Yorkshire Subterranean Society



Taking in the Three Peaks



Purpose built SRT wall

Policy Statement

For the purposes of this policy:

  • A child is someone under the age of 18.
  • A vulnerable adult is someone who may be unable to take care of him or herself, or unable to protect him or herself against significant harm or exploitation.

The Yorkshire Subterranean Society (YSS) acknowledges the duty of care to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and vulnerable adults. The YSS is committed to ensuring safeguarding practice reflects statutory responsibilities, government guidance and complies with best practice.

The YSS recognises that the welfare and interests of children or vulnerable adults are paramount in all circumstances. It aims to ensure that regardless of age, ability or disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation, socio-economic background, all children and vulnerable adults:

  • Have a positive and enjoyable experience of caving in an environment that is appropriate to their needs.
  • Are protected from abuse whilst caving or using club facilities, or outside of caving for example whilst using social media with club members.

The YSS acknowledges that some children or vulnerable adults, including disabled people or those from ethnic-minority communities, can be particularly vulnerable to abuse and we accept the responsibility to take reasonable and appropriate steps to ensure their welfare.

As part of our safeguarding policy the YSS will:

  • Promote and prioritise the safety and wellbeing of children and vulnerable adults.
  • Ensure everyone understands their roles and responsibilities in respect of safeguarding and is provided with resources to recognise, identify and respond to signs of abuse, neglect and other safeguarding concerns
    relating to children or vulnerable adults.
  • Ensure appropriate action is taken in the event of incidents/concerns of abuse and support provided to the individual/s who raise or disclose the concern.
  • Ensure that confidential, detailed and accurate records of all safeguarding concerns are maintained and securely stored.
  • Ensure robust safeguarding arrangements and procedures are in operation.

This policy and procedures are mandatory for all members. Failure to comply with the policy and procedures will be addressed without delay and could ultimately result in exclusion from the YSS.


The policy will be reviewed annually, or following any changes in legislation and/or government guidance.


Every effort should be made to ensure that confidentiality is maintained for all concerned. Information should be handled and disseminated on a need-to-know basis only, which may include the following people:

  • BCA Safeguarding Officer.
  • the relevant Club Officers.
  • the parents of the child.
  • the person making the allegation.
  • Social Services/Police.
  • YSS Committee Members.
  • the alleged abuser (and parents or carers if the alleged abuser is a child.
  • if a club member’s privileges are suspended or revoked, it is possible that officers of other clubs will also have to be informed.

All information will be stored in a secure place with limited access to designated people, in line with data protection laws.

Abuse can fall into the following categories:

  • Physical - including assault, hitting, slapping, pushing, giving the wrong (or no) medication, restraining someone or only letting them do certain things at certain times.)
  • Sexual - including forcing or enticing a child or vulnerable adult to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not they are aware of what is happening. It includes rape, indecent exposure, sexual harassment, inappropriate looking or touching, sexual teasing or innuendo, taking sexual photographs, making a child or vulnerable adult look at pornography or watch sexual acts, or sexual assault.
  • Psychological - including emotional abuse, threats of harm or abandonment, depriving someone of contact with someone else, humiliation, blaming, controlling, intimidation, putting pressure on someone to do something, harassment, verbal abuse, cyber bullying, isolation or unreasonable and unjustified withdrawal of services or support networks.
  • Financial or material - including theft, fraud, internet scamming, putting pressure on someone about their financial arrangements (including wills, property, inheritance or financial transactions) or the misuse or stealing of property, possessions or benefits.
  • Discriminatory - including types of harassment or insults because of someone’s race, gender or gender identity, age, disability, sexual orientation or religion.
  • Neglect and acts of omission - including ignoring medical, emotional or physical care needs, failure to provide access to educational services, or not giving someone what they need to help them live, such as medication, enough nutrition and heating.
  • Bullying

Possible Signs of Abuse

The YSS acknowledges that its members are not experts at recognising abuse. The YSS therefore expects members to discuss any concerns they may have with regard to the welfare of a child or vulnerable adult as soon as possible with the club Safeguarding Officer. If this is not practical and the situation is deemed to be too serious to delay, then advice can be sought from Social Services or the Police.

