Lord Hodgson proposes 'reasonableness test' to protect volunteers from legal action

Chair of government's red tape taskforce says fear of litigation prevents people from doing charity and community work

Lord Hodgson
Lord Hodgson

Lord Hodgson, the chair of a government taskforce set up to cut red tape in the voluntary sector, believes the charity tribunal should operate a ‘reasonableness test’ that would make charity volunteers less likely to be held liable for accidents or damage they cause while volunteering.

Hodgson, who leads the Big Society Deregulation Taskforce, told Third Sector he thought the fear of legal action for mistakes was a significant barrier that prevented people from getting involved with charities and community groups.

"It’s ridiculous that some youth group leaders won’t even rub Savlon on a child’s wound these days for fear of legal action," he said. "Volunteers should be able to use their common sense without fear of getting into trouble.

"The charity tribunal should be able to decide whether a complainant is acting reasonably by taking legal action against a volunteer."

Hodgson said he was not yet sure whether the recommendation would be in the Big Society Deregulation Taskforce report to the government, due to be published in April.

He said the taskforce was also considering whether to recommend a different system of regulation for small charities.

One option, he said, was for the Charity Commission to stop giving charity numbers to those with incomes below a certain level and instead allow these charities to say they were "regulated by the Charity Commission".

Under this system, he said, small charities would have fewer reporting requirements and less information would be needed to register a small charity with the commission.

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