Working group publishes code of practice for volunteers
Thursday, 17 May 2012
Following the May 2011 publication of Unshackling Good Neighbours - the report of the red tape taskforce chaired by Lord Hodgson that considered how to cut red tape for small charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises - Volunteering England and the Association of British Insurers (ABI) convened a working group of the voluntary & community sector and the insurance industry.
Amongst its other work, the group has developed a code of practice for volunteers. It provides some basic guidance on staying safe, with the aim of reassuring people that by volunteering they aren't placing themselves at great risk of litigation.
Code of practice for volunteers
Many people volunteer informally, helping out neighbours and supporting the community. This code provides some basic guidance for individuals on staying safe and avoiding risk.
Volunteering is not a generally risky activity. Even though individual volunteers have a duty of care to each other and others who may be affected by their activities, people are hardly ever held liable for any consequences due to well-intentioned voluntary acts.
Of course, more things can go wrong if you’re cutting down trees or taking a group hiking than if you’re collecting donations on the high street. But whatever you’re doing, if you take the time to consider a few simple guidelines you can reduce the risk significantly.
- Take care in whatever you do. As long as you act reasonably and take this guidance into account you are very unlikely to put yourself at risk of litigation.
- Think about your safety and the safety of others around you. Before you do anything it’s a good idea to take some time to think about the risks it could pose to you and others. If there is a risk, think about what you can do to reduce it.
- Involve other people. Before you do something, think about who else it might involve or have an effect on. If you’ve noticed something needs doing, chances are someone else has too. By talking about it with others, you’re more likely to identify potential problems – and be able to solve them.
- Ask for help and information. Most importantly, before you decide you can’t do something or you’re putting yourself at risk of litigation, look for the information. If you have concerns about health and safety, ask for help. A great place to start is Citizens Advice, which can point you in the right direction.
- Be clear about what you are and aren’t responsible for. Various myths circulate about responsibility. For example, if you allow your land to be used by the community for an activity you only owe the same duty of care as to all other visitors. If you’re not sure about what the law says you can contact Community Legal Advice.
- Check your existing insurance policies to see what you are covered for. If you already hold home insurance you might be surprised to find out what individual activities it covers you for. If in doubt, ask your insurance provider. The British Insurance Broker’s Association also has a guide to insurance for volunteers.
- If you are volunteering for an organisation you are probably covered by their insurance. It’s the organisation that has a responsibility to ensure it has the right cover for its activities and its volunteers have the right information and training. If you are concerned, or just interested, you should ask what insurance the organisation has.
- Volunteering England is an independent charity and membership organisation, committed to supporting, enabling and celebrating volunteering in all its diversity. Our work links policy, research, innovation, good practice and programme management in the involvement of volunteers.
- The ABI is the voice of the UK’s insurance, investment and long-term savings industry. It has over 300 members, which together account for around 90% of premiums in the UK domestic market. The ABI’s role is to:
- Be the voice of the UK insurance industry, leading debate and speaking up for insurers.
- Represent the UK insurance industry to government, regulators and policy makers in the UK, EU and internationally, driving effective public policy and regulation.
- Advocate high standards of customer service within the industry and provide useful information to the public about insurance.
- Promote the benefits of insurance to the government, regulators, policy makers and the public.
- The working group was convened by Volunteering England and the ABI in partnership. It is chaired by David Tyler, Chief Executive of Community Matters and a member of the red tape taskforce.
- The following organisations are members of the working group: ACEVO, Acre, Clubs for Young People, Community Matters, Locality, NCVO, NCVYS, Social Enterprise UK, Sport & Recreation Aliance, Volunteering England, ABI, Direct Line Group, Zurich, Allianz Insurance Plc, Ecclesiastical Insurance, RSA Group, CaSE Insurance, BIBA, BESSO Insurance Grpup Ltd, Mason Owen, Marsh and Unity Insurance Services.