It is important to recognise that some children or vulnerable adults may have additional vulnerabilities and may face additional barriers or difficulties in communicating any concerns or problems because of their race, gender, age, abilities, religion, sexual orientation, or political persuasion. Members need to recognise this and be particularly sensitive should concerns be raised by such children or vulnerable adults or in relation to them.

Below are listed some of the characteristics which may be evidence of abuse. These are by no means exhaustive and are only indicators of potential abuse, not confirmation:

  • Unexplained or suspicious injuries such as bruising, cuts or burns, particularly if situated on a part of the body not normally prone to injury.
  • An injury of which the explanation seems inconsistent and /or the child or vulnerable adult is unwilling to discuss.
  • The child or vulnerable adult describes what appears to be an abusive act involving them.
  • Unexplained behaviour changes e.g. becoming very quiet, withdrawn, or displaying sudden outbursts of temper.
  • Inappropriate sexual awareness.
  • Distrustful of adults, particularly those with whom a close relationship would normally be expected.
  • Difficulty making friends.
  • Being prevented from socialising
  • Displaying variation in eating patterns including overeating or loss of appetite.
  • Becoming increasingly unkempt or dirty.

It must be recognised that the presence of one or more of these indicators is not proof that actual abuse is taking place. It is not the responsibility of BCA members to decide whether abuse is occurring, but it is their responsibility to act upon any concerns (see section ‘What You Should Do Next’).

Advice to Members

How to Respond to a Disclosure, Suspicion or Allegation

A child or vulnerable adult in your care may indicate to you that they are being abused in some way or information
may come to you of possible abuse. On receiving this information, you should:

  • React calmly: do not rush into inappropriate action. What you are told may be very shocking but it is important you give the child or vulnerable adult some stability.
  • Reassure the child or vulnerable adult that they are not to blame and that they did the right thing to tell you about the incident.
  • Take the child or vulnerable adult seriously and listen carefully to them. Recognise how difficult it was for them to tell you.
  • Only ask questions which help to clarify the situation. Do not question any more than is strictly necessary, and avoid asking leading questions.
  • If possible, allow only one adult to talk to the child or vulnerable adult to begin with.
  • Try not to make the child or vulnerable adult repeat their account unnecessarily.
  • Do not make promises you cannot keep. Explain that you may have to tell other people in order to stop what is happening but that you will endeavour to keep the incident as confidential as possible.
  • Make a full record of what has been said, heard or seen as soon as possible.
  • Notify the YSS Child-Protection Officer, Chair, or other senior committee member,
  • Notify BCA’s National Safeguarding Officer,
  • If criminal behaviour is suspected, then either you or a member of your club’s committee should make a referral to police or social services.

Do not:

  • Take sole responsibility for further action.
  • Approach or try to contact the alleged abuser.
  • Ignore what has happened.
  • Make promises you cannot keep.
  • In cases of suspected criminal behaviour, it is not your job, nor that of club or BCA officers, to investigate.

What happens if you are accused of an abusive action:

In the event of an accusation:

  • Make notes of all your actions/contacts with the child or vulnerable adult in question as soon as possible.
  • Seek access to professional and legal advice.
  • Ensure that you are no longer working with the child/children or vulnerable adults making the allegation.
  • Accept that colleagues may not be in a position to discuss the matter with you while the investigation is underway.
  • Accept that you may be barred from club premises or club activities when children or vulnerable adults are present.

Such events are difficult for all concerned. The BCA will do its utmost to remain impartial in all matters relating to an accusation. The main concern with any incident is the welfare of the child or vulnerable adult. For an individual against whom an allegation has been made this will be a difficult time. It is important that they seek help and support.

Responding to allegations

There are many possible scenarios. Here are some examples:

  1. Criminal behaviour is suspected. In this event a referral to police or social services must be made, either by the person first discovering the situation or by a club officer. That referral must be made promptly, i.e. within a few hours.
  2. A club may become aware of an allegation or investigation taking place, that is entirely unrelated to the club, but involves a club member, outside of a club setting.
  3. Club member(s) may have concerns about the behaviour of a club member, that don’t appear to be criminal, but which do need to be investigated.

