The cost to the nearly-voluntary sector

In our volunteering report we documented the harmful effect of vetting on volunteering. There is also a large nearly-voluntary sector – where people work with children for very little money, and yet because on paper they are ’employed’ would have to finance their own CRBs. I remember my piano teacher charged £2.50 an hour – a token amount really.

This email comes from a trampoline coach who falls into this category – she calculated that it would take her 6 weeks to pay back the costs of CRB checks and other fees. We have already reported on the case of Peter Bulmer, a ski instructor who is in a similar situation.

‘I’m studying towards a PhD, so to make a bit of money while studying, I work as a trampoline coach. My hours vary, but basically between 2 – 4 hours a week at £10 p/h. It’s only really to make me a bit of pocket money. When I got the job last year, I had been out of coaching for 4 years (in fact I had been out of the country working in Africa, so I was completely out of the loop). The CRB phenomena only really came into full swing during that time, so I had not had to go through the process before. I only really took the job at the sports centre coaching because they were desperate for a coach and I was, essentially, head-hunted for the job. They were so desperate, they paid for the CRB I needed doing for their company themselves, even though it wasn’t usual practice for them to do so. I did not understand the whole CRB system to begin with and assumed that once I got my employer’s CRB that would be the end of the matter. I understood when I accepted the job that I would need to pay full membership to the British Gymnastics Association so that I would be insured. I did not understand, however, that I would eventually be required to obtain a CRB from British Gymnastics in addition to the one for my employer, and that it will cost me £46. I only received this information out of the blue from BG last month, having been coaching already now for 7 months.

Having to apply for what is, essentially, the same document coming from the same department with the same information, and having to pay for the privilege, while nurturing a culture of suspicion and finger-pointing, is like some kind of Orwellian joke. I am appalled that there is not more public outcry against it. Submitting to this kind of personal scrutiny once is bad enough, having to do it multiple times is simply ludicrous and surely an almost purely money-making job-creating scheme.

Principals aside, the practical things I take issue with are as follows:

In order to be insured I must pay an annual membership to BG. This cost me £72.50 this year, but increases almost annually. BG were very happy to take my money to pay for my full membership, despite the fact that from July 10th onwards, it will be illegal for me to coach without a BG CRB. If I do not pay the additional £46 for the CRB, my full membership to BG will be effectively redundant, as I will not be legally allowed to coach. This was not made at all clear by BG when I paid for Full Coaches’ Membership.

And so, if I decide to go ahead and pay for this CRB, my total outgoing costs for being legally able to coach trampolining for this one year will be £118.50. If I work my minimum hours a week, which is 2 hours, I will need to work for just under 6 weeks to pay this off.

However, I was informed in the same email from the BG, that this CRB check would not be the end of it. All it would do is buy me 3 years of time in which to complete an ISA/VBS registration number. Though I have 3 years in which to complete it, this is also an obligatory requirement of being a BG registered trampoline coach, and it will cost £74. I’ve never even heard of the ISA/VBS! So if I decided to wait a year and go through the ISA/VBS process next year, provided the prices don’t go up, together with my membership fees, my total expenditure to allow me to coach will be £146.50: if my hours remain the same, this will be just over 7 weeks work.

I asked my employer if they would be willing to pay for my BG CRB, but they are not, as this would be setting a precedence for external coaches/instructors, despite the fact that I only coach for them – they are my only employer.

I don’t know the details and I can only speculate, but one of the reasons the sports centre was desperate for a trampoline coach is because they had just been through about 5 coaches in almost as many months: I can only wonder if the ridiculously complicated requirements of becoming a coach and maintaining your status as a coach is a reason why coaches are dropping out. For although it is not a volunteer position, most trampoline coaches do it as a side thing, working very few hours, mostly after school hours or at weekends, and it simply isn’t worth the fuss and the inconvenience and the cost, when the job in question doesn’t generate the money to make any of it worthwhile. I enjoy trampoline coaching and I will be sad to leave my job, but it simply isn’t worth the grief or the expense. The job was supposed to make me money, not continually reveal hidden costs that lose me money, not to mention the devious method in which we are forced towards ever deepening scrutiny and surveillance. It’s very sinister and underhand. In Bristol where I live and work it would appear there is a shortage of trampoline coaches, but when so many obstacles are placed in the way of otherwise enthusiastic instructors, is it any wonder?’