Good samaritan appeals for change

A LOCAL charity is appealing for the Scottish government to introduce a so-called Good Samaritan Law.

Russell Macmillan, founder of East Renfrewshire Good Causes, believes the threat of being sued is a barrier to volunteering.

The charity has a number of individuals who wish to volunteer to help elderly or disabled people and assist in decorating, gardening and odd jobs around the home.

However, without the protection of insurance, volunteers may be left open to legal action.

As a result, West of Scotland MSP Stewart Maxwell has writtena letter detailing Mr Macmillan’s frustrations to John Swinney, cabinet secretary for finance, employability and sustainable growth.

In it, Mr Maxwell writes: “Canada has introduced Good Samaritan legislation which prevents people attempting to assist others from being sued.

“A similar law in Scotland would be of great assistance in alleviating the concerns of my constituent’s organisation in providing a helpful community service”.

However, Mr Swinney’s reply confirmed the Scottish government has “no plans to bring forward such legislation at this time”.

The problem arose when volunteers began to approach Mr Macmillan regarding the possibility of being matched with those in need to decorate their house.

Russell told The Extra: “To get a contractor out, it can often cost more than ten times that of a volunteer — surely two adults should be able to agree without anybody being scared of being sued?

“Vulnerable people in the community living in benefits will never be able to extend their resources to decorating their house — but we’re not able to help them because of the absence of this law. It’s nuts”.

Another example cited by Mr Macmillan is the waste of lightweight portable wheelchairs, which are often donated to his charity.

However, he is unable to pass on the equipment to somebody else without risk of legal action against the charity if something goes wrong.

He added: “We want a law that will protect people who are trying to help their neighbour.

“I shouldn’t be worried about ER Good Causes being sued when we are just trying to help others.

“I’m disappointed that there doesn’t seem to be something happening quickly.

“I would appeal to the government to liberate the charity from this unreasonable concern”.