Information for Group Leaders
Group leaders are important. A U3A is mainly a collection of interest groups and without group leaders it couldn’t really exist. Being a leader always involves a certain, usually modest, amount of organisational and administrative work, but also quite a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment. These guidelines are intended to help you either take over the leadership of an existing group or start a new one.
Thank you for volunteering.
This is not intended to be a definitive document, just notes I have compiled for your guidance.
Don’t let this put you off - you will gain a great deal from being a Group Leader.
Most of this is just common sense.
Any questions or queries can be referred to the current Groups’ Coordinator or Business Secretary of Mansfield u3a or check the Mu3a website or Third Age Trust website.
Running your Group: Practical Advice
You may run your group however you and the members please, but you may find the following advice useful.
•Don’t feel you have to do everything yourself: the group members should be willing to pitch in and take some of the tasks off your hands – collecting fees, buying the tea and biscuits, arranging the chairs, running an individual meeting.
•Appoint a deputy leader. The only responsibility the deputy leader need have is to run the meeting on the odd occasion you cannot attend because of some pressing family matter, you are on holiday, or some such. This ensures you don’t have to cancel a meeting at short notice. You can also, of course, allow the deputy leader to run a meeting occasionally under your guidance, thus training a possible successor.
•Engage the group members as much as possible in whatever activity is being practised. Most people like to take an active rather than a passive part in what is going on. This can be as simple as conducting a vigorous question and answer session at the end of a talk.
•Take a break or two during the year. Most groups meet once a month. If the meeting is late in the month, for example, then those groups will usually skip the December meeting to concentrate on enjoying the Christmas festivities. Also, quite a lot of groups take time off during the summer.
•Ensure that all members of your group are members or Associate Members of Mansfield U3A or a local U3A in the North Notts Neighbourhood Group. This is an insurance requirement. All U3As are independent and members of one U3A are not automatically allowed to become involved in the Interest Groups of another U3A. The simplest way of doing this is to check membership cards of new group members.
•Don’t feel that being a leader is an open-ended commitment – that you are there for ever. If you enjoy it so much that you want to go on indefinitely then that’s fine, but, running a group for, say, three years is a splendid effort and well deserving of a break. And once you cease getting some enjoyment out of it, stop!
The Groups’ Coordinator
The Groups’ Coordinator is the first person a group leader should consult if he or she has any questions about group matters and is, in particular, the person who helps new groups to get started.
The Coordinator will provide advice and help on group matters or will refer the leader to someone who can. In turn, the leader must keep the Coordinator informed of any changes made in the running of the group – changes of venue or meeting dates, for example. It is particularly important to let the Coordinator know if the leader plans to step down or if the group is being wound up.
The Third Age Trust: Information and Material
Our parent organisation is an excellent source of all kinds of information and material which you may find useful in your group activities.
The U3A website contains useful general information under the Advice heading on Finance and Insurance and Safety.
In addition, under the Resources heading, there is Subject Advice, DVDs and access to the educational magazine Sources Online which contains articles of interest to group leaders.
The Third Age Trust publishes a magazine, Third Age Matters, which is distributed four times a year and which is delivered to you.
It is a good idea to join the website as this gives you access to all the information you need.
You may sometimes want to copy or scan copyrighted printed material for use in your group activities. The Third Age Trust, the u3a Headquarters organisation, pays the Copyright Licensing Agency for a “blanket” copyright licence which allows all U3As to do a reasonable amount of such copying/scanning whilst remaining within the law. There a few exceptions and a full copy of the CLA licence can be obtained from the Business Secretary if in doubt.
Whilst attending a u3a activity every member of every U3A in the country is covered by an insurance policy taken out by The Third Age Trust. The insurance is what is known as Public and Products Liability Insurance. It insures a u3a member against compensation claims arising from injury or damage to property suffered by a third party, or claims arising from the failure of a product, for which failure a u3a member is held to be legally liable.
