A Plea for Slow Admin

It is time I allowed myself a little grumble, though whether it comes under the heading of ‘justifiable murmuring’ I am not sure. You can judge. The positive side is what I call a plea for slow admin.

During my ‘active phase,’ when the side effects of chemotherapy are comparatively few, I try to fit in a great deal: answering letters/emails, dealing with the garden and household maintenance, reading, praying and generally living monastic life to the full. Unfortunately, I often find myself drowning in a sea of peremptory demands and calls to action regarding matters other people think urgent. Sometimes, one just sighs and gets on with things, as one sees that HMRC has decided to change, yet again, the way in which our Trustees’ Report and Accounts should be presented. At others, one wonders.

Take, for example, the never-ending stream of requirements for Safeguarding. Anyone who has read this blog for a while will know that the community here is utterly opposed to countenancing any form of abuse, but the demands made of us as a cloistered community, with no chaplain and no direct contact with children or vulnerable adults, occasionally remind me of sledge hammers and walnuts. We have erected a six foot close-board fence to ensure that neither we nor any of our guests can have any ‘accidental’ unsupervised contact with neighbouring children; we have drafted and redrafted endless policy statements, attended several Safeguarding training courses, paid the annual fee demanded by the CSAS (though I’m not sure what it is spent on), and generally tried to ensure that we are scrupulous in observing ‘best practice’. It is not enough. I must now call our Trustees together as soon as possible so that we can pass a formal resolution adopting certain provisions I can’t see us implementing because they don’t apply to us (see above, the reference to having no chaplain, etc.) Why, I want to ask, why?

In the same week our insurers coolly announced, just a few days before the renewal of our insurance policy, a whole host of new conditions that I have scarcely got my head round. Suffice to say, they are going to involve us in more form-filling, and make the business of employing tradesmen to do various jobs round the house that we can’t manage (eg electrical work) more difficult. It didn’t help that, after thirteen years of doing business with them, they addressed us as ‘Dear Sirs’ and expressed doubt about some of our requirements although they were clearly stated in the pre-renewal questionnaire we filled in.

I am sure you can add your own examples to the above. What genuinely worries me is that all the box-ticking is not only time-consuming but also a way of opting out of responsibility. Our insurers inform us that if we haven’t done certain things, all our insurance is immediately voided. Equally, I could argue that so long as we have ticked the boxes, we bear no further responsibility. But, of course, we do. Prudence isn’t optional, and one would have to be remarkably silly to think it was. However, the time constraints imposed are often unrealistic. Fine if one has a staff with nothing better to do than fill in the forms and trustees with no private lives to live, but the truth is, we all have many demands on us and do the best we can. We get by, but only just. Those who fill in their tax returns at the eleventh hour each year will understand.

Just as there is a movement for slow reading and slow living, I wonder if we could start a movement for slow admin, allowing us all time to think before we return those forms and adopt those recommended practices. Perhaps the very slow Broadband hereabouts is a help in that direction, but it is not one I would choose. We all want a world that is safe for everyone, where there is no corruption and no mismanagement of resources, but I’m not convinced that the proliferation of demands for instant responses and tick-box conformity is the way to go. What do you think?