Handbook

Who are the Group Leaders

Group Leaders are valued members of the u3a and their expertise and energy is key to the success of York’s u3a.  Interest groups are run BY members and FOR members. Running costs such as room hire and materials are always shared between group members, although Group Leaders do NOT contribute to room hire costs.  A Group Leader is a member of the u3a, and is not paid (other than their expenses e.g. photocopying). The following guidelines will help you set up and manage an interest group within our u3a.

Be reassured that you will find every encouragement and support from the Groups’ Co-ordinator and the u3a Committee in founding and sustaining your group, but an important principle is that all the groups within a u3a are autonomous and in general are free to organise themselves in whatever way suits their purpose. 

Our u3a is a registered charity and is therefore bound by the rules of the Charities Commission. The Third Age Trust (TAT) is the national body and you will find their website The Third Age Trust holds information about many aspects of group leadership and particular u3a requirements.

In York the Groups’ Coordinator should be your first point of contact for advice:

 * by email to Groups Co-ordinator or

 * by telephone to Rosemary Royds Tree at mobile number 07848 843 112 or 

* by a call to the York u3a Office number on 01904 289 293 to leave a message for Rosemary.

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Setting up an Interest Group

If you are planning a new group, you first need to inform the Groups’ Coordinator so that an accurate list of groups can be maintained. The Groups Register on the web pages lists all the current York u3a groups with their details, including information about the course content, venue, meeting times and contact details for the Group Leader. Members wanting advice on choosing courses may visit the Office and review groups with a volunteer, but most contact the GL directly.

Most York u3a members belong to more than one group, and the friendship and sociability that being part of a shared interest group provides is one of the particular pleasures of u3a membership, as well as the enjoyment of the opportunity to learn and experience new things.   

Annual membership runs from August to July each year and membership renewal fee reminders are sent to all existing members during July. Members without an email account are posted a renewal form. 

Courses may be as short as a few weeks, for a period of months, or they may be ongoing. They can take place indoors or out – weather and Covid restrictions permitting, of course – and there is no obligation to keep leading a group if your personal circumstances change. Where there is a lot of interest in a group and members are keen to continue meeting it is often possible to share the workload with a co-leader or deputy. Shared duties can include booking the meeting space, hosting a Zoom session or sorting out the money for face-to-face meetings or trips away. This allows the Group Leader to concentrate on their main function within the group. It is important to let the Groups’ Coordinator know of any change of leader or contact details so that we can continue to communicate with you and your group and ensure that the web pages are kept up to date for members.

The Group Leader guides the group members through a course of study or a particular experience. It is up to the individual Group Leader how they organise their role, and practice varies. Only current members of York u3a may join the group. You should check that everyone in your group has a valid u3a membership card or record, at the point when they join the group and when memberships are renewed.  A non-member may attend for a single “taster” session but must become a member before attending any subsequent meetings.

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Group Management

Group Leadership practice varies from leader to leader. It may be being the expert, the organiser, the convenor, the manager. It is good to encourage group members to participate in sharing the responsibilities of running the group. A co-leader or a deputy can help in the event of absence (illness or holidays), and this allows the Group Leader to concentrate on their main function within the group. Some York u3a groups meet in the leader or members’ homes or gardens. It is acceptable to ask for a small contribution from participants for any refreshments provided.

Group Leaders must keep a record of all participants attending each of their meetings. Please see the section on GDPR requirements for managing the personal data you hold.

The list can also be helpful to Group Leaders in recording the room hire payments from attendees for meetings taking part in face-to-face classes. Many of the Group Leaders and their group members have embraced the opportunities that Zoom meetings offer to keep in touch with each other and to allow their classes and studies to continue. Members attending on Zoom should also pay attendance/room hire costs for their participation in the group meeting.

A personal Zoom account is free to set up and use. Zoom tutorials are available online for newcomers

If a group has a very large cohort of members so a longer duration than the standard 40 minutes is needed, then it may be possible for Leaders to make use of the Zoom account operated by York u3a.

Groups should be opened initially to all members who wish to join. If your group is oversubscribed, a system of allocating spaces on a fair basis should be sought. Members may preferentially stay with your group year on year if it is a progressive course or activity, but you should consider how and when your group will end, and how other u3a members can join your offering.

