OPINION: Red tape impedes organisations helping people


MANY of you will be involved with volunteer or community organisations. I bet you have friends and acquaintances who are similarly involved.

I bet you are working your bottoms off for members and clients and usually being paid the square root of very little, if at all.

I bet you often don't know how the Hell you'll find time to do all the necessary things that make your organisation effective in providing a vital community service.

I bet, also, thanks to bureaucracy, you spend many, many hours doing things that have no meaningful effect upon the useful outcomes from your work.

You will be desperately trying to meet the demands of bureaucrats, government department "policy makers" and others trying to tell you how to do your job.

Even worse, they're telling you what you aren't allowed to do because of Rule X, Policy Y or Email Z, under threat of being closed down if you carry on doing it. The real impediments to helping people are the myriad of regulations and all those anonymous "officials" who appear to get paid to make your life impossibly difficult.

Of course they do this in an effort to stop you breaking the rules they have so carefully contrived for your own good.

The fact that they know absolutely nothing about what you are really doing on the ground is no constraint upon the number of stupid rules and regulations they believe it is their duty to invent.

It seems to have escaped their attention that the vast majority of volunteers and organisations are completely honest, law-abiding and intelligently led.

The bureaucratic belief that you can't function without having a multi-page "policy" to guide you stems from too much time on their hands and too little useful things with which to fill it.

The mistaken belief that commercial or community organisations have the resources to waste on writing policies about the bleedin' obvious is a stunning commentary on their own work environment.

When, for example, one is required to create "A Policy on How to Write Policies" you know things are getting out of hand.

How often is your community organisation or your business required to be audited?

I can remember the days when an audit was something conducted by people bristling with accounting degrees. They actually had the skills needed to help you keep the books in order.

Yes, they were sometimes a pain in the rear but you could see the good in it and it helped you to sleep easier at night.

They rarely got things wrong and often were able to suggest better ways to do things.

Nowadays, an audit means anything involving people from one government authority or another visiting for the purpose of inquisition and inspection.

This is preceded by a requirement to show them your policies. These must cover everything from access to toilet facilities for people with disabilities to the nutritional value of the lunches you provide.

They must detail how you wash the plates and how near the toilet you are when doing it.

Policies on recruitment, training, monitoring and developing your staff nestle beside lengthy documents on workplace health and safety, where dogs are not allowed and where you are not permitted to smoke.

Policies on what you must do if somebody allegedly abuses you racially, sexually or by using inappropriate language must be available for inspection at any time.

A list of all exits, entrances and who can go into which rooms at what times must be provided to anyone who looks lost.

Policies on how to open doors, close minds and shut windows must clearly distinguish between left and right-handed people and ambidextrous show-offs.

Let us get on with doing useful things. It will generally be okay........

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