Previously voluntary groups wishing to apply for a grant from Hammersmith and Fulham Council had to fill in a 26 page form. From this week we have now halved it to 13 pages. Furthermore they had to submit, as a "supporting document", a copy of their Equal Opportunities Policy. This burden has been lifted. Now they can simply confirm that they subscribe to the Council's Equal Opportunities Policy. Similarly with Safeguarding Policy.
For groups like Law Centres, of course, long complicated forms are a doddle. But you will also have small groups with an ordinary person working unpaid struggling with the form. They are wanting to do their bit with some voluntary work to help the community. Yet they find their application was turned down not because of its lack of inherant merit but because the form wasn't filled in correctly.
I had an example of this in my ward, the Grove Neighbourhood Centre, a genuine community "hub." My surgeries are held there and it is always fizzing with activities. I would have a chat with Mr Stenton, the local butcher, on his way to his ballroom dancing lesson. The centre is most welcoming to people of any age, class, sex, sexuality, race, colour or creed. But the people running it would scratch their heads at what they were supposed to put in an Equal Opportunities Policy.
As well as making the form shorter we have made it simpler. The main form is ten pages plus three pages for budgets. Our feedback from voluntary groups was that it would have been more convenient to complete budgets as excel sheets (because they add up automatically and it is easy to set up formulas for percentages and other calculations). So this is what we have done.
Now we are having looking at streamlining our procurement process. It's all very well for Serco or Capita to have Equal Opportunities Policies coming out of their ears. For small and medium sized companies to go through that sort of process, purely on spec, means it is unsurprising many of them are put off pitching for work.