OPINION: PIU report won't help the toad

DEBRA ALLCOCK TYLER, chief executive of the Directory of Social Change

The Performance and Innovation Unit is due to report to the Government shortly and the Treasury Cross Cutting Review draft report is with ministers as I write. As the sector frantically tries to predict the results of these various initiatives, it is easy to forget that for many small voluntary and community organisations - the bulk of the sector - these apparently important matters are pretty remote.

Arts in Sacred Places, one such small organisation, is led by Keith Elford, who squeezes his role as chief executive in alongside a full-time job.

He needs to keep his organisation funded and achieving its objectives.

Typically of heads of many small charities, he doesn't have time to worry about the PIU or any other bits of legislation that the rest of us are taxing our thoughts and tongues about.

Much voluntary and fundraising activity arises out of people having a good idea, or noticing something important that needs to be done, getting on and doing it. While weekending in Devon recently, our landlord, Tom, told us that he is a volunteer member of the local toad patrol. Apparently there's a particularly rare breed of toad in that part of the country that risks life and limb crossing a major road at certain points during the year. So a group of locals get together, agree a rota and patrol that particular section of road until all the toads are safely over. Of course, there are the normal battles over who's got the best shift and who saved the most toads - but its largely good fun, with plenty of volunteers, endless tea on tap and a celebratory drink once the last toad is safely delivered. No one discusses the ins and outs of the latest reforms of charity law.

Another example you may have read about is the Society for the Protection of the Unreasonably Dumped (SPUD), rebranding as Care Against Relationship Rifts or Thoughtless Separation (CARROTS). This is what the largest part of the voluntary sector is all about. Small, creative, innovative, needs-oriented groups, with a sense of humour, huge commitment to their cause and a blithe indifference to those apparently weightier matters that so torment the rest of us.

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