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I was a member of the Carnegie Commission of Inquiry, which looked at the future of civil society. As these inquiries are wont to do, we spent quite a bit of time debating what in fact civil society was. We already have as many definitions as we have the number of charities that have been cited in the debate, but we settled on something informed by Michael Edwards: that there are there dimensions of civil society.
First, we all want to live in the "good society", as the Minister mentioned. Secondly, civil society is the way in which we achieve that good society, by coming together in a variety of voluntary associations for our benefit. Reading any list of those associations, from sports groups to churches and mosques, from women's institutes to single-issue campaigns, gives you a picture, a sort of mosaic, of life in Britain today in all its beauty, diversity and complexity. Sometimes a list like that might show up what might seem improbable links
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Thirdly, civil society is a framework. It is the means by which a whole range of voices, from all strands of our society, can speak into the public square. The particular role of charities in that configuration is an interesting one. Of course, there are plenty of civil society organisations that are not charities-political parties and trade unions spring to mind-but they are very much part of civil society, despite not being charities. So what is the distinctive role of charities? When I talk to people, I find that there is often a temptation to assume that practical action, or delivering public benefits solely by practical action, is the particular preserve of charities. Many noble Lords can attest to the scale and the depth of the practical action being undertaken by the wonderful charities in our country, but the very delivery of that practical action can produce some valuable learning.
I spent three years in the Treasury, advising Ministers on a range of issues, mostly to do with families with children-interesting times-and poverty, and the voluntary sector. One of the things I learnt there was that wise Ministers, then and now, talk to charities before they make decisions about the groups that they will affect. The reason is because of their expertise but also because those Ministers recognise that charities are closer to the ground and understand the impact of likely decisions on the communities they represent. That closeness to the ground means that many charities see things that others do not or long before the rest of us are even aware that they are there. With that knowledge comes responsibility, and many charities have a role to play in holding up a mirror to our society or shining a light into some of the darker corners. But that can be very risky for them. Everybody agrees that charity is a good thing when it is helping the deserving poor, but that support can evaporate quite quickly, as can donations, when the charity starts to challenge the status quo. It can be risky. Sometimes even government-the reassurances of the noble Baroness, Lady Bottomley, notwithstanding-whether local or national, can be prone to a touch of displeasure when the charities they fund start to bite the hands that feed and fight back. I understand that: it is a practice whose charms are more readily apparent when one is in opposition than when one is in government.
If a charity finds evidence of serious injustice or desperate need or systemic failure, and society seems not to know that or not to attend to it, surely the charity must speak out. I hope that the Lords spiritual will forgive my intruding on their territory by citing a cleric, albeit a Roman Catholic one. The late Brazilian archbishop, Dom Camara, famously said:
It is our responsibility to indicate our willingness to hear what charities have to say. If we do not agree, that is fine-we can debate it with them. But it is vital that they are neither censored nor self-censoring. In a climate of public spending cuts of the kind that are coming, it will be much harder for charities to maintain
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I would be very interested in hearing what the Minister and others feel they can do to encourage charities to maintain that role of speaking out as well as simply serving others. If they lose that dimension of their role, we will all be the poorer.
Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, it is the greatest possible honour and pleasure to congratulate my noble friend on her fine maiden speech. Our paths have been crossing and criss-crossing for about 30 years, through her role originally in student politics, as a much respected and successful campaigner, more recently as an adviser to Her Majesty's Treasury and as a most effective chair of the review of the third sector, on which I had the privilege to serve. Like her, I never expected to end up in the House of Lords, and certainly never expected that we would be speaking one after the other in a debate on a topic so dear to both our hearts. Her speech today is typical of her-thoughtful, perceptive, strong and powerful. She will continue to bring those qualities to your Lordships' House and we all look forward to that with great pleasure.
Even before I was a Member of this House, when I was leading a campaigning charity, I was always very aware of the great interest our House takes in charities, the expertise which resides here and the vast experience your Lordships' House has of all aspects of the charitable sector. My interests are declared in the register of interests, and I am grateful to the Government and the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for giving us the opportunity to speak in this debate and for the encouragement it has given to so many maiden speakers.
