Call for legal aid

CHARITY founder Russell Macmillan smashed a £100,000 target of good causes last month — and now, he hopes to introduce a new law for do-gooders.

The man behind East Renfrewshire Good Causes has contacted councillors and MSPs to highlight a problem which the charity has come up against — the possibility of being sued if something goes wrong.

Russell (46) hopes that the Holyrood government will consider a system similar to Canada’s Good Samaritan law which protects those who step in when others are in need.

Russell, who founded ERGC in 2007, told The Extra: “We’ve got this ridiculous situation where we and other small charities are terrified to do good community work for fear of being sued.

“Common sense says that there is an easy way — if someone wishes to volunteer and someone else wishes to have the work done then those two consenting adults should be able to assess the risk and if something does happen, accept that they’re not going to sue one another”.

Russell first came across the danger when asked to accompany a physically disabled resident to a football game — and was warned against it by a lawyer.

He continued: “I was told that unfortunately we live in a litigious society and where there’s blame, there’s a claim. The advice I was given was not to do it”.

While ERGC does not always have the resources to set up volunteer services, it made an exception recently with the help of employees from Barclays Wealth.

Russell explained: “Barclays gave us a £5,000 donation last year, and mentioned that while their staff were allowed a paid day off to do voluntary work, they didn’t have enough jobs to do.

“A social worker contacted me about a man living in Eastwood, who had severe learning difficulties and was unable to redecorate his parents’ old council house, which hadn’t been touched for 30 years.

“The best quote I could get was over £2,000, which we just could not justify — so it was back to the drawing board”.

Fortunately Barclays stepped in, and after carrying out its own risk assessment and insurance cover, provided volunteers to get the job done — costing ERGC just £237 for materials.

Russell has since been contacted by fellow residents offering help where it’s needed — but without the proper insurance, the charity’s options are limited.

For now, he awaits word from his elected representatives — although some have already voiced support.

West of Scotland MSP Stewart Maxwell commented: “Russell is well known for the excellent work he does in the community, and it’s unfortunate that his team are unable to undertake further good work.

“I think the suggestion of a good Samaritan law is a very sensible one, and I will be contacting the Scottish government to find out what consideration has been given to putting in place a similar law, and what can be done to take the proposal forward”.