All about committees
What is a Voluntary Management Committee?
A Voluntary Management Committee is the group of people responsible for controlling the management and administration of the group. They will be a group of like-minded people coming together for a particular purpose. The ‘Voluntary’ part of the title can be misleading for many people. Many organisations which call themselves voluntary may well have started as, for example a small support group or fundraising group. They may well have grown and be employing staff or even be a huge international charity by now such as Save the Children Fund. However the Committee (which can also be known as a Board of Trustees, or an Executive or a Council depending on the make-up of the organisation), will still be unpaid and this is where the voluntary aspect comes in. The Committee may be advised by paid staff who may well present reports or give some suggestions for possible future direction or more mundane matters – but the Committee, who have overall responsibility in law for the group, will not be paid for carrying out this task. The payment of expenses, for example a mileage expense for attending meetings is however acceptable.
What is it responsible for?
The Management Committee of any group is legally and financially accountable for the entire organisation. It is responsible for ensuring that the work of the organisation is carried out and this means managing the people they employ to do the work of the group – namely the play staff and possibly administrative support staff, they should manage external relations, finance, other resources and they should provide clear leadership and strategic direction for the group.
The Committee is responsible for ensuring the setting meets the Registration requirements under the Children Act. Policies and systems will need to be set up, monitored and reviewed. The agreement on use of premises and equipment is rented will need to be managed. The Committee is responsible for ensuring Insurance is adequate and up to date. The staff need to be managed and supported.
The Welfare Requirements regulated by the Ofsted Early Years Directorate will require that the Committee Members are checked with the Criminal Records Bureau.
The Committee need to ensure that the constitution is adhered to and at an appropriate time apply for charitable status or once this status has been achieved ensure that the requirements this imposes are fulfilled.
How do we get involved?
Committees function best with a variety of people taking part in them. This expands the skill base of the group and means that the entire group can benefit from a range of experience and expertise in many different fields. In order to recruit new members on to Committees you often need to ask people directly, especially if there is a particular skill area that you are trying to recruit. Parents, as users should be represented on the Committee along with possibly local employers, representatives of other voluntary groups, and Community Workers, may all be people who could offer skills and experience which would be useful in managing the group. Staff and Governors of the local School may be also be on the Committee, but this is in their own private capacities and not as Governors or School staff. When recruiting new Committee Members you should outline the role and responsibilities which they will have.
Committee members will usually be elected at an Annual General Meeting, but most constitutions will allow for the adoption of members at other times between Annual Meetings.
How many people are needed on Committees?
The absolute minimum number required for the Committee is three. One person would take on each of the main ‘Jobs’, namely Chair, Treasurer and Secretary. However in practice you would be well advised to have a larger number than this. A member with a specific responsibility for liaising with the school itself may be a useful post and possibly another to liaise with Social Services. If you have lots of people you could maybe appoint a Publicity Officer.
The Committee should be willing to consider ‘job shares’, especially for the larger jobs. Job Descriptions are included in the Success Pack and some of the Jobs could lend themselves to an easy sharing of the role.
The groups Leader or Supervisor – or indeed other staff - may attend the meeting but is not eligible to vote and should leave the meeting when for example salaries are discussed.
How Many Meetings?
The Committee will probably need to meet either half-termly or termly, although there may be additional meetings of small working groups who are focusing on particular aspects of the management and reporting their findings or activities back to the main Committee.