We hold this debate, without question, at a very significant time for the charitable sector. It is significant in terms of its future but also of the role which it expects to play in the development of civil society. There are, of course, many different interpretations of what constitutes civil society-we have heard some today and will hear more, I am sure-but to me the single common factor to which we always return is that it is about participation. That is, participation in decisions about services, participation in your community, participation in how services in your community are shaped, and participation in delivery of those services.
We should be clear that in spite of some rather rashly delivered statements about broken societies, civil participation is not in decline, any more than it is a new idea. Indeed, much of the evidence suggests that it is currently vibrant. Membership of trade unions, political parties, churches and traditional women's groups may have declined, but membership of new social movements, non-government organisations and pressure groups has flourished. The Carnegie inquiry into the future of civil society concluded that it is thriving. Sir Stuart Etherington at NCVO has been banging on about it-no, I mean campaigning most effectively-for some years.
For many people, charities are the vehicle by which a stronger role in civil society is developed. I believe that the Government have recognised this, which is
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I want to use my time today to sound a couple of notes of caution, which I hope the Government will note and the Minister will respond to as we move forward into what will undoubtedly be threatening times for the voluntary and community sector, as well as times which provide great opportunity. Many of the organisations with which I am in contact in various roles see this as a time of opportunity as well as of threat.
I keep hearing Ministers say to the voluntary and community sector that it must do more with less and not to expect government, at local or national level, to support it financially. Charities understand that, but let us not forget that as a quarter of civil society organisations rely on government for 75 per cent of their funding, it is a drastic change to expect them to replace that or do without it. We should not be tempted into thinking that more government necessarily means less civil society and less government necessarily means more civil society. David Cameron recognised this when he said that,
As has been shown in Russia and the United States' inner cities, when the state retreats, the vacuum may be filled by crime and gangs as well as by civil society organisations. Many of the nations with the most active civil societies still have very active Governments. We must be wary, too, of thinking that philanthropy will ride to the rescue. It is by no means certain that our society is as yet at a stage where philanthropy can fill all the gaps, as seems to be expected in the world of the arts. Even the best of community organisers and the most enterprising of social entrepreneurs need some support. I believe that the big society bank has many a contribution to make in this regard, and I am glad that this Government have continued their commitment to this proposal, developed under the previous Government.
The Government, I am sorry to say, seem to have a suspicion of the infrastructure which currently exists to support the charitable sector. They are right to point out that it needs reform; far be it from me to argue that we should go on with existing mechanisms which may be resistant to necessary change. As a veteran of two mergers, I am an active advocate of mergers and collaborative working, which this sector has perhaps resisted for too long. But neither must we throw babies out with the bath water. Many of those infrastructure bodies are delivering through their local organisations exactly the kind of innovations-time banks, community pledge banks, social enterprises and civic action-which the Government and society need. These ideas struggle to find support. While the charitable sector must play its part and take its share of financial cuts, it would be unjust and counterproductive to make it take more than its fair share. We are already
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In that regard, let us remember the importance of morale. Many of the changes that will be required in the delivery of the big society are dependent on charities to deliver them, at either local or national level. You cannot expect individuals or organisations to be well motivated if they are constantly told that what they have done in the past is no longer valued, or that they have to take their cue from business to know how to run their own organisations. True, they may have something to learn, but for years I have hoped to see that learning go the other way. Any chief executive of a charity could give lessons to any businessman or businesswoman in efficiency, managing on a shoestring and encouraging innovation. I have been there and I know it is true. I commend the work of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, and his task force, particularly the emphasis that he will give to encouraging volunteering and good governance.
I conclude by mentioning the campaigning role of charities, as others have done. Campaigns organised by national and local charities play a fundamental part in bringing citizens together to change things. This is to be welcomed and encouraged, not least because if you listen to the voices of the public you often have pleasant surprises about resources. They do not demand the earth; their demands are often very modest. We should always remember that. Charities have blazed a trail in campaigning. I hope the Minister can assure the House that the Government remain committed to that policy, and that campaigning on behalf of their client groups will still be seen as a legitimate and desirable way for charities to contribute to the development of civil society.
Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach for securing this important debate. The charitable sector is of great benefit to society and of specific importance to those communities that are most in need. The Government's support for an enhanced role for our communities provides a unique opportunity to promote a creative approach to social empowerment through the charitable sector. A strong civil society is viewed as an essential component of a successful democracy. Increased social action through the charitable sector is at the heart of strengthening our civil society. This will herald a new culture of increased volunteering and philanthropy.
In the past, central government has been accused by a number of organisations in the sector of having an overbearing nature that compromises local innovation and civic action. The Government have pledged to offer more support to voluntary and charitable organisations in making the transition towards increasing the services that they provide, without added interference. It is important to remove the layers of bureaucracy associated with the sector by decentralising power to charitable organisations, which are best placed to run their own affairs. This is likely to result in administrative
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I am of the view that we live in a compassionate society where most individuals readily give to the less fortunate. Some individuals choose not to donate to charity for fear that their contributions will have no impact. When I hear this argument, I refer them to the following story. A man is walking down a beach moments after a storm. He notices a person ahead of him picking up starfish that have been washed ashore and throwing them back into the sea. He asks the person how his efforts can make any difference, since the beach is long and thousands of starfish have been washed ashore and will probably die. The person looks at the starfish in his hand, throws it into the water and says, "It makes a difference to this one". The moral of this story is that, even with the best of intentions, we cannot help everyone in the world, but we can make a difference to the lives of those we can help.
A key component in maintaining the level of public trust in charitable organisations, however, is ensuring that as much as possible of the revenue generated is delivered to front-line support. There is a perception that certain charities are not delivering to front-line support, as is desirable. It is therefore important that all charities carefully examine their expenses and undertake savings and reductions as far as possible. I personally know of charities that are perhaps smaller and where 100 per cent of the funds collected are used for charitable purposes.
Access to funding is one of the main challenges facing the charitable sector. The Government have announced their intention to create a big society bank to help to finance charities and voluntary organisations through intermediaries. I welcome this objective, which will contribute towards ensuring that the past financial obstacles to funding are given a long-term solution. We need to ensure that charities are able to overcome the current economic climate, which is likely to put pressure on their organisational models and delivery structures. In the face of a recession, the demands increase at precisely the time that revenue from donations is placed under great pressure.
The previous Government should be commended for introducing Gift Aid to make donating to charities more appealing to individuals. However, many charities still struggle to raise funds. I was pleased to hear from my noble friend the Minister the various steps that the Government will take to assist and enhance the charitable sector. These include the setting up of community organisations and the launch of the citizen service. However, perhaps more can be done to explain to the public how to utilise the Gift Aid scheme. If society is to benefit from the efforts of the charitable sector in the long term, individuals need to support those ventures that can reduce reliance on financial support from the state.
We have a moral duty to support charities through giving our time and resources wherever possible. The importance of helping those in need is a recurring theme in many religions. For example, in Islam it is compulsory to give to charity through the principle of zakat, which is one of the five pillars of Islam. My
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We all have our heroes. Mine was my late father, who was also my greatest teacher. He was a businessman and a philanthropist. He engaged in several charitable activities in east Africa and the Indian subcontinent. He taught me that there is a great deal of pleasure in giving, as both the donor and the recipient gain satisfaction. His philosophy in life was always to serve the community while retaining a sense of humility. I have formed, and entirely fund, a charity in his name, the Sheikh Abdullah Foundation, which gives support to charitable causes all over the world to continue his work.
The charitable sector has the potential to flourish and deliver services that are currently the responsibility of central and local government. There are, however, successful groups from this sector undertaking this work across the country. This can be of benefit to the wider society if we draw on the skills and expertise of people across the country in this sector as we respond to the social, political and economic challenges facing Britain. The role of the sector has never been of greater importance.
Baroness Benjamin: My Lords, it is an honour and a privilege to address this House for the first time, in a debate that is very close to my heart-I thank the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for initiating it. I also thank all noble Lords. It is an honour to sit with you in this House.
