Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Campaign for Adventure (SA 04)

The Campaign for Adventure:

CfA is UK national initiative to improve understanding of the important benefits for individuals and for society which stem from an adventurous approach to life in all its aspects. CfA is particularly concerned to remove red-tape and fear of litigation as blocks to adventure, enterprise and initiative-taking which it sees as three vital aspects of enjoying healthy, fulfilling lives.

Points of concern which inform our support for the Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill

1. There are many in our society whom believe deeply in volunteering – the value of giving extra both to themselves and to society. This volunteering may be either volunteering time (both professionally and as a lay-person) and volunteering effort and/or initiative (often termed 'going the extra mile') in paid employments. This latter volunteering is often characterised by activities such as after-school clubs, running field trips, giving more than expected within a job-role, showing initiative and otherwise committing to activities which might otherwise not be compulsorily undertaken. Some of these might be heroic, whether in the short (emergency) or in a long-term special commitment.

2. Those whom, as above, gift the extra mile to the benefit of our society (in the main) are unable, or choose not, to promote or even represent themselves. We should at least acknowledge and, even better, celebrate their donations to our greater society. Some may be represented by organisations – e.g., GuidingUK, Scouting, Samaritans and these are even further represented through umbrella orgs such NCVO and NCVYS. However, a report by Thomson in 1982 indicates only 10% of volunteers have any such representation. There is no reason to suggest this % has changed – except that shortages of volunteers now exist and the number of volunteers is now less and indeed is now insufficient – leaving waiting lists and gaps in UK society.

3. Subsequent reports have indicated a number of reasons for the shortage. The most informative was the CCPR (now Sport and Recreation Alliance) Report of 2006 which stated that the then main reason for potential volunteers not volunteering is a fear of litigation. It remains a serious deterrent, although arguably not for some the most serious, to both types of volunteering in the UK.

4. The 2006 Compensation Act sought to right this but, due to weak wording and poor publicity, it did not reach its potential.

5. Both prior to the 2006 Act and subsequently, it is the nature of lower-court judgements – and media that does the damage; subsequent judgements, in the main, go unreported and thus the public, including would-be volunteers, hear only the initial stories and are thus – and perhaps rightfully given the often wayward judgements - fearful of litigation.

6. CfA keeps in close connection with both the time volunteer and the 'healthy initiative-takers' employed in education, youth-work, outdoor education, training & sport, social & community work, etc. We are very aware that the worry about litigation is still a very present problem, whether media driven or not. It is also used as an excuse for not undertaking extra work, especially in schools, but also in communities, sports and when society is in distress. It will remain so until our society ensures such ''extra mile' work (extra hours working, local club work, parent-volunteers, etc.), is ceaselessly and universally supported at all levels - by the public, by the local government, education managers, by the judiciary and by parliament....and thus, perhaps, even the media.

7. The 2006 Compensation Bill was a first helpful step, increasingly used, but significantly missing its opportunity to raise confidence by our society that acts with good intentions always mean something. The new bill has got it right - stating that courts must take into account the intended social value/good intention. This will confirm to those whom wish to make a contribution to our society that their intention, generosity, selflessness, courage and goodwill are seen and supported by our courts – given sensible and appropriate preparation.

8. "No longer is the keen and enthusiastic teacher or leader willing to take on the responsibilities such adventurous activities involve and indeed some Teachers’ Unions have even indicated that it is against their wish that teachers should so do, for fear of prosecution if an incident leads to injury or death." - Young Explorers' Trust – 2014

9. There have been great efforts by the HSE, the RSA and others – insurance companies, The APPG on Adventure and Risk in Society to put things right. We believe this has failed and that a clear and unequivocal statement by parliament is necessary.

10. HRH Prince Philip, in calling for the Campaign for Adventure, stated "The danger for humanity lies not in taking risks, but in not taking enough risks."

11. Comments from the guiding document for Campaign for Adventure:

"The Campaign for Adventure (CfA) is a national initiative to improve understanding of the important benefits for individuals and for society which stem from an adventurous approach to life in all its aspects. This Campaign arises from a developing awareness in many quarters that the increasing tendency to protect people from danger and the concern to avoid risk, if carried too far, will stifle natural creativity and enterprise. The major impetus for the Campaign came from the Conference "A Question of Balance", held at the Royal Geographical Society on November 29th 2000."

"The tradition of adventure in the UK is deeply ingrained. Throughout our history, individuals and groups have extended the scope of human knowledge and capability by venturing beyond the safe boundaries of known terrain into the unexplored regions of the physical, social and intellectual landscape. In doing so, they have gained deep personal insight and reward and also performed an important service to the wider community. By exploring beyond what is known, in any field of activity, people exercise creativity, they expand understanding, they extend human capability, and they identify new visions and new techniques for future advances. This process lies at the heart of human progress in every field. Thus the importance of adventure is both economic and psychological. We know that innovation and risk-taking are fundamental elements of successful enterprise. And we need to experiment with and practice new behaviours in order to be able to adopt them."

"All adventurous, innovative or exploratory activity entails uncertainty of outcome and possible exposure to hazard, and thus involves some level of risk to those involved. "

"However, this has led to an increasingly restrictive and even pessimistic approach to life, in which the emphasis on risk is frequently out of proportion, in which every hazard is seen as something to be avoided and risk-taking is regarded as unacceptable. This tendency is compounded by a culture which often attempts to attach blame and to seek compensation for any errors or misjudgements which occur. The result is that courage is sacrificed to caution; and many people are reluctant or fearful to engage in any project involving adventure and uncertainty, which may entail hazard and perceived risk. Perhaps more damagingly, they become unwilling to encourage or even allow others (and particularly children) to engage in adventurous or experimental ventures, often through fear of litigation should any error of judgement be made. There is an alternative danger that, by choosing to stay within the realms of the safe and the familiar, our society may inhibit discovery and enterprise and fail to take advantage of opportunities which can only arise through reaching out into the unknown. There is a real possibility that the necessary culture of safety may degenerate into a damaging and restrictive culture of fear. The purpose of the Campaign for Adventure is to counter this tendency by providing a more accurate understanding of the benefits, as well as the joys, of living life adventurously."

September 2014

Prepared 9th September 2014