After some of the discussions we had at Cuboree, it is good to see that there are others starting to notice the cost of prohibitive red-tape being placed on the volunteer sector.
How over-regulation is killing off volunteerism [The Age]
April 18, 2005
Criminal checks, health rules and red tape are ruining volunteer work, warns Jan McCallum.
The Victorian Government’s proposed law requiring a police check for almost every person working with children will discourage some people from volunteering but it won’t surprise anyone who is already active in community groups.
The policy of requiring a police check for volunteers working with children increasingly applies, which is why it takes about two months to get one. Laws that treat everyone over 14 as a potential pedophile are just the latest obstacle to volunteering. It is time governments considered how the weight of regulation is strangling community work.
Within a few years voluntary groups have had to absorb GST compliance and privacy legislation and the extra paperwork they created, plus insurers raising public liability costs and making everybody afraid of organising anything. In Victoria, state food-handling regulations have more recently added to the time and cost of events serving food. You might have cooked for your family for 20 years but the regulations treat you as a likely poisoner.
On its own, each one of these is enough to stop some activities, but as layer upon layer of bureaucracy builds, they discourage participation and make community work more difficult for volunteers and paid workers who are already stretched. A huge amount of resentment has built up among volunteers. Many organisations now think twice about whether activities require too much effort for the benefit obtained.
A friend who attended the Anglican Church’s annual synod said people from several churches told her they had stopped holding fetes because of the Victorian food regulations. “It just isn’t worth doing any more,” is a frequent comment in the sector these days.
It is often said that people won’t volunteer, but there are many people of goodwill who expect to pitch in and run their local kindergarten, sporting club or school fete. It is getting harder for them, though, as events that were once organised simply and quickly among friends become complex operations.
These days every voluntary group needs a seasoned hand who knows about council permits, public liability and food safety laws. The complexity discourages younger people and newcomers from joining in and deters people in paid work.
When I was working full time and on the committee of a community-run kindergarten, a complaint was made and, as the responsible officer, I was interviewed by a state official. The interview started when I was presented with a written statement saying that anything I said could be used in evidence against me. Although I understood this was a standard procedure, and no criminal activity was suggested, it was very unnerving.
My ignorance of child-care legislation became obvious during the interview and I was shown a copy of the legislation and told I was expected to know it. I said it was a lot to expect from a parent volunteer. Only a child-care professional could be expected to know the regulations and keep up with regular government directives, which is probably why the corporate child-care businesses have grown so fast; it’s too hard for the rest of us.
I would not volunteer for a kindergarten committee again because the requirements are too onerous and I don’t have the time. Unlike paid employees, volunteers can choose to give up activities because they are fed up with being treated like idiots.
As the volunteer pool shrinks, groups in disadvantaged areas will fail because they lack expertise. As more money is spent on compliance, less will go to the people who need it most and for whom it is raised.
How important is the community sector? Although community work is hard to value, it does greatly improve economic efficiency, and not only by raising funds. The sector retains and uses the skills of retired people and helps others gain confidence and experience they can take into a workplace.
Getting involved prevents people from being lonely and alienated. People find paid work through their voluntary network and generate funds spent at local businesses.
The sector lessens the strain on government through these networks as well as services it provides. There would not be a Country Fire Authority or State Emergency Service without volunteers.
In a research paper on social capital, published in 2003, the Productivity Commission found the many benefits attributed included improved health and child welfare and lower crime rates. There are many good reasons to support the voluntary sector and governments do give money and other benefits. But it often seems that they give with one hand and slap us across the face with the other.
The Productivity Commission has recommended that governments “at least consider the scope for modifying policies that are found to damage social capital”.
It’s a sensible suggestion that needs to be implemented before volunteers are swamped by officialdom. Just hope it happens before your local community group is regulated out of existence.
– Jan McCallum
IT’S A CHANGING WORLD
According to today’s regulators and bureaucrats, those of us who were kids in the 30′s, 40′s, 50′s, 60′s, 70′s or even the early 80′s, probably shouldn’t have survived.
Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint. We had no childproof lids or locks on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets.
Not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking …
As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat.
We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. Horrors!
We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we were never overweight because we were always outside playing.
We shared one soft drink with four friends , from one bottle, and no one actually died from this.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.
We would leave home in the morning and play all day , as long as we were back when the street lights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. No cell phones. Unthinkable!
We did not have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X-Boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, video tape movies, surround sound, personal cell phones, personal computers, or Internet chat rooms.
We had friends! We went outside and found them.
We played dodge ball, and sometimes, the ball would really hurt.
We fell out of trees, got cut and broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits from these accidents . They were accidents. No one was to blame but us. Remember accidents?
We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it.
We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen , we did not put out any eyes.
We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s home and knocked on the door, or rang the bell or just walked in and talked to them.
Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team . Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment.
Some students weren’t as smart as others, so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade. Horrors!
Tests were not adjusted for any reason.
Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. The idea of parents bailing us out if we got in trouble in school or broke a law was unheard of. They actually sided with the school or the law. Imagine that!
This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers, and inventors, ever.
We had freedom, failure, success, and responsibility — and we learned how to deal with it.
From what I can see, originally from;
When we were young