Easing the insurance burden on volunteers

The Big Society Deregulation Taskforce, led by Lord Hodgson, looked at the red tape that volunteers encounter. Mathew Little reports

Lord Hodgson
Lord Hodgson

The government is trying to remove some of the insurance barriers faced by volunteers. Last summer, the Big Society Deregulation Taskforce published its report Unshackling Good Neighbours, which looked at the red tape volunteers encounter, and made a number of recommendations for insurers and charities.

In the report, Lord Hodgson, who led the taskforce, said that the provision of insurance "at reasonable cost would represent another major step in reassuring individuals about their personal exposure".

The report specifically identified insurance as a barrier to volunteering, highlighting the example of motor insurance providers that charge extra premiums for members of the public who use their own vehicles for activities such as driving people to hospital. The taskforce had found that the extra cost and additional form-filling was a deterrent to people thinking of becoming volunteer drivers.

In August, the Association of British Insurers announced that 54 insurance brands, comprising 85 per cent of the industry, had agreed not to impose extra premiums on volunteers who use their cars for "social driving".

The taskforce also called for the establishment of a working group to address other insurance issues. The group has since been created and has met once. Voluntary sector bodies represented include the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Volunteering England and Locality. The insurance industry is represented by the Association of British Insurers, Zurich, Ecclesiastical and others.

The group is chaired by David Tyler, chief executive of Community Matters. "The biggest issue is the fear factor," he says. "People are reluctant to volunteer because they think it will get them into hot water.

"That's about insurance, but also reducing risk. The answer is partly messaging but also getting insurance products right." Insurance representatives are also conducting research on claim profiles and the uptake of products "so we can understand whether particular products are relevant", says Tyler.

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