Once your group is full, you may choose to operate a waiting list, or to offer additional sessions on alternative days. Members who are absent for a few sessions could be asked, for example, if they wish to continue to participate. If they don’t, and circumstances allow, their places could be offered to others who are keen to take part. If you have a very long waiting list of interested members waiting to join you, then perhaps some of the current group members could be asked to host a parallel class for the year to broaden opportunities for others.

Sometimes members change their contact details but only inform their group leader. Please encourage members to also pass such changes to the membership secretary.

You may want to discuss arrangements for when a meeting has to be cancelled at short notice and the steps to be taken if a member is taken ill during a session with your group. First aid training is offered periodically to u3a members. You should produce and share with members a simple Risk Assessment for class meetings as this will help with insurance claims that may be made against a member of the u3a. A template RA is available from the Groups Co-ordinator.

The way in which new members are welcomed to the group is very important. It can take some courage to walk into a room full of people when you join a new group. It can be difficult for a new member to arrive at a meeting where other members know each other well and there are established routines or procedures that are followed at meetings. It will be easier if you nominate one of the current members to ‘host’ or act as a Buddy for a new member for the first few sessions to help them settle in, rather than trying to combine leadership of the session and the integration of new members yourself, and means you are more likely to retain new members in your group.

The key to u3a is the mutual aid principle. No payments are made to members for services rendered to York u3a. You must not engage paid tutors on a continuing basis, although a one-off payment may be made to a visiting speaker on occasions. Requests for funding of such one-off payments may be made to the Treasurer.

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Newsmail

The York u3a Newsmail is produced regularly. Please send any items you want included to the Newsmail Editor. He welcomes reports of your activities, including photographs. (But please see the GDPR section for guidelines on including photos of members). Newsmail is a valuable resource for making contact with members who are not on email. You will need to observe the copy deadlines published in the preceding newsletter and also posted on the u3a web pages under the News section.

If you include an email address in your report, please use your “ghost email” rather than your personal email or telephone number.

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Our website and emailing

Website

Our website is designed to take account of the changes driven by the management of groups. The main web page yorku3a.com provides a link to the Group Leaders’ Handbook, and sub-pages with information and documentation of particular use to Group Leaders.

There is a specific format for displaying group information, and the main Groups page shows a list of all group titles and the meeting days. From the Groups page each group title links to a separate dedicated page for that particular group, which contains the information about the group activity, the meeting plans and contact information for the Group Leader. Changes to the online information about your course can be made at any time as needed. The Group Leader should email the Web Manager with the changes and updates to their page.

You may already have set up your own group website, and if so, we are able to provide a link to this from the Groups page on the York u3a website, or post relevant photographs or documents to attract potential members.

Ghost emails

For the avoidance of spam to personal emails, most email addresses publicised to members and printed on the web pages are “ghost emails”; for example “french@yorku3a.com”.

These are set up for you when you take on Group Leadership and the relevant email will forward to your personal email address. When you reply to the sender, this is sent from your personal email address, so do not reply if you do not want your personal email revealed.

Some Group Leaders create new email accounts to support their role as a GL and this keeps group activity correspondence separate from personal emails and means access to the group account can be passed to members assisting or deputy leaders.

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General Data Protection Regulations

New GDPR regulations came into force in May 2018 that affect the collection, holding and use of members’ personal data. York u3a has developed a new Data Protection Policy and a Privacy Policy to address these issues. See these policies at Documents and Policies or request a printout to be mailed to you if you do not have internet access.

The important GDPR issues and practices for Group Leaders are:

* You must collect from your group only the personal data which is necessary for the efficient conduct of your group activities.

* Any personal data you hold about your group members must be kept securely and password protected (if electronic) and shared only with the consent of all the group members.

* Always bcc (blind copy) when sending an email to multiple email addresses unless consent has been obtained in advance from all members to allow you to share their information with others.

* Group members’ information should be checked and, if needed, updated regularly. It is important to destroy any records of the personal data of members who have left the group.

* If you relinquish your role as Group Leader, you must securely destroy the personal data you hold on group members, whether held electronically or on paper.

* Photographs constitute personal data. If you take photographs, consent must be obtained from all present. This can be done by asking anyone not consenting to advise the photographer before the photograph is taken.

