruitment policies, developed a new safeguarding structure, and provided an independent voice on HCPT’s Safeguarding Implementation group.

We designed and delivered a Train the Trainers Safeguarding course for HCPT group leaders, developed roles and responsibilities for Safeguarding Advisors and named Safeguarding Leads.  We designed and developed a staff handbook, providing safeguarding items and updates for The Trust’s newsletters and other publications.

Sara Clarke, Trustee said,
“Working with Athena has been a rewarding and challenging experience. We needed to make significant changes in HCPT-TPT to not only be fully compliant with safeguarding policy, legislation and good practice, but to create a culture of safe practice within the organisation that would benefit the children, vulnerable adults and volunteers who are so central to what we do. HCPT-TPT offers amazing pilgrimage holidays to extraordinary people and we want to continue to do this for years to come and are grateful that Athena have worked so hard with us to enable our work to continue in a safer way.”

Phil Burns, Lead Safeguarding Officer said, “The measure of the effectiveness of these new procedures is the clearly identifiable confidence with which the organisation as a whole approaches managing situations of safeguarding concern. The training and preparation provided at all levels of the organisation are very well planned, delivered and received. Athena have continued to provide us with invaluable support and guidance to enable us to continue to do what we do in the safest way possible.”

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