Volunteers and the Law – NSW
Monday, 26th February 2007 at 9:31 am
A NSW survey has found that that there are real access barriers to timely and accurate legal resources for Not for Profits, whether in urban or rural areas.
It also reveals that staff do not know the full extent of available legal information resources. While many legal websites exist, there is currently no online free ‘one-stop shop’ website tailored specifically to the needs of NFPs and the volunteering sector in NSW.
Between August and October 2006, The Centre for Volunteering with Dr Anton Mischewski, conducted a survey in NSW about legal resources and information, and the legal needs of Not for Profit organisations in the future.
Two hundred and eighty-three NFPs answered a telephone questionnaire conducted by ten members of The Centre’s volunteer legal research team.
The Law and Justice Foundation of NSW provided funding for the survey and the full results of the survey will be published by The Centre in March 2007.
The main findings of the survey are:
– A significant majority of NFPs (91%) said that the main legal issues related to the following areas: Occupational Health & Safety, Civil Liability, Personal Accident Insurance, Child Protection, Contracts, Property and Tax.
– 50% of large NFPs (over 100 paid staff) in urban Sydney have access to lawyers within their own organisations.
– Small-to-medium NFPs in urban areas and NFPs in rural areas have access to pro bono lawyers, and search websites for legal information.
– Interestingly, some small-to-medium NFPs in urban areas and NFPs in rural areas also pay for legal services and are less likely to use community legal centres.
– Rural NFPs make use of some government and community websites and non-legal sources such as liaising or talking to colleagues within their own organisation and other organisations and contacting volunteer referral centres for information. This group also does not make much use of pro bono legal services.
– It is a concern that excellent online resources such as Legal Aid and LawAccess are little used by NFPs whether rural or urban.
– Small-to-medium NFPs in rural areas, compared with large NFPs in Sydney, generally find it difficult to locate up-to-date legal information and resources.
– High legal costs are more likely to affect small-to-medium NFPs in rural areas compared with NFPs in Sydney.
– Lack of specialised legal services on the topic of volunteering and lack of knowledge of services available are the major barriers identified by all organisations.
– 70% of NFPs surveyed want a free online legal website to help them understand and comply with current legislation.
– 61% want a volunteering hotline.
– Rural NFPs would like courses, workshops and seminars about legal issues delivered in their regions.
The survey concludes that while many legal websites exist, there is currently no online free ‘one-stop shop’ website tailored specifically to the needs of NFPs and the volunteering sector in NSW.
The Centre has applied for a grant from the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW to produce such a much-needed website. The Centre will know if this grant will be made available by 31 March 2007.