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The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the need for sustainable investment in these organisations and we draw attention to the amount of statutory funding for voluntary organisations and charities. The proportion that comes from grants versus contracts has crossed over, so a smaller proportion is now coming from grants. That impinges on the independence of
those organisations, which is their lifeblood, makes them distinctive and enables them to do their fantastic work.
Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): On finance, in Shropshire many volunteers are senior citizens and people on very low incomes. They play a vital role as volunteers, but owing to a lack of support from the Government to Shropshire county council, the council is struggling to give those people enough money to pay for their mileage in covering very large distances in a rural county such as Shropshire.
Tom Levitt: The right hon. Gentleman makes a good point about full cost recovery. Clearly, both sides wish to see a relationship where services are delivered in common, where common aims exist and where there is a professional relationship between the third sector and the public sector, but one of the problems with full cost recovery has often been the inability of third sector organisations to judge properly the full cost element. They are building up that experience over time. Throughout his document, the right hon. Gentleman decries the professionalisation of the sector. It seems to me that we cannot keep the values of amateurism while being good in terms of administration and accountancy.
Mr. Maude: I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman says and I am delighted that he has had the chance to look at our document, but he is wrong to say that we decry professionalisation. We talk about it and say that the lessons of growing professionalisation are unclear. If we are to see the sort of growth in the sector that we believe to be essential for the strength of our society, organisations need to be efficient and professionally run. We do not have the slightest problem with that.
Mr. Duncan Smith: There is a real nub to this debate and my right hon. Friend has touched on it now: whether or not the state sees the voluntary sector as an add-on to the work it does, or as a viable, separate entity that it will help and support in the areas where it works. When Beveridge designed what we call the welfare state, he wrote a third paper in response to the introduction of the welfare state by the then Labour Government. He warned that the voluntary sector would be subsumed into the welfare state, instead of being viable and separate in its own right. Think of the private sector: write off vast sums of money from small businesses in taxation and do not ask them to pay the money back when they fail. They get huge write-offs. When it comes to the voluntary sector, we say, There is only a years contract. Give us full cost recovery. If you cant do that, goodbye.
My right hon. Friend makes the point powerfully and he is absolutely right. That is what is meant by having an active civil society, which is thriving and vibrant. [ Interruption. ] The Minister is chuntering from a sedentary position about Victorian society. I notice that he made a rather intemperate, knee-jerk response to our paper yesterday, plainly without having read it. I am hearing a rather more
moderate and thoughtful response from his Back-Bench colleagues. I do not want to be partisan. This is a good debate without particular doctrinal differences, but we need to explore differences of approach, which are important. If the approach is, as ours is, that to address many of these powerful social challenges requires the work of third sector organisations, voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises, the question properly to be raised is, Where will the additional capacity come from?
Is it simply enough to hope that 100 flowers will suddenly and spontaneously bloom? The truth is that new flowers are coming into bloom all the time. This is generally about a person or group of people who see a problem and have an idea as to how to solve it, but too often these flowers wither and too rarely do they seed themselves and multiply.
We have been seeking to address those challenges in our paper published yesterday. We have set out a Conservative alternative that we believe can boost volunteering as a central pillar of the regrowth of civil society. We believe that it can contribute to a vibrant culture of giving and volunteering. Our proposals reflect wide-ranging discussions with charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises as well as the input from my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Greens policy group and the partys social enterprise taskforce. I am sorry that the Ministers knee-jerk reaction to our paper yesterday was to trash it, rather as Sir Clive Booth, the Labour chairman of the Big Lottery Fund, attacked our proposals for the reform of the lottery before they had even been published. He then had to retract his remarks, which were profoundly inaccurate. We look to the Minister to do the same today when he stands up.
Our ideas are very much drawn from what leaders in the sector have argued, and the Government would do well to learn from that. Notably, the comments that people in the sector have made in response to our papers have been uniformly positive, in sharp contrast to what the Minister said yesterday and what he seems still to be planning to say today.
Mr. Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): I am listening to the right hon. Gentlemans remarks with interest, and, to my regret, I read the paper last night. On the charities response to the Conservative proposals, how does he respond to NCHs excoriating analysis of Conservative proposals in respect of single parents and jobless people, particularly those in the north-west of England?
Mr. Maude: I am not sure what point the hon. Gentleman has made, but it is certainly not relevant to this debate, nor does it come out of anything in the paper that we published yesterday. If he wants to raise those questions later in the debate, I am sure that the House will listen with great respect to what he has to say.
Our ideas draw heavily on what the sector itself has argued, and we make a number of proposals. They can be found in the document, and I do not need to go through them all today, given that I have taken up much more time than I intended and that I am aware that many hon. Members want to participate in the debate. I shall, however, mention one or two of them.
