Bureaucracy and red tape preventing the work of voluntary groups

Story by Sally Harding

Wednesday, 17th April, 2019 1:20pm

Bureaucracy and red tape preventing the work of voluntary groups

Children's garden in Broomfield looked after by volunteers

'Bureaucratic nonsense' is strangling local community groups who are being forced to navigate through endless amounts of red tape and rigorous compliance procedures to carry out voluntary work in their area.

That's according to Broomfield District Residents Association director Gerard Weldon who is calling for all community groups to be given the same status as sporting organisations who are exempt from registering with the Charities Regulator. 

Mr Weldon has been a volunteer for 40 years and says that small voluntary groups are being forced to adhere to the same stringent process as that of large scale corporate charities to gain minuscule amounts of funding in comparison. The process has become so complex that groups are now reluctant to make applications and strict rules are having a negative impact on the public's willingness to volunteer according to the Broomfield man. 

"The Charities Regulator was set up in 2014 to increase transparency, accountability and public confidence in Ireland's charity sector and legally all charities operating in Ireland must now be registered with the regulator.  

"In Broomfield, we have a tidy towns group, village enhancement group, residents association, active retirement group and a children's garden. Our community would not be what is today without volunteers.  They are the life and soul of every community. The mountain of paperwork, assessments and training schemes involved in running a small group is unbelievable. It's leaving many volunteers asking the question: why should we bother Volunteering at all?

"There is a code of governance in community and voluntary organisations and a code of governance for the Charity's Regulator along with general data protection regulations. This creates a plethora of paperwork that is not necessary to run a proper transparent voluntary organisation," he says. 

 

Work of Broomfield Resident's Association

 "Corporate structure should not have to exist within a voluntary organisation. The Charities Regulator even go to the trouble of spelling out what bucket you should have for charity collections. It's not the type of bucket you use that's important, it's the person who is standing holding the bucket and that's being forgotten.

"If a community organisation seeks funding from any of the funding agencies, there are adequate checks and procedures built into the funding streams to more than satisfy the most stringent requirements of transparency and accountability."

Mr Weldon describes the impracticalities of these regulations,

"The training scheme run by the Charities Regulator requires you to develop an annual strategic plan for your group.  To give an example, In the Tidy Towns we might decide to take advantage of the good weather forecasted and go out the next day, you can't write that into a strategic plan in November, you go with the good weather," it's just ridiculous."

 Cllr Wayne Harding commented on the burden faced by volunteers and called for a motion to put all community organisations on the same status as sporting organisations at a recent Laytown- Bettystown Municipal District meeting.

 "People are signing up for charitable status and then starting to realise the amount of work, time and money that goes into compliance. The anomaly is that the corporate governance for huge bodys is slipping right down to voluntary organisations. There are so many good hardworking people willing to help in their community and it's a disgrace that these obstacles are being put in their way.

 "Large organisations have the staff and time to deal with the extensive regulation process but this current system is making it increasingly difficult for these amazing local groups to operate. Our communities could not exist without the crucial work carried out by these people who simply want to make a difference."

 "Volunteers are a special breed, who give their services free of charge, in the best interest of the Communities that they serve," comments Gerard Weldon,

 "Resident’s associations and ad hoc community groups are being treated like enemies of the state when they try to engage in activities that might benefit their communities."
 Mr Broomfield wants the process simplified to allow community groups to get on with the work they really want to do,

"I believe all a voluntary organisation should have is a properly elected committee, an AGM every 12 months where they put the case before the people that elect them into office and give a full account of their finances. 

 "Voluntary groups that organise events such as tractor runs for cancer charities are supplying very badly needed funds into hospitals.  They do it because it's the right thing to do, they don't want any praise. They are practical people who want to roll up their sleeves and get work done, they don't want to be knee deep in paperwork."

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