Protection of children and vulnerable adults whilst an investigation is underway

Clearly, clubs have a duty of care and so must act to protect children and vulnerable adults in one of the two following ways:

Limited Suspension

This involves barring a club member from using club facilities or participating in club activities, where children or vulnerable adults are expected to be present. However, the club member may continue with activities when children or vulnerable adults are not expected to be present.

To put this in context, if someone is under investigation by police for possession of illegal images of children, such investigations generally last many months and involve considerable stress on all involved. Being able to continue with leisure activities during this time, where those activities do not involve youngsters, would be of great value to someone who is under investigation.

Full suspension
The committee may determine that it is in the best interests of the club for the member to be suspended from all use of club facilities or participating in club activities, at all times.

The club must take reasonable steps to ensure that limited or full suspension is complied with. It is highly unlikely that this would involve notifying all members, but members who participate in club activities very regularly may have to be notified so that they would notice if a member did not comply with their suspension.

Similarly, the BCA Safeguarding Officer or Council may feel that it is necessary to notify membership secretaries of other clubs, in order to prevent a member over whom there are concerns from moving to other clubs. This would be decided on a case-by-case basis, by the BCA Safeguarding Officer and at least one other council member, and clubs who were notified would be asked to keep the matter confidential – only key club officers would need to know.

Liaison between clubs, BCA Council and insurers
In all situations where there are suspicions, investigations or a member is suspended, the decisions of the club’s committee must be forwarded to the BCA’s Safeguarding Officer.

Very rarely, the BCA’s safeguarding officer or BCA Council may feel that more stringent protective steps are required than the club has already taken. The club’s committee may then either comply with those steps, or refuse to do so.

Outcomes once an investigation is complete

Again, there are several possible outcomes:

  • It may be that it is decided that the concerns or suspicions had no merit.
  • It may that there are legitimate concerns, but which do not imply criminal behaviour.
  • A club’s committee may decide to offer advice to a member about their future behaviour.
  • Or the committee might decide permanently to limit a member’s activities, for example by not allowing them to participate in activities where children or vulnerable adults are present. The committee might feel that the issue would be re-visited after a suitable period of time has elapsed.
  • Or, the committee may feel that the outcome of the investigation means that the member has to be permanently excluded from membership.
  • It is essential that the club notify the BCA safeguarding officer of their decisions.
  • As described above, BCA may feel that other clubs would need to be notified.

Recording information
Information that is passed on to the BCA, Social Services and the Police must be as helpful as possible. Hence there is a necessity for making as detailed record as possible. This should endeavour to contain:

  • The nature of the incident.
  • A description of any visible injuries.
  • The child’s account.
  • Times, dates or other relevant information.
  • A clear distinction between what is fact, hearsay and opinion.

Allegations of previous abuse
Allegations of abuse may be made a long time after the event (e.g. by an adult who was abused as a child or by a member of staff who is still currently working with children or vulnerable adults). Where such an allegation is made, you should proceed in the same manner as described above.

Concerns about abuse outside a YSS setting
If this happens, you should ensure the safety of the child or vulnerable adult. If he or she requires immediate attention, call an ambulance, inform a doctor of your concerns and ensure that they are aware that this is a safeguarding issue.
If a formal referral is made, make it clear that it is a safeguarding issue. Police forces have specialised Safeguarding Units which deal with allegations of abuse within the family and by people in positions of trust. In a real emergency, or if completely unsure as to what to do, telephone 999.
Parents/carers should only be contacted after advice from Social Services.
It can be especially difficult for children or vulnerable adults from an ethnic minority or who are disabled to disclose abuse to others. Adults should be especially vigilant with these groups and be aware that their own prejudices may block them from believing these groups.
It is important to give thought as to how adults respond in these situations. In all cases it is important that the welfare of the child or vulnerable adult is paramount and that every effort is made to maintain confidentiality.

