Red Tape Task Force calls for clearer legal protection for volunteers

Following from CfA's work supporting the 2006 Compensation Bill, we have worked with Lord Hodgson and his team to inform and publish 'Unshackling Good Neighbours', a report which seeks to free-up the potential of the Big Society.  In our 2006 work we knew millions of Britons were deterred from helping out more fully in society…

"A suffocating blanket of red tape and an insidious mythology about being sued are deterring millions of Britons, volunteer organisations and charities from helping out more fully in society, an independent report reveals today. The Red Tape Task Force, led by Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, has spent nine months examining the myriad of rules and regulations which put people off giving their time and money to good causes and stifles the volunteer and charity sector in the UK."

Go to report:  Unshackling Good Neighbours

Further information – see article by Ian Lewis below…



The report, Unshackling Good Neighbours, makes six key recommendations to the Government to help reduce bureaucracy and red tape. It has also highlighted some of the myths which have sprung up too, for example, ‘rules’ that children should not play conkers without wearing protective goggles or that pancake races are a health and safety hazard.

A key finding is to seek to develop a ‘reasonableness’ test to protect volunteers from consequences of well-intentioned voluntary acts, for example if an elderly person slips on a pathway which a charity volunteer has cleared of snow. In another tangible result for the Task Force, the Association of British Insurers has signalled it will revise its definition of non-business social driving’, which currently puts people off using their cars for volunteering because they have to pay higher insurance premiums.

Lord Hodgson and his team set about answering three questions: what stopspeople giving their time, what stops people giving money and what stops charities and voluntary groups and social enterprises growing? And after reviewing over 600 complaints about excessive bureaucracy and speaking to dozens of organisations and individuals, the Task Force urges the following recommendations:

1. Reform the law to clarify the extent of charity trustees and volunteer liability to encourage more involvement and participation by individuals

2. Eliminate regulatory duplication and repeated requests for the same information in slightly different formats, for example by Companies House, the Charity Commission and commissioners

3. Establish a Working Party to include representatives of the insurance industry and civil society organisations (CSOs) to address the insurance needs of the sectors

4. Encourage investment in CSOs by creating a new category of 'social investor‛ and clarify the position of trust law with regard to charities

5. Simplify the licencing of fund-raising events and provide clear standard guidance across the sector

6. Encourage the out-of-work to get involved in greater volunteering and ensure they and Job Centre staff understand that it does not automatically affect their benefits and welfare payments

Lord Hodgson, chairman of the Red Tape Task Force, said: “The variety, diversity and contribution of the charitable and voluntary sector is one of the glories of our country and the Task Force has set out to find ways to assist its continued growth and development.”

But over recent years we’ve seen a real devaluation of common sense and trust through a tangle of rules and guidance which aims to eliminate risk from our lives but instead creates a risk of a society where people are afraid to help each other. As long as volunteers behave reasonably they should not be liable if something goes wrong the legal framework must make this clear. It is clear that there is a huge level of interest in the issue of deregulation in the voluntary sector since over 600 organisations and individuals have provided us with evidence. We are extremely grateful to them for the trouble they have taken and, wherever possible, we have used these ‘real life’ examples to underpin our recommendations.”.