The above is intended to be only a brief description of the insurance and is in no sense authoritative.
Linked is an outline of the Insurance cover provided for U3A members. If you have specific concerns please contact either me or the Business Secretary.
Health & Safety
A leader or deputy has to be aware of the Health & Safety (H&S) procedures of the venue in which the group meetings are held; in practice this usually means nothing more than making sure the group is made aware of where the fire exits are at the start of the meeting. In addition to this The Third Age Trust recommends that the leader or deputy know where the First Aid box is located and, more importantly, the postcode of the venue. If it is necessary to ring the emergency services, the first thing they will ask for is the postcode. For the same reason, the leaders of the
Walking and visits groups should be able to provide clear directions as to where they are.
Health & Safety (H&S) is the responsibility of all of us in every walk of life and particularly when dealing with groups of people, but there is no intention of asking Group Leaders to adopt an overkill approach. The vast majority of the application of H&S legislation is common sense, but there are a few points which should be highlighted for special attention.
1. When hiring a venue it is incumbent upon the organiser, within the contract hire, to be aware of procedures in case of an emergency, the location of alarm points, fire extinguishers etc. and the evacuation procedures, including the location of the Emergency Assembly Point. Note the postcode of the venue and the location of the First Aid box.
2. All Group Leaders, Holiday Organisers and Visit Organisers owe a duty of care to their members and should endeavour to advise and respond to possible hazards.
3. Any groups that use electrical equipment involving cables being laid across floors should be aware of the potential tripping hazards. These should be mitigated by using mats to cover the cables or they should be taped to the floor, wherever possible.
4. Portable electrical equipment should only be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions for its intended purpose and in the environment for which it was designed and constructed. A visual inspection should be carried out on all electrical equipment and associated leads before each use. Extra care must be taken when working in hall kitchens. The electrical equipment supplied must have
been P.A.T. (Portable Appliance Test) tested.
Linked is a u3a venue check list which should be completed for meetings held other than in a member’s home.
If coach transport is used, please ensure members wear seat belts as this is a legal requirement and our insurance could be invalidated if seat belts are not worn.
It is advisable to keep a record of contact details for members and of those attending any group or meeting.
If a member leaves a meeting a record or note should be made to account for those still present in the event of evacuation.
Accidents or incidents
One consequence of the insurance referred to above is that, in the event of a member of your group, or any other person present, suffering an injury or involved in an accident whilst attending a u3a activity, he or she must complete an accident report form which you supply. A copy of the form is linked to these guidelines.
This form must be completed and handed to the Business Secretary at the earliest opportunity.
We are not required to hold First Aid Certificates or carry first aid kits but in an event, depending on circumstances, call the relevant Emergency Services.
Money and accounts
All groups have to be self-financing. These costs can vary widely between groups. The golden rule here is that the leader must not end up out of pocket.
It is reasonable to expect that groups will incur expenses to cover, rents, speakers and postage, etc.
Mansfield U3A is able to offer a start-up grant to those groups who may need assistance in the initial stages.
Most groups incur ongoing expense, rent, tea, coffee, etc. A Group Leader may either hold this cash yourself or hand it to the Treasurer or contact her for advice. Mansfield U3A must account for all monies held at the end of each financial year and you will be asked for an account of what you hold (not what you have spent).
Meetings for Group Leaders
There are at present two meetings a year which a group leader is either expected to attend or to provide a representative to attend in his or her place. These meeting are held in spring and autumn and will be advertised in advance.
We own a useful selection of equipment, items of which can be borrowed by leaders to help them with their group activities. A full list of the equipment and the current custodians is given in the Assets Register which can be found on the website. Any equipment bought by a group out of group funds must be included in the asset register.
Members should be made aware that using their own equipment, such as a laptop, a digital projector or a camera, at u3a Group Meetings is at their own risk. U3A insurance will not cover it against accidental damage, so it is advisable for these members to check that their Household Insurance policy covers this risk.