My family motto is, "Who would have thought?", because you never know where life's twists and turns will take you. Mine have taken me on a spiritual journey. I was born in Trinidad and came to Britain as a 10 year-old child 50 years ago. I was spat on and told to go back to where I came from, but how differently things have turned out. I believe that I am now the first Trinidadian female Peer and I follow humbly in the pioneering footsteps of another "Trini", the late Lord Learie Constantine. I will always remember that memorable day when I was introduced to the House, my family watching over me. I thank my sponsors for being part of that day-my noble friend Lady Scott, and my noble friend Lord Dholakia for his continued support and guidance. I thank noble Lords for welcoming me with such warmth and affection and the numerous members of staff who work so diligently and have taken care of me so efficiently.
I love being part of this establishment, and as I wander round the maze of corridors, soaking up the rich symbolism, I think to myself, surely I have reached
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I chose Beckenham as the title of my peerage because, back in the 1960s, my beloved, wise mother, who was the symbol of the celebration of perseverance, decided that Beckenham was the place that her six children would live because we would find the best education there and the best charity jumble sales to clothe us. However, when we went to view our future home the neighbours called the police to arrest us, saying that we were stealing the fixtures from the house. However, that did not deter my mother. She was a fighter and she stood her ground. She lived in that house for more than 40 years and is now, sadly, buried in Beckenham cemetery. So I chose Beckenham not just as a legacy for my mother and my father, who was a great philosopher, but in recognition of just how much Britain has moved on.
Much has been said about my many years as a children's television presenter, and I am told that I have touched and shaped the lives of millions of children who are now adults and look back at programmes such as "Playschool" with great love and affection. But little did I know back in 1976 when I became a presenter of that iconic programme that it would lead me to the door of the House of Lords. I hope that my presence here will inspire children from my cultural background to follow my path, as I have been inspired by others. I truly believe that.
I have always focused on the happiness of children because everything we do affects them directly and indirectly. Childhood lasts a lifetime, and every child deserves the best start in life. That is why I am involved with so many children's charities-I know how their work strengthens civil society-such as the NSPCC, in which I declare an interest. The NSPCC runs Childline and Helpline, two vital front-line services to protect vulnerable children and young people. Last year they answered more than 450,000 calls. They are making a huge difference and need the continued support of matched funding for the sake of those children. Sparks-of which I am a trustee, so I declare an interest-is a rare charity as it funds pioneering research across the whole spectrum of paediatric medicine. For example, it has spent more than £1 million on baby-cooling research to combat the lack of oxygen during birth and reduce deaths and permanent brain damage. This year the first intervention combining baby cooling with xenon gas was completed successfully. This will save the NHS and taxpayers millions of pounds on long-term medical care and special needs education for the baby who was born without a pulse.
Children need to be valued, shown unconditional love and taught how to have the confidence to love themselves. Barnardo's teaches them to do just that. As a vice-president of Barnardo's-I declare an interest-I have been involved in the work that it does with
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I have run 10 consecutive London marathons to raise funds for Barnardo's, and I am always amazed at the number of successful people who say they are sponsoring me because Barnard's was there for them when they were children and now they want to give something back. In this wounded, materialistic world, where greed and self-interest are often rewarded, let us not forget those who try to repair the damage by giving unconditionally. Yes, I have seen firsthand the tremendous contribution of the charitable sector in strengthening civil society, and I will continue to support and encourage not just the ones I have highlighted but the general ethos of volunteering and giving back to make our country a better, happier place for all our children.
Lord Bilimoria: My Lords, it is a great privilege for me to follow the maiden speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, which, as predicted, was absolutely marvellous. I am privileged to have known the noble Baroness from the time when she was appointed as Chancellor of Exeter University and I was Chancellor of Thames Valley University. I will never forget when she said that she had changed the traditions of the graduation ceremonies whereby she would not just congratulate the graduates but embrace and hug them. I immediately thought to myself that if I tried to do that as Chancellor of my university I would be arrested.
