Community groups and tidy towns organisations facing difficult future due to soaring insurance costs

Community groups and tidy towns organisations facing difficult future due to soaring insurance costs

Community groups, tidy towns organisations and residents' associations are warning that they face a difficult future in the wake of soaring insurance costs.

More than 80% of community groups have been hit with increased insurance costs in the last three years, while almost half of these groups say they are at risk of folding altogether if their costs continue to rise.

Ireland's Public Participation Networks (PPN) has today published the results of a major survey of community and voluntary organisations. The results shine a light on the challenges caused by the insurance crisis, with groups from all over the country struggling to make ends meet.

It includes contributions from 770 groups from all over Ireland, including community centres, sports clubs, tidy towns groups and residents associations.

Of the groups surveyed, almost three-quarters have no paid employees and almost one-third of them count more than 60 members among their ranks.

Overall, 83% of groups said that they have seen insurance costs rise in the last three years and 80% say that they are struggling to find funding streams to cover insurance costs.

Almost half - 47% - of groups say they are in danger of halting all activities if their insurance costs rise again and some 88% of responses criticised the government for not doing enough to tackle rising insurance costs.

More than one-third of the groups to respond are spending more than €1,500 per year on insurance, and 14% say that they are paying more than 50% more than they were spending three years ago.

Some 45% of the groups which responded said that they have curtailed their activities on the basis of rising insurance costs.

Among the examples given in the responses was one group that is forced to keep their local graveyard closed, several bodies which can no longer host birthday parties or St Patrick's Day parades and one group which spent one-third of its reserve finances to cover its insurance premium for 2019.

One group was quoted €600 for insurance to run a French conversation class and another that was told it would not be covered if its members use mechanical ride-on lawnmowers to do work.

Sarah Wetherald of Sligo PPN said: "The infrastructure of volunteering in Ireland is being threatened by spiralling insurance costs, unavailability of insurance cover and increasingly unreasonable exclusions and conditions. While SME’s typically close if they are hit with massive premium increases, community groups tend to wind down key activities and soldier on.

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

Peter Bolan of the Alliance for Insurance Reform said the Government simply has to take action and establish a judicial council to address "sky-high damages for minor injuries".

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