Policy regarding the safety of vulnerable pilgrims

This document has been drawn up with reference to:

  • 'Balance – Good Practice Guidelines for Working With Children and Young People in Parishes' (Diocese of Sheffield, 1999), and
  • 'Good Practice in Consent Implementation Guide: Consent to Examination or Treatment' (Department of Health, 2001)
  • 'A Programme for Action: Review on Child Protection in the Catholic Church in England and Wales' (The Nolan Report - September 2001)

The 'Leadership' is taken to mean those on the Leg in particular positions of responsibility, e.g. Leaders, Secretaries, Chaplains etc.

The annual Pilgrim Cross Pilgrimage has been walking to Walsingham since 1948. When it was first started it was anticipated that it would principally be for students currently at University. However things always change and in the intervening years many people have continued to be involved with the organisation as pilgrims long after student days are finished. Another change has been the involvement of young people and children. These could be the children of pilgrims, younger students (e.g. 6th formers), or children from parishes who join a Leg for the day. Recently it has been felt by many involved with the pilgrimage that now is the time to consider the arrangements made for such pilgrims. In other words how can we create an environment where young people can benefit maximally from all that the Pilgrimage has to offer?

Pilgrim Cross believes in and is committed to the safety of all children, particularly those involved in the annual Easter pilgrimage to Walsingham. The pilgrimage will try to create a safe environment for all children and young people involved in the pilgrimage in the following ways:

  • The Leader of any Leg will have the final decision about whether people under 18 can walk on their Leg. This decision should be taken in consultation with GOD.
  • If someone under 18 is allowed onto a Leg then they must have written permission from their parent or carer stating who their Nominated Adult is during the pilgrimage. This permission will be given via Form PC and the Leadership of the Leg in question will keep a copy of this.
  • It will be the responsibility of the Nominated Adult to:
    i) contact the parent or carer in the case of any emergency (therefore they must have contact details),
    ii) give consent to treatment in situations where the young person lacks capacity to do so and the parent or carer cannot be contacted,
    iii) take all reasonable steps to ensure that the young person is safe during the pilgrimage (this means that care will be taken to ensure that the young person is not put, or does not put themselves, in a position where they could be vulnerable to harm),
    iv) ensure that the young person does not drink alcohol on licensed premises,
    v) take all reasonable steps to ensure that the young person is not involved in illegal activity.
  • If points i – v above are not adhered to then the Leadership of the Leg in question should attempt, through discussion and negotiation, to address any difficulties there may be. It will, ultimately however, be the right of the Leadership to ask the young person to leave the pilgrimage if such issues remain unresolved. This decision should be taken in consultation with GOD.
  • The Leadership of a Leg, although not directly responsible for such a young person, are in a particular position of trust during the pilgrimage. As such their relationship with that person should be appropriate, particularly with respect to points iii, iv and v above.

Pilgrim Cross is very grateful for the hospitality shown by those who welcome us. This includes publicans, many of whom have become good friends of the pilgrimage over the years. The pilgrimage does not wish to see their livelihoods compromised by the activity of any pilgrims.

Pilgrim Cross accepts that sometimes people join the Legs to walk for a part of the route, e.g. from parishes along the way. If such a person is under 18 then the Leadership should still adhere to the above safeguards. To facilitate this the Leadership should carry with them copies of Form PC to obtain parental consent as well as copies of this document.

All parents/carers who are thinking of allowing their child to take part in Pilgrim Cross should realise that each Leg has their own guidelines and procedures. They should investigate these and be clear what Pilgrim Cross involves. In the same way the Leadership of each Leg should ensure that parents are aware of what occurs during the week, e.g. how far is walked, what happens in the evenings etc. In addition to this the Leadership of Legs will provide parents/carers and prospective Nominated Adults with copies of this document.

Family legs

With respect to Peg and Wells Legs, the above safeguards should still be taken if a child whose parent or carer is not present takes part in the pilgrimage.

Much of the guidance concerning the safety of children and young people with respect to their contact with religious organisations centres around volunteers and church employees who 'work' with them. Pilgrim Cross does not enlist people to 'look after' children while on the pilgrimage. In this way the guidance does not adequately deal with the needs of the pilgrimage. On Peg and Wells Legs, parents are advised to satisfy themselves that they are happy to leave their child in someone else’s care. How they make this determination is their responsibility. The Leadership of Peg and Wells Legs, however, have the right, in the same way as all Leg Leaderships do, to decide who they will allow to walk the Legs in any particular year.

Support during the pilgrimage

There may well be times on the pilgrimage when, in the light of particular difficulties, individuals feel that they require someone to talk to who is independent of the Leg they are walking on. Examples may be:

  • a young person who wishes to discuss any issue important to them, or
  • another walker who requires guidance or support because of something that has been revealed to them (by a young walker for instance)

In this case all Leaders will have access to mobile phone numbers of people on the Pilgrimage who are available to provide support and are willing to listen. These people will, as a consequence of their professional training and experience, be accustomed to listening to people’s personal problems.

For many people the Pilgrimage is a place of safety. It provides an environment where life’s difficulties and hurts can be shared in a climate of security. In this climate a young person may wish to share life experiences that are beyond the remit of anyone on the Pilgrimage to deal with. It is important to remember that if a young person has chosen to share such experiences then they are doing so, most likely, because they feel safe and trust those around them. This trust should be respected. The information should be dealt with calmly and in a way that does not increase the young persons level of fear and powerlessness. To this end the Leaders will also have contact numbers of the Diocesan Child Protection Officer of the area that they happen to be in at that time. This person can be contacted for support, guidance and possible legal advice.

To promote the contents of this document and ensure Legs are aware of their responsibilities Pilgrim Cross will appoint an officer to oversee the Safety of vulnerable Pilgrims. This person will also ensure that this document is revisited and, if necessary, revised on an annual basis, and will keep a copy of each Form PC completed for any future reference.

If you have any questions about the contents of this document please email the National director.