As my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) has mentioned, one is our support for the long overdue moves being made to improve the Criminal Records Bureau checks system. Such moves have been recommended. We know that confidence and morale can be destroyed by bureaucratic hurdles and burdens. It is important to understand that Britainsocietywill lose volunteers who are fired up and enthused, and who want to get on with things, if they find themselves parked for weeks while the bureaucracy creaks its way through the checks, because, all too often, the moment will have passed, the spark may have died and the enthusiasm may have waned.
Jeremy Wright (Rugby and Kenilworth) (Con): This follows up the point that my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Norfolk made. There clearly must be a case for simplifying and speeding up the CRB process. Does my right hon. Friend agree that, given cases such as that of a constituent of mine who underwent all kinds of checks to enable him to be employed at a young offenders institution, only to be told that he would need another CRB check when he approached the Scouts to offer to help on a Thursday night, we should, at the very least, ensure that one check will suffice for all similar activity?
Mr. Maude: My hon. Friend is right. It is painful, it kills the spark and it takes the edge off things when people who are fired up and want to get on with volunteering are suddenly told, You cant do anything for five weeks because we have to go through this whole process.
We will also act to clear up any remaining confusion surrounding the rules on volunteering and benefit claimants, so that misunderstandings on that front do not dissuade potential volunteers. We also want to exclude any notion of compulsory volunteering, which is, of course, a contradiction in terms. There is a sense that the Government, frustrated by the failure of their volunteering campaigns to deliver the growth for which they hoped, are displaying a bit of a tendency towards making volunteering compulsory in some circumstances. There is a hint of that in the Education and Skills Bill, which proposes volunteering as an enforced alternative to work or educationeven v, the Governments own youth volunteering organisation, is aghast at that. We are also concerned at the apparent Home Office plan to force volunteering on new immigrants as part of its probationary citizenship scheme.
We will encourage and promote a new environment conducive to volunteering. We believe that there needs to be more of a culture change to create a social norm that volunteering is what people doso many people already do it. Indeed, the Commission on the Future of Volunteering referred to
a culture change in society so that helping others and benefiting from a culture of mutual dependence becomes a way of life.
We would say that that is social responsibility in action. All the evidence tells us that volunteering is infectious: people who volunteer in one capacity in their community generally end up helping lots of other community groups as well. A study for the Scout Association found that
young people who are members of a youth or sports club are twice as likely to have helped out in their community as those who are not.
Meanwhile, many pioneering companiesthis deals with the point raised by the hon. Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas)from John Lewis to KPMG, have begun to establish volunteering as a social norm of working life. They give their employees an entitlement to volunteer, and a small number of hours that they can use during the year to add to their own time spent volunteering. KPMG, for example, allows each employee 3.5 hours of firm time per month to volunteer, and last year, KPMG people contributed more than 38,000 hours to the community. The company recognised that their volunteering commitment is a major factor in giving it a competitive edge in retaining vital staff and recruiting the top people of tomorrow. Therefore, that is an important point.
As we know, social norms cannot be legislated for, but the Government can lead by example. I would like to refer to a final proposal today. The Conservatives would make a start by allowing every central Government employee eight hours volunteering during employed time a year. That is perhaps not a huge amount, but when one adds up all the hours, one finds that it amounts to a big contribution. I applaud the Government for being very ready to pick up our ideas in recent months, so there is one that we have prepared. What a great contribution to national volunteering week it would be if the Minister were to announce in his speech that that is yet another Conservative idea that the Government intend to implement. I commend the motion to the House.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Cabinet Office (Phil Hope): I very much welcome this debate. The right hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude) evinced from me a combination of laughter, when he made claim to a raft of proposals that the Government are already putting into practice, and despairat the proposals that the Conservatives are bringing forward. Although I did not agree with everything in his speechI shall pick up on some of those areas in a momentwe are voting on a motion to support volunteering, and on that I very much agree.
My right hon. Friends and I welcome the interest shown in volunteering by the Conservative party, although some interventions from my hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Tom Levitt) on examples associated with older peoples volunteering and youth volunteering would suggest that there remains a need for the right hon. Member for Horsham, and the Opposition, to play catch-up on the marvellous things going on around the country, which are supported by both central and local government in many ways.
Like me, hon. Members across the House will want to praise the work of volunteers around the country, particularly given that this is national volunteering week. We can all welcome, too, the healthy state of charities in general. The motion rightly points out that this debate takes place
as the voluntary sector expands its paid workforce and takes on the delivery of public services.
second out of 36 countries
on one measure and that Britain is leading most of Europe on charitable giving. That is absolutely right. Indeed, I think that the right hon. Gentleman said that a fantastic amount is being done, and it is great to know that the Opposition are celebrating the success of this Labour Government in supporting and promoting volunteering and the third sector.