The noble Baroness is one of life's unique individuals. As she said, she was born in Trinidad, but she has made the most amazing contribution to Britain as an actress, an author, a businesswoman, a television presenter famous for "Playschool" and as a politician. She is a true renaissance woman. I am sure that, just as she has demonstrated with her passionate speech today, she will keep us all smiling and make the most amazing and tremendous contribution to your Lordships' House.
I attended a talk by his holiness the Dalai Lama in London a few years ago, purely out of curiosity. I remember he said how incredible he found it that all we seemed to hear about was bad news-news about man's inhumanity to man. Yet every day millions of people do millions of good deeds for one another and these never get reported. He reminded us that people are inherently good and care and share. As we have heard-I will not dispute the number-there are hundreds of thousands of registered charities in the UK, and every year 50 per cent of the adult population donates to one or more charities on a monthly basis. That is over half the adult population giving selflessly to causes they believe to be greater than themselves.
We should then ask ourselves whether-when we have a public sector that spends nearly £700 billion a year; with the state supposedly providing for all and
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What is more, we talk about foreign policy and interventionist foreign policy and what DfID does, when, without any strategic direction, the charitable donations of 20 per cent of the adult population are intended for overseas causes. That reminds me of one of my favourite sayings: "It is not enough to be the best in the world; you also have to be the best for the world". Like many others in this Chamber, I am privileged to see at first hand the good causes that charities serve. The crucial thing about charities is their ability to act independently of government, when they are allowed to, which enables them to focus their resources appropriately after considered research, as we have heard, by specialists and experts in various fields.
I shall give just one example, as chairman of the advisory board of the Loomba Foundation. This foundation was launched in 1998 in the presence of the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair. Its objectives are,
It is currently educating 3,000 children of poor widows in states throughout India and giving these children a real chance of being uplifted from poverty. Raj Loomba, the organisation's founder, was inspired to address the plight of widows worldwide by his own mother's courage and incredible endeavour in educating and raising seven children singlehandedly in India after becoming tragically widowed at the age of 37. This is the power of charities-the ability to address areas of need that are too numerous or too specific to be included in the scope of government-led initiatives. This is what charities do-they fill the void between the public and private sectors, and this is what we must promote.
We all agree that the Government have a crucial role to play in people's lives through their responsibilities for providing for the vulnerable-as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, said-for infrastructure and for the defence and security of the realm, though ideally in a society of low taxes and low regulation which allows people to get on with their lives and address their needs by themselves. The irony of the small state and "people power" which the Prime Minister's big society initiative talks about is that they do not create selfish, greedy individuals; in fact quite the opposite.
People may believe that public welfare support-which is today one-third of our Budget, amounting to nearly £200 billion-has suppressed the formation of volunteer-led initiatives in this country. However, the evidence leads one to the contrary conclusion. There has been a steady growth in the charitable sector since the formation of the welfare state. The Government need to understand how active communities are already achieving the goals set out by the big society.
However, the charitable sector is currently experiencing its biggest crisis in financial confidence for years. A survey conducted by the National Council for Voluntary
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The Government need to give people the freedom to live their lives, to make their own choices and to distribute wealth themselves. The Government must act not as a controller but as a catalyst-or as a facilitator, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said. Whether it be for business, for the big society or for charities, the Government need to create the environment in which charities can flourish independently through tax breaks and incentivising people. The charitable sector is the very embodiment of the best of human emotion and endeavour. It is the expression of collective empathy and altruism, and an incarnation of how mighty we can be if we all give a little to help the many.
In an interview that he gave some time ago, Nelson Mandela was asked, "What is it that makes you happiest in life?". He said that it was seeing ordinary people every day doing extraordinary things for their fellow human beings. That is what people in Britain are doing every day, and it must be cherished, preserved and encouraged, because we are instinctively a nation of individuals who care and who share.
Baroness Wheeler: My Lords, since being introduced to the House in July, I have had the privilege of spending time in this Chamber listening to debates and observing to my great relief the supportive way in which the House conducts its business, welcomes its new Members and shows respect and tolerance for all, or most, contributions.
