Sunday 22 September 2019

Community groups face mass closure as insurance crisis deepens

Ivan Cooper said we can’t afford delays to reforms. Picture: Frank McGrath
Ivan Cooper said we can’t afford delays to reforms. Picture: Frank McGrath
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Community groups have warned many of them will be forced to close down because of the insurance crisis.

A survey of voluntary and community bodies shows that 83pc of them have seen premium costs shoot up in the last three years.

Most groups believe the Government is not doing enough to tackle the issue.

Ivan Cooper, of The Wheel support group for non-profit bodies, said the very nature of how Irish society is organised is at risk from the insurance crisis.

"The fabric of Irish society is under threat due to this crisis and we cannot afford any further delays to proposed reforms," he said.

The survey found that 47pc of voluntary groups are in danger of closing down if insurance costs continue to rise.

Up to now they have been dealing with the spiralling cost of cover by cutting back on activities they organise.

The survey was carried out by the State's Public Participation Networks (PPNs), among 770 PPNs nationwide. These are set up by local authorities to connect with community groups.

Sarah Wetherald, of Sligo PPN, said the groups surveyed provide a wealth of services to communities.

"The infrastructure of volunteering in Ireland is being threatened by spiralling insurance costs, unavailability of insurance cover, and increasingly unreasonable exclusions and conditions," she added.

Ms Wetherald said small firms hit with massive premium rises tend to close down, but voluntary groups stagger on and survive by cutting services.

"This means much of the impact of this crisis has being hidden up to now because they are not closing. In this context, it is shocking to see 47pc of survey respondents saying they may have to close up."

With fewer insurers in the market, voluntary groups are struggling to afford public and employer liability insurance.

One of the leading insurers for the sector, Britain's Leisure Insure, recently pulled out of the market.

Irish insurers are reluctant to offer public liability cover owing to the high level of injury awards, and the amounts paid out. Some of the PPNs are members of the Alliance for Insurance Reform.

Peter Boland, of the alliance, said the Government has still not established the long-promised and much-heralded Judicial Council, intended to address sky-high damages for minor injuries among other things.

Irish Independent

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