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June 5, 2015

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Health and safety ‘no barrier to volunteering’

Health and safety is no barrier to volunteering, the acting chief executive of the British Safety Council has said, in an announcement pledging its support of the #iwill campaign, a UK-wide initiative aiming to make social action part of life for more 10 to 20 year-olds by the year 2020.

Led by Patron HRH The Prince of Wales, with backing from the main political parties, the campaign is working across the voluntary, public, education and business communities to achieve the ambitious goal of enabling an additional 1.5 million young people to be active in their communities.

Defined as ‘practical action in the service of others to create positive change,’ social action includes activities such as campaigning, fundraising and volunteering. Research shows that the main barriers to participation are people’s lack of time and lack of opportunities to get involved.

A further barrier identified by Step Up To Serve, the charity behind the #iwill campaign, are people’s fears that efforts to control health and safety risks are complex, time-confusing and, if it goes wrong, punitive for those involved.  As Neal Stone, Acting Chief Executive of the British Safety Council, explains, “with myths circulating in the press and sometimes propagated by politicians about health and safety red-tape and risk-averse authorities, it is no wonder that this perception exists.”

“Voluntary organisations do a great job in providing opportunities for young people to learn new skills and mature through experience, and they take the well-being of those volunteers very seriously. They have sensible, proportionate risk management systems and cultures and the British Safety Council is delighted to play our part in helping them do this work.”

Neal said: “Managing health and safety risks, particularly for more hazardous kinds of activities – whether for those in paid-employment or volunteering – is crucial for success. Work doesn’t get done if people are injured or made ill. Volunteers building a festival stage or doing home visits for the elderly, can’t help communities if risks aren’t properly managed.”

“That is why I’m happy for the British Safety Council to develop a set of resources that give comfort and assurance to organisations working with young people – particularly small, grassroots organisations – that health and safety is not something to fear and that a sensible management of risks is enabling and not inhibiting. We will play our part to correct any public misperception of health and safety in the coming months, working with Step Up To Serve and our members to get this message across.”

The British Safety Council has pledged to support the #iwill campaign in the following way:

“We will support organisations to address concerns about health and safety they believe stops them engaging young people in social action, using our experience to promote a message that sensible risk management is simple, is not a barrier and actually enables volunteering. We will do this through:

  •          Refresh and update our resources and materials aimed at organisations to help them appropriately manage health and safety concerns
  •          Update our guidance aimed at young people to help them make appropriate decisions about risk when undertaking their own social action opportunities
  •          Highlight the work of the campaign with our member organisations to act as an advocate for the role of youth social action and the part they can play in supporting activity”

This support for young volunteers fits well with the British Safety Council’s campaign Speak Up, Stay Safe, which seeks to raise awareness of health and safety risks with young people. The innovative resources we will develop in the coming months will highlight the public value of sensible health and safety and be useful for young people and the people who manage and supervise their work.

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