Storage, Access to and Retention of Recorded Information
Information passed to the YSS in accordance with this policy must be kept securely, with access strictly controlled and limited to those who are entitled to see it as part of their duties. These records are to be retained for 30 years.

Good-Practice Guidelines for adults caving with children and vulnerable adults
The YSS support BCA’s Guidelines for caving with children and vulnerable adults. Specifically, then, when planning activities for children and vulnerable adults:
Ensure any children are accompanied by either their parent, carer or family friend acting in loco parentis and that both parties understand that, as far as reasonably possible, they should remain together throughout.

  • Ensure you have informed written consent for each child, in the form of a completed BCA Consent Form.
  • Consider the needs and capabilities of everyone in the group, and plan activities that are appropriate. For example, avoid trips that are overly physical or too wet, given the age and experience of your group.
  • Aim for them to have fun and want to come back for more.
  • Ensure that children and vulnerable adults are wearing clothing, footwear, helmet and lighting that are appropriate for the caving environment.
  • Ensure any other equipment (for example, harnesses) is appropriate for the size of the participant and in good condition.
  • Carry a first aid kit and spare light in your group. If doing vertical caving, carry a spare rope of the length of the tallest pitch, so that rescues can readily be affected.
  • Ensure children and vulnerable adults cave in an environment where risk is kept to a minimum. For example, experienced adult cavers will sometimes traverse a cave passage at a high level when progress lower down is difficult or impossible, confident that their caving skill will prevent a fall. Children and young adults are unable to make that judgment. Thus, you should pick venues where such risks are minimised, or use traverse ropes or safety lines that you might not bother with when caving with adults.
  • Do not allow children or vulnerable adults to cave when injured, if the injury could be made worse or could impact their ability to cope.
  • Think about arrangements for changing. Children and vulnerable adults are less able to think ahead, so if a change of clothes or a towel might be needed, check that they have these things.
  • Motivate children and vulnerable adults through positive feedback and constructive criticism.

During activities with children and vulnerable adults:

  • Ensure that the welfare of children and vulnerable adults is paramount.
  • Treat everyone with dignity, respect, sensitivity and fairness as well as with equality.
  • If physical support is required, for example when tackling an awkward section in a cave, ensure the individual is aware of what is happening and has consented to this physical help. If possible, ensure that your help is visible to other members of your group. Avoid physical contact that could be misconstrued, for example helping with a climbing move by pushing on someone’s bottom. In some situations, other children or vulnerable adults in your group may be better placed to provide help, under your supervision.
  • Explain why you are doing something and try to facilitate, as far as is practical, an open and inclusive approach to the activity. People often respond better if they feel they are part of the process.
  • Respect children’s and vulnerable adults’ need for privacy when changing. For example, they could change inside a vehicle, or maybe they could stand at the back of a vehicle whilst adult members stand at the front.


  • Taking children and vulnerable adults alone on car journeys, or spending time alone with a child or vulnerable adult. This might become necessary in emergencies, or if a youngster has to leave a cave before the rest of the group. In such an event, maintain a respectable distance (for example by sitting them in the back of the vehicle) and ensure that their parent or guardian is aware.

The following must never happen:

  • Taking a child or vulnerable adult alone to your home.
  • Making sexually suggestive comments to a child or vulnerable adult, even in fun.
  • Doing things of a personal nature for a child or vulnerable adult that they can do themselves.
  • Allowing allegations made by a child or vulnerable adult to go unchallenged, not acted upon or not recorded.
  • Allowing children to consume alcohol or take illegal recreational drugs.
  • Allowing any physically rough or sexually provocative contact or games.


There are many club organised caving weekends, with a mixture of easy and difficult caving.  Over the past few years we have given lots of people the opportunity to experience caving with our "Try Caving" events.  These are quite popular and quite a few people have subsequently joined the club. We have YSS members caving most weekends so it is easy for new cavers to tag onto the easier caving trips and find people to help with more training.


Old School House
Austwick Road
Helwith Bridge
North Yorkshire
BD24 0EH

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