I want to echo noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches by expressing my thanks and appreciation for the support, kindness and help that I have received from the House of Lords staff-particularly the very patient Doorkeepers and assistants who have helped me and made considerable efforts to help me try to negotiate my way around the House's twisting corridors and passages. When I explain to you that I was once out fell walking in the Lake District and asked directions to a mountain I was actually sitting on, you can understand why I need all the support I can get.
I begin my service in this House in the full recognition of the privilege of being here and that this would not have been possible without the support, opportunity and experience I have had during 40 years of work and involvement in politics, trade unions and the voluntary sector. I began working for UNISON, the public services union, in 1993 when it merged into the UK's largest union. Before that I worked for a much smaller specialist
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I make just one more reference to my background. I have been active in local community politics for years, but many of my noble friends on this side of the House will know me through my role as the intrepid chair of the Labour Party's Conference Arrangements Committee. This is a small committee, but has a major role and impact on how the conference is run, its organisation and agenda. In other words, as one former Minister and party chair said to me: "If the conference is a success, Margaret, it's down to the politicians; if it's a mess, then it's down to you". I stood down from this role last week to great acclaim by the Guardian's Simon Hoggart who described in his column my conference report as "completely incomprehensible". What better praise could a long-serving standing orders chair receive?
I chose Blackfriars for my title as it is in the London Borough of Southwark, where I was born and brought up. I am a voluntary trustee and chair of a small multiservice provider in Blackfriars, the Blackfriars Settlement. The settlement movement began in the late 19th century, when women from the Oxford University colleges founded settlements along the south bank of the Thames to live and work among the poorer families, especially women and children. There are six settlements across Southwark, all of them at the heart of their communities, providing vital services and support.
While a walk along the south bank shows Blackfriars in all its vibrancy, Southwark itself, despite huge regeneration, is still in the bottom 10 of the most deprived London boroughs. The settlements are locally unique in that each provides services covering young people, community and mental health, education, older people's services, young people's clubs, drop-in clubs for the mentally ill, befriending schemes for the elderly and isolated, a weekly free legal clinic and literacy, ESOL, job seeking and IT skills training. However, as we know and have heard, life is tough and challenging in the voluntary sector. In our settlement, 32 whole time equivalent staff, mostly part-time, work across 82 different funding and income streams, taking on additional or reduced hours as funding is secured or contracts are cancelled, or indeed losing their jobs. We could not deliver services without our amazing volunteers-more than 100 of them, of all ages and from diverse backgrounds and cultures, many of them former users of our services.
Most of the language of the debate around the big society assumes that voluntary organisations are a homogenous block-one big group of providers-but they are not. Like settlements, they are diverse local
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Perhaps I may comment also on one perspective of the debate on the role of the voluntary sector that may not come to the forefront of consideration; namely, the impact of any changed role and alternative care delivery not just on users but also on carers. Again, I declare an interest as the carer of my partner, who suffered a major brain haemorrhage three years ago. I am sure that many noble Lords are familiar with the carer statistics. There are 5.5 million carers in Great Britain, and every day 6,000 people take on a caring responsibility. The carer's and cared-for's daily experience is a mix of public service and voluntary and independent sector support; a complex web of care provision. We know that effective integration of health, social and voluntary care is a challenge, even with some of the excellent partnership and joint working initiatives that are in place.
You become a carer often out of the blue, and it changes your life-as well, of course, as that of the person you are caring for. For sudden illness, the first experience is of the NHS-in our case, good and fast diagnosis and treatment at the local hospital, fully in line with targets for scanning, assessment and treatment set out in the National Stroke Strategy. You turn to the Stroke Association for advice, information and guidance; for help to the local disabled people's user-led group; for personal support to the local authority carer support team. The carer is the key to enabling a person with severe disabilities to live at home. Continuing support involves good home support from the GP, local authority day care provision, a daily local authority social services package delivered by the independent sector, speech and communications support from an excellent small local charity and exercise sessions from another disability charity.
