Nick Hurd has sent Lord Hodgson - author of the Unshackling Good Neighbours report on cutting red tape for civil society organisations, a letter updating him on the progress at the half-way point to Lord Hodgson's review in May.
Sent to Lord Hodgson on 26 January and published on the Cabinet Office website yesterday, Hurd's letter summarises the government's actions towards reducing the bureaucracy surrounding action in the sector highlighted in Lord Hodgson's May 2011 report.
The report circles around three key questions:
- What stops people giving time?
- What stops people giving money?
- What stops civil society organisations (CSOs) growing?
Hurd says in his letter that "a lot has already happened" and that he is "really encouraged by the fact that two of the recommendations have been met". These are the continuation of cheques for "as long as they are needed", and the formation of a liaison group of insurers and CSOs to address insurance issues which create barriers to social activity.
Barriers in insurance include a "perception that volunteers are likely to be sued", which Hurd says is being addressed by the Office for Civil Society together with sector umbrella organisations and insurers. Specific issues around insurance for volunteer drivers were also raised, with apparent inconsistancy over whether their driving was contained within the term "social driving", and therefore covered by insurers.
The Association of British Insurers has subsequently worked to clarify the position on its website and produced a list of 54 insurers which cover volunteer driving at no extra cost, said Hurd.
Criminal records checks
CRB checks will be made transferrable when the Protection of Freedoms Bill, providing legislation on the matter, passes through Parliament, Hurd said.
But Peter Horner, Navca's policy officer, told civilsociety.co.uk there more clarification is needed on the matter.
“Navca believes that real progress is being made on reducing red tape as Nick Hurd’s letter shows," Horner said. "One area we are concerned with at present is that the government has not decided on whether the new single CRB check that the letter highlights will only be of use if it is free.
"If they charge for this service most volunteers will just continue to choose to have separate checks for each volunteering role. Having to pay an annual fee to make the check portable would be like a tax on volunteering.”
Entertainment licensing rules are also being addressed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, including proposals to remove the requirement for a licence in England and Wales to host a performance of a play, show a film, hold an indoor sporting event or dance performance, perform live music or play recorded music. The OCS is also working with the DCLG and Local Government Association to improve the quality of local authority guidance on the matter.
Health and Safety
A 'Common Sense Common Safety' document was drawn up and its recommendations are currently being implemented, said Hurd, providing the example of guidance from the Health and Safety Executive on safety in charity shops.
One of the biggest barriers for the sector is a move from government grants to public service commissioning. In his report, Lord Hodgson had said that, "No topic has set the Task Force more challenges than unravelling the complex relationships that exist between small CSO’s and commissioners and considering how these might be strengthened and improved."
Hurd said that there has been "significant change in progress that is being initiated by both government and CSO umbrella organisations". He highlighted the work of organisations such as NCVO, Acevo and Navca in helping to implement change in this area and the publication of the Open Public Services White Paper, the responses to which he says will be published "soon".
He also mentioned the Best Value Statutory Guidance for local authorities, which asks them to consider social, economic and environmental impact when commissioning, and the supporting 'Your Value' tool for CSOs to demonstrate their impact.