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Venues for Group Meetings

York u3a has dedicated day time use of two rooms in the Quaker Meeting House paid for under a long-term lease arrangement with the Friends. The Fell Room and the Woolman Room are hired from the Friends and the use of them is subject to the Friends’ rules and regulations.

Please note that these rooms are NOT accessible at evenings or weekends, nor at any time when the Friends Meeting House is closed. Closure dates are notified on the Friends web pages at Friargate Meeting

To book either of these two rooms, contact the Groups Co-ordinator at %Groups co-ordinator% who manages the timetabling of the rooms. Alternatively see the Yorku3a.com web pages and complete the forms at Room Bookings for Groups to make a booking for one of the rooms, order A/V equipment, or review already-booked room usage.

The Kitchen in the Friends Meeting House

There are particular requirements for use of the kitchen and the cleaning regime in place. Tea, coffee and sugar are kept in the u3a labelled cupboard in the kitchen of the FMH, for the use of u3a groups meeting in the Fell, Woolman and Garden Rooms. If these run out, they can be replenished from supplies in the nearby u3a Office.

Other Venues (i.e. not Fell or Woolman rooms)

There are several other rooms (Penn, Fox, Lonsdale and Garden) in the Quaker Meeting House that can be hired by u3a GLs at a reduced rate, subject to meeting the requirements of the Friends. Group Leaders need to liaise directly with the Friends’ Office if they wish to book these rooms. Phone 01904 624 065 or email: friargate@yorkquakers.org.uk. When booking please ask for the invoice to be sent to the u3a Treasurer.

There is also a list of other possible meeting places in and around York on GROUP LEADERS INFORMATION and also available from the Groups’ Co-ordinator. Some financial support for your group activities or for hire of meeting spaces through a subsidy from u3a funds may be available. More details are given in the Finance section.

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Protocopying and Technical Equipment

Group Leaders are encouraged to share documentation for course discussions online with their groups for environmental reasons. When necessary Group Leaders can photocopy items for their group in the u3a Office, and training can be given if you are unfamiliar with the copier. Leaders are reminded they are responsible for complying with copyright regulations, particularly with regard to copying music and maps. (An advice sheet on Licences can be found on the Third Age Trust website under “support for u3a’s”). 

The York u3a has audio, visual and hearing equipment that may be used or borrowed for classes. Make a formal booking using the booking form on the web pages each time you use it, or contact the Equipment Manager to book. Request a briefing from the Equipment Manager if you haven’t used particular equipment before. Please let the Equipment Manager know of any problems with the equipment during use, and remember that items may be disposed of if it appears they are not being used regularly. The equipment owned by York u3a may be taken to a venue away from the Fell Room, Woolman Room or the Quaker Meeting House if it is to be used by a York u3a group and responsibility for it will be taken by a u3a member.

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Finance

The annual subscription paid by every u3a member entitles them to join in group activities in any interest group that has spaces.

Some Groups meet in hired rooms/facilities and members may be asked to pay a contribution towards the hire costs (minimum £2.00 per session). Some Groups also agree to incur specific additional costs for their members in arranging optional activities such as Christmas parties or organised expeditions, and there may be an additional sum collected when attending a Group session as a contribution to the cost of group refreshments. As far as possible Group Leaders should aim to organise their Group so that the costs of its activities are met by the members contributions, although the Committee recognises that this may not always be possible.

Keeping Financial Records

The Attendance Register may be all that is needed to record a summary of the financial activities of most groups. Details of financial activities are collated and reported annually to the Charity Commissioners’ and the u3a Third Age Trust. Please note that the small sums contributed by members towards normal meeting refreshment costs can be ignored and do not need to be reported. Groups where the GL does not regularly collect money from members do not need to maintain accounts, but where a Group Leader holds a bank account for their group, the Treasurer of York u3a must also be a signatory.

All Group Leaders who deal with income and expenditure must maintain records. These records must be submitted to the Treasurer by mid-August each year, covering the period to the year-end (31 July), and you should retain copies of supporting documents or other support requested for the year. Group Leaders who would appreciate help with setting up and maintaining their attendance register and/or the financial records that are needed, please email the Treasurer.