This is the localism currently in operation: intricate, complex packages of care in the community for people who require high-dependency support, such as sufferers from strokes, dementia, mental illness or MS. It is critical to carers that services are not further fragmented. Given appropriate funding and structural support, the voluntary sector could undoubtedly do more across health and social care. But it cannot do it in a climate of reduced statutory funding and falling donations and legacies.
I formally pay tribute to the work of the main carer charities-Carers UK, Crossroads and the Princess Royal Trust for Carers-which have achieved so much in highlighting the role that carers play in our society. I also welcome the current consultation on refreshing the 2008 National Carers Strategy that has done so much to make a difference to carers' lives, and hope that this means meaningful continued support for the strategy.
In closing, I emphasise how much I look forward to being a full and active Member of the House. I have many interests and passions that I hope to pursue,
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Baroness Wall of New Barnet: My Lords, I do not know how we can carry on with the superlatives in response to today's maiden speeches. As the noble Lord who has now left his seat said, we have a number of maiden speakers today, and among them is a superb woman, the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler.
I have known Margaret for a number of years. Our backgrounds are similar in terms of trade unions and the work that we have done together. She speedily described in her maiden speech some of the things that she did in her union and working with others. She said in one quick breath that in UNISON she supported a major restructuring, bringing together two or three other unions. She said it quickly, but the work that that involved-the effort, the pragmatism and the way in which she ensured that it happened-was much greater than her two-sentence description suggested. All unions are difficult. UNISON is not my union, so I have to be very careful about saying that it is more difficult, but the conglomeration of unions joining it made hers a very difficult task.
Margaret also talked very modestly about the comment made about her at the Labour Party conference by Simon Hoggart. I will say a little more about that, because she picked out something that was perhaps a bit derogatory, whereas in fact he was much more complimentary and very perceptive. He described her as a handsome woman-and she is. He said that she speaks with a flat, pleasing voice. I am not sure about "flat", but her voice is very pleasing and I hope that we will hear lots more of it. He suggested that when she describes things in the CAC, she is very similar-as a fan of "The Archers", I understand this totally-to someone thanking Mrs Pargeter, who is a very important person in "The Archers", for the loan of the tea urn for the village fête. If she can make the CAC sound that good, she will be a superb contributor in this House. Like other noble Lords, I welcome her. I do not think that she gets lost nearly as often as she says she does. Margaret is a very humble person, but believe me, a very tough one, and I look forward to more contributions from her that we can all enjoy.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, has had many thanks for introducing this debate, but I will add mine. As others have said, the subject of the debate has been so stimulating that we have been inundated with speakers. That is wonderful. One of the big things about this House is the wonderment that we have in picking up advice about what will be debated and everybody deciding that they have something to contribute.
I will talk about the way in which charities work and about some of the threats that they fear, which many other Members have talked about. The fundamental issue in the coalition's thinking concerns the big society. The phrase is much spoken about, but I still find lots of people who are not sure what it means. Although we have had much more elaboration today, it is still a
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Many speakers have tried to define what we mean by the charitable sector, alongside a definition of civil society. Almost all speakers-not just those making their maiden speeches-have tried to define what that is, and I will do the same. This was referred to by among others the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, who said that the creation of the Office for Civil Society within the Cabinet Office would assist us in our comprehension. This replaced the Office of the Third Sector, which some of us had equal difficulty understanding-but we learned very quickly what it was about. I, too, welcome that change of name and also the intention behind it. It describes its work, across government, as supporting voluntary and community groups, social enterprises, charities, co-operatives and mutuals. However, that is a description of activities and institutions rather than civil society, and that, I think, is the most important thing that we have been trying to agree among ourselves today.
A definition is offered by the NCVO in its 2009 paper, Civil Society: AFramework for Action. I join in the congratulations and thanks to the Library expressed by others today, because it supplied that definition. Its briefing is the most powerful and useful that I have seen in this House in the six years that I have been here in that it is very alive. The NCVO says that civil society is,
My experience is exactly like that; it reflects what I know about civil society as well. However, civil society is much broader and deeper than that, as it knits people together in seeking to serve one another. The contribution made by charities is to be applauded, as many people have done. If we look at our history over decades, we see that it is from charities that much of the state grew, recognising the expertise that charities brought and expanding it into the universal provision of services.
