HC Deb 23 July 2004 vol 424 cc857-8W
Mr. Andrew Turner

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress has been made towards the implementation of an action plan based on the report of the Insurance Cover Working Group entitled "Research into Insurance Cover for the VCS in England"; and when it will be completed. [181008]

Fiona Mactaggart

[holding answer 29 June 2004]: On Friday 16 July 2004 the Home Office published a paper responding to the suggestions made by independent consultants in their report "Research into Insurance Cover for the VCS in England", which was commissioned by the Home Office Insurance Cover Working Group (ICWG).

The paper outlines the practical action that is and has been taken across Government to address the challenges facing voluntary and community organisations in obtaining insurance cover for their activities.

Five action points have been agreed between the insurance industry, the voluntary and community sector (VCS) and Government:

  1. 1. The Home Office Minister responsible for communities will champion the cause of insurance for the voluntary and community sector.
  2. 2. Government work on employers' liability insurance, legal costs and full cost recovery, will be taken forward by The Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Constitutional Affairs and the Home Office Active Communities Directorate, ensuring that the interests of the voluntary and community sector are taken into account.
  3. 3. Sources of practical advice and expertise on the required needs of the insurance industry will be brought together by providing access to relevant information on the Home Office, Association of British Insurers, and various voluntary and community sector organisation's websites, in order to increase the capacity of the sector to deal with insurance issues.
  4. 4. Better practical arrangements for working with local government will be investigated by the Home Office, working with the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and the Local Government Association.
  5. 5. There will be an on-going dialogue between the voluntary and community sector, the insurance industry and government, facilitated by the Home Office through the Insurance Cover Working Group (ICWG) meeting to discuss progress and ongoing issues, as appropriate.

Implementation of the plan has already started and will continue over the coming months as parcels of work are completed. The ICWG will be an "honest broker" between the VCS, the insurance industry and other key players, highlighting and discussing specific issues of concern to the VCS. I will champion this insurance issue for the VCS.

The actions we are taking are practical measures to empower the VCS. For example, by encouraging greater understanding of the issues facing the VCS within the insurance industry, by facilitating greater dialogue, encouraging the principle of "full cost recovery" across Government and providing better and more accessible information regarding such things as risk management/bulk purchasing schemes/and basic details to do with the provision of insurance cover, all adding up to practical help for the VCS. However, these are just the first steps in an area where there can be no overnight changes. Therefore, the Government and their partners are committed to making a difference over the long term.

In tandem with this longer term commitment, I have now set in motion a process for the delivery of a policy framework designed to address the increasing insurance burden and other concerns in the voluntary and community sector, particularly those parts of the sector that undertake activities with a greater element of risk. From this process we expect guidance to emerge on risk and its management as well as the development of a document similar to "Making the Market Work", an initiative the Association of British Insurers (ABI) developed for the assessment of Trade Associations Health and Safety schemes.

This work will undoubtedly draw on the Working Group's report and benefit from the group's input. Copies of the paper "Programme of Action", can be viewed and downloaded from the Home Office website: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/comrace/active/developing/ icwg.html.