Room Hire

The hiring of a room or facilities is organised by the Group Leader. Please email details of any agreements made with external venues to the treasurer Treasurer  If you need help in negotiations or setting up payment mechanisms please also feel free to contact the Treasurer. Each Group should aim to be self-financing, but in exceptional circumstances an element of the hire cost may be met from central u3a funds, as long as each participant attending (except the Leader) contributes at least £2.00 for each session towards the costs.

Requests for subsidy should initially be discussed with the Groups Co-ordinator and the Treasurer will monitor requests so that any subsidy payments are proportionate and do not disadvantage other members/groups; consequently subsidies granted may be restricted.

The Group Leader is responsible for collecting the appropriate contributions to costs that are made by the group members. They may also obtain and pay invoices from providers. In exceptional circumstances to help with cash flow, facility rental cost invoices may be paid for by the u3a Treasurer with the Group Leader reimbursing the Treasurer as members contribute.

How to send payments to York u3a

The Group Leader should arrange to pass on any money they have collected for attendance contributions promptly, together with the supporting explanation. Cash handling should be avoided whenever possible and cash deposits, or cheques made payable to York u3a, may be placed in the Office Safe with completion of the required forms (also available in the Office).

If a payment is made by bank transfer please be sure that you also email the treasurer %Treasurer%  with details of what the remittance relates to.

Alternatively the Group Leader may send a cheque made payable to “The University of the Third Age – York” to the office at 15A Clifford Street, York, YO1 9RG marked For the Attention of theTreasurer. Again supporting information as to what this relates to and how sums were calculated should be included.

Other Group Costs

It is the responsibility of the Group Leader to decide what expenses it is necessary to incur and to organise recovery from the group members, remembering that all financial activity (except payments towards light refreshments) needs to be noted and reported to the Treasurer as explained above.

Funding for setting up a new group or for significant one-off expenditure

Applications can be made at any time through the Groups Co-ordinator for the Committee to consider approving funds for support in establishing a new group with any necessary funds to provide initial equipment, room hire or seed funding. Groups can also apply for support for more significant one-off expenditure. These requests should initially be discussed with the Groups Co-ordinator who will raise them for consideration by the u3a Committee if appropriate.

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Insurance, Accidents, Incidents

Public Liability Insurance

The National u3a provides comprehensive public liability insurance cover for all local u3as. This is to protect the u3a, officers, Group Leaders and all members against any claims for damage or injury caused by their negligence. Non-u3a members who attend for a single “taster” session are also covered. The limit of liability is £5 million for any one incident. Please note that this is an insurance against public liability, it is not personal accident insurance. If someone was injured in an accident while out walking, for example, or during the course of any other strenuous activity, they could only make a claim against the u3a if they could show that the u3a or its members had been in some way negligent in causing the injury.

As well as collecting a new member’s name, phone number and email address, Group Leaders may wish to ask for details of the next of kin contact, and that any relevant health issues are shared with the GL if difficulties might arise. Many require their new members to confirm that they have read and agree with the details of the Group’s Risk Assessment document.

Risk Assessments and accident reports

Risk Assessments are associated with Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which does not apply to u3as as members are not at work. However, the u3a’s insurance company requires us to take reasonable precautions through Risk Assessment checklists as a basis of any claims made.

If a group rents space in outside venues, the landlord may ask for a copy of the u3a’s insurance certificate. You can download a copy of this document from the GROUP LEADERS INFORMATION, where you will also find useful forms such as the Risk Assessment Forms and the Accident Report Form. Blank accident report forms are available in the u3a Office. If you have difficulty finding any forms you need please contact the Groups Co-ordinator at or call 07848 843 112. 

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Car Sharing

Car Sharing is legal and permissible, including a contribution paid to the driver/car owner. A fair policy should be decided by members of the group. Anyone offering their car must have a current, valid driving licence and the vehicle must be taxed, fully insured and have a valid MOT certificate. 

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Other Resources

The Yorkshire and Humberside Region of the u3a (YAHR) holds regular meetings and training days. These are informative and helpful and the networking opportunities are excellent. See u3a -Yorkshire and the Humber Region.

The Third Age Trust website The Third Age Trust also has a wealth of information for Group Leaders. The Members Area Homepage has links to Subject Advice sheets, the Resource Centre and documents to download on many topics useful to Group Leaders.

Group Leaders are advised to familiarise themselves with the various pages of our website yorku3a.com

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Update August 2022

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