There has always been a key role for charities, many of which provide core services that neither the state nor alternative providers have ever sought to offer. As other speakers have said, others campaign, seeking to represent the voices of the powerless and advocate their needs, while others identify the gaps and cracks in state provision and innovate to fill them. In this debate we need to move beyond the philosophical to help to pave the way for charities to be fully embraced in strengthening our society-big, civil, good or otherwise-and to be released to make their unique contribution. We must support them well.
As has been referred to by other noble Lords, there is a strongly held view across many charities that just because they can run a charity and add value to the state in doing so, that does not mean that they want to or can undertake the burden of running state services. In re-emphasising the importance of the independence of charities and enabling them, alongside other delivery partners and experts, to innovate, define and shape services in the future, there will be a need to strengthen
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If charities are given the space to create once more, the age of charities transforming civil society will really benefit us. It is this framework that the charities call on all of us in this debate to secure.
Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords, we had a very good debate on 16 June on the role of partnerships between the Government and civil society, and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, on giving us the opportunity to pick up from where we left off. I also congratulate the bumper crop of maiden speakers, who have been largely maidens, and I eagerly look forward to the others.
On the state and civil society, my view is very simple; we needed the state to step in to remedy the deficiencies of civil society in caring for the vulnerable and providing basic health, education and other services for the population at large. Some Ministers seem to base their view on the need for a big society on a reading of history that sees broken Britain as being partly a consequence of the growth of the state and the growth of the welfare state since 1945 having crowded out voluntary action. However, the evidence is that levels of civic participation have remained relatively constant and that that participation has changed in nature but has not significantly declined as a result of the growth in state activity.
Society is obviously alive and well. The noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, when she was plain Mrs Thatcher, was very much criticised for saying that there was no such thing as society, but I think that that was rather unfair. She was merely making the rather basic sociological point, although she might not have welcomed it being described as such, that we should not reify society as anything more than the collection of individuals who make it up. It is not difficult to argue that society is broken. Indeed, on that earlier occasion, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, in particular, mobilised a string of examples to make the point. I do not think that any of us needs to be persuaded that we are beset by social problems, but I think that equally telling as an index of the health of our society is the wealth of examples that it is possible to come up with of the voluntary coming together of individuals to engage in collective action for the common good, which is at the root of all charitable activity.
I am in favour of the big society as an expression of the voluntary efforts that go to make it up but it should not be contingent on rolling back the state. We need them both. One has only to consider the Balkanisation of the voluntary sector in America to see this. The only question is the balance between the two and how they can interact to best advantage. However, I intend to resist the temptation to dilate further on the big society and shall stick to the question on the Order Paper-namely, the role of charities in all this. The impulse of compassion, which is also at the root of charitable endeavour, is one of the most
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Charities enjoy a high level of trust in our society-behind doctors and the police but ahead of private companies and certainly ahead of politicians and journalists. I did not necessarily draw the conclusion to be found in the Charity Commission's latest survey of public trust and confidence in charities, which was reflected in the Library note prepared for this debate, which, like other noble Lords, I found extremely helpful. However, charities come in for some criticisms, and I should like to spend the rest of my time addressing some of them. In so doing, I declare my interest as someone with 40 years' experience of working in charities great and small who has ended up as vice-president of the RNIB and as president of a number of others which I helped to found back in the 1970s and which are all declared in the register of interests. I suppose that this makes me something of a charity hack in the terms of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips.
First, from the left one encounters a distrust of charity based on a suspicion of the eleemosynary principle and hostility to charities' perceived paternalism. I do not think that there is a lot in this. Whatever may have been the case in the past, charity today is little more than a particular form of organisation or a legal form that carries certain tax advantages. The principles of consumer participation and user involvement are now well accepted, and charities are far more accountable and responsive to their members and beneficiaries than was ever the case in the past.
Next, one encounters suspicion of charities' campaigning role. