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Charities welcome police fee decision

Charities have expressed their joy after the police background check fee was waived.

Michael Dunkley announced that charities would no longer be charged to get background checks on their volunteers.

“There will be no charge for police background checks on people who volunteer to work for charities,” the Premier said. “As a result, fees for the vetting of their volunteers will be waived. This clears the air and I'm glad of it.”

This comes after concerns were raised about the impact the $100-per-volunteer fee would have on organisations.

The fee derived from the Charities Act 2014, which required charities to vet their volunteers. Higher government fees were passed in 2011. In July, the Centre on Philanthropy called for charities to be exempt in a letter written to Commissioner of Police Michael DeSilva, Finance Minister Bob Richards, and Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Minister of Community, Culture and Sports.

Ms Elaine Butterfield, executive director of the Centre on Philanthropy, wrote that the decision presented “serious constraints on the already challenged charitable sector” and that the fees could lead to charities having to cut staff or close entirely.

Ms Butterfield told The Royal Gazette: “On behalf of the over 200 non-profit members of The Centre on Philanthropy we are most pleased with the Premier's decision to waive the vetting fee for charities seeking volunteers.

“This will have a dramatic impact on those charities who provide mentoring services and where volunteers interact with their clients, especially children.

“With several other fee increase initiatives recently implemented, it is encouraging to have this kind of support. It's impact could actually mean in some cases the difference between some charities' ability to continue to exist.

“The Centre on Philanthropy is most pleased to see this kind of support for our charities from our government.

“The Centre on Philanthropy continues to advocate for a strong and effective non-profit sector.”

Meanwhile, Clare Mello, YouthNet executive director, said: “This is great news for all Bermuda's charities.

“For YouthNet, it means we can continue to focus on our goal of recruiting 60 new volunteer mentors to the programme at no additional cost.”

Tina Nash, executive director of Raleigh International Bermuda, added: “Premier Dunkley's decision to waive the police fee for charities is fabulous. It is the greatest gift ever for all charities.

“Many of our helpers are volunteers and alumni and this really makes a big difference. When I heard that this would happen back in July I was so concerned, I called the police station and the Government hoping that they wouldn't charge us.

“The Government definitely made the right decision. It makes a huge difference for charities with a large number of volunteers.”

“This is a huge victory, especially from the SCARS prospective — trying to protect the children.” Jon Brunson, SCARS chairman, said.

“This means that volunteers and helpers are free from putting children at risk, making sure that anyone interacting with them has been vetted but at no cost to us. This is a victory for all charities.”

Michael Dunkley has been applauded for his decision to waive the fee on background checks (File photograph by Nicola Muirhead)

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Published August 11, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 11, 2015 at 4:09 pm)

Charities welcome police fee decision

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