Disarray at CAB 'shows need for proper volunteer management'

The resignation of the director and nine trustees of York Citizens Advice Bureau is an example of the "dire consequences" that can follow if volunteers are not managed well, the Association of Volunteer Managers has warned.

York CAB picture by Frank Dwyer
York CAB picture by Frank Dwyer

Director Chris Hailey-Norris and all but one of the trustee board decided their positions were no longer tenable after the publication of a critical report into the circumstances of a walk-out by 28 volunteers at York CAB in June (2 July, page 3).

The report by John Stoker, former chief charity commissioner, said the CAB suffered from a "failure of management" and "a shortcoming in governance" (Third Sector Online, 30 October).

John Ramsey, chair of the Association of Volunteer Managers, said the case was a "timely reminder of the necessity for effective volunteer management".

He added: "I hope what this case has done is make many chief executives and trustee boards realise that, if you don't manage volunteers properly, there are dire consequences for how your organisation is perceived and how you deliver your services."

According to the 2007 national volunteering survey by the Office of the Third Sector and the Institute of Volunteering Research, 31 per cent of volunteers believe volunteering could be "much better organised". Ramsey said charities should make volunteer management a priority and invest in it.

The York volunteers walked out in support of a colleague who was asked not to return after allegations of bullying were made.

According to volunteering consultant Mark Restall, York CAB did not follow proper procedures or the norms of natural justice. He said: "Volunteers do not have any statutory rights and organisations have to be careful not to treat them like they do paid staff. At the same time, proper procedures must be adhered to."

The Stoker report said the volunteers should receive a formal apology. They will be returning to the York bureau.

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Former York CAB director Chris Hailey-Norris has left his position as chair of Disability Action Yorkshire, where he was involved in another controversy over the sacking of a member of staff. Disability Action Yorkshire removed chief executive Judith Oliver in November 2006 for allegedly setting an inappropriate budget. She was subsequently awarded £75,000 damages for wrongful dismissal by an employment tribunal, which also ordered the charity to reinstate her. The charity refused and has appealed.

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