Mr. Maude: The Minister makes a slightly glib point, but it illustrates an unhelpful premise in his mind: that what ordinary people are doing up and down the country in giving their time is somehow something for which the Government should take credit. People do this despite the Government, not because of them, and they have been doing it for much longer than new Labour has been in existence.
As the right hon. Gentleman rightly says, despite the pressures of work and family, and the rush of modern life, millions of Britonsthe previous survey suggested a figure of 20 milliongive up their time to help others. It is right that, across the House, we say that British society is not an elbows culture. The headlines about problems in neighbourhoods do not tell the whole story, because people in Britain do care about their neighbours and, both formally and informally, through voluntary organisations and in other ways, they contribute their time and their money to make our society a better place to live.
Ian Lucas: Does my hon. Friend agree that people who do charitable work need the tools to do it? One of the most important tools that the Government provide is investment. There has been a substantial increase in the charitable sector thanks to sustained Government investment. The sooner the Conservatives accept that and recognise that it is part of the reason for the success of the charitable sector, the better.
Phil Hope: My hon. Friend is right. It is because the Government have acted in partnership with the third sector and listened to their concerns. We have responded, through direct investment and by creating an environment in which the third sectorcharities, voluntary organisations, small local community groups and social enterprises, the whole panoplycan thrive, be dynamic and make progress in the future. I shall say more about the nature of the investment that the Government have put in and the outcomes that it has had in a moment.
It is through volunteering that neighbourhoods are drawn together. Knowledge is the best, surest weapon against prejudice, and shared activities that bring together the old and the young, people of different ethnic backgrounds and people with different levels of education, are among the surest ways to dispel assumptions and reduce tensions in our communities.
Volunteering is not only about building stronger communities and neighbourhoods. Volunteering can transform the prospects of volunteers themselves. We have all met volunteers who learn as much as they teach, or are helped as much as they helped, whether the volunteer is someone moving from a long period of unemploymentformer users of services can become volunteers and, in some cases, paid staff membersor a high-flying professional who volunteers and sees a different side of life. Many people from the City are now moving into third sector organisations and transferring their skills, and they gain hugely rewarding experiences in becoming leaders and chief executives in the third sector.
Its essential that such a system is of practical value to volunteers and is fully owned and controlled by the voluntary sector.
Does he agree that what is really important is that skills acquired by volunteers should be transferable and part of an overall training gateway or network that is not confined to the sector, but allows people to progress and take their skills with them because they are recognised by industry and others?
Phil Hope: My hon. Friends experience and knowledge in these matters, and his contribution to the charity world, the third sector and volunteering, are unsurpassed in this House. He speaks with great authority and knowledge about how developing the skills of those who work for and volunteer with the third sectorand the public and private sectorshas enormous benefits, both individually and to the nation, because those skills can be transferred. Such training can improve the ability of the third sector to deliver the aim of creating better outcomes for users, but it can also enable individuals to make a wider contribution to community life. He is right to highlight that benefit of volunteering.
Our thriving culture of volunteering cannot be taken for granted, and we must take some important steps to secure it for the future. I wish to use this opportunity to say that we must encourage volunteering by making volunteering easier, by actively supporting volunteers and by using the leadership of the public sector. Volunteering does not happen in a vacuum. It is informed by other debates, and I will go on to say what we can learn from the silence on those debates from the Conservative party.
We have been listening to the sector and working with it to make volunteering easier. We have heard concerns about criminal records checks and we consulted with the sector and across Government. In March, we promised that we would look at how to make the checks easier. Today, I am delighted to say, we
published guidance that makes it clear that CRB checks are not always necessary. When volunteers do need a criminal records checkas is often right, when they will be working with children or other vulnerable groupsthose checks are free. Volunteers are not charged for CRB checks, and last year that saved organisations involving volunteers more than £26 million.
Jeremy Wright: I raised this point with my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Maude). I understand the Ministers point and it is generally accepted that CRB checks are necessary for those who work with children, but surely it is not necessary to require multiple checks for the same individual when they wish to work in the same general field. Can the Minister reassure us that part of his changes will include a considerable streamlining of that process?
Phil Hope: I can give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. Section 5 of the guidance document, entitled The portability of CRB checks, sets out in detail when it might be necessary to carry out a new CRB check. There is a simple template and an eight-point checklist that organisations can use to address that issue, so that they and volunteers will know where they stand.
We have removed one barrier with the requirement for multiple CRB checks, but the sector also told us about the problem of volunteers being left out of pocket. So in March we introduced the Employment Bill in the other placeit will shortly be considered in this Houseto change the law to allow voluntary workers to claim expenses such as travel and child care without triggering the national minimum wage legislation. That is a major step forward.
In 2006, we also took action to change benefit rules to lift any barriers to volunteering by people receiving benefits. We ensured that they could be reimbursed any reasonable expenses when they volunteer, and that move was greatly welcomed by the sector. The chief executive of Volunteering England, Justin Davis Smith, said that
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