EVEN WITHOUT COVID-19, which has shut down or hamstrung many of our local volunteer groups, there are other stresses. One which is hanging over many is the increasing cost of insurance.
Increasing costs of insurance is happening in many sectors. For example, over the last few years, there have been many reports in B.C. of skyrocketing insurance costs up to 400 per cent for multi-family strata housing and rental housing. Housing is not the only sector affected by insurance cost increases.
This week, I talked to the president of a long-term local volunteer-run society which has made the decision to stop one of its volunteer-run community services. The group will no longer organize volunteers to put in hundreds of hours of time and labour to provide recreation opportunities for kids and families. The services they provide are in a City of Kamloops park, but the society is responsible for the insurance for their activities.
The volunteer group can’t afford the increases in insurance costs for liability insurance, so they have decided to stop offering one of their services.
Insurance is a necessary part of life, for volunteer groups, as much as for any others. Insurance to rent buildings or park space. Insurance to host events. Insurance to work with youth or vulnerable adults. Insurance for negligence.
The society’s president told me that the volunteer group’s board and society aren’t willing to take on the risk of doing the work to support the recreation program without insurance, so they will no longer provide the service. There are volunteers willing and able to do the work, but the cost of insurance is too prohibitive.
This volunteer group I spoke to this week is a canary in the coal mine. There are hundreds of volunteer groups that make our city a better place to live. Some are stand-alone societies, while others are under the umbrella of a provincial or national group. In either case, they all need insurance.
It’s a loss for all of us when volunteer groups can’t give back and make our city a better place for all of us to live.
Watching the skyrocketing rate increases in the housing sector, and the decision of this volunteer group to stop one of its services should be a wake-up call for all of us. COVID-19 has stretched many groups to the max. Increases to insurance costs may be the final nail in the coffin for many volunteer groups.
Volunteer groups in Kamloops who provide recreation, sports, cultural and arts services, as well as services for infants, children, youth, people with disabilities and seniors must be watching with concern how insurance rates are increasing, and wondering whether they too will have to shut some of their services too.
One solution, especially for groups who use City of Kamloops facilities, is that the City use its financial clout to support an umbrella insurance policy. Rather than many small societies each getting insurance on their own, a group policy organized through the City, has the potential to lower costs for everyone.
The City already helps groups access insurance for one-time events in City facilities. It’s time for the City to consider supporting insurance needs more broadly for groups providing ongoing programs and services in City facilities.
Otherwise, one by one, the volunteer groups may follow the one I spoke to this week, and simply stop providing the programs and services for kids, families, and all of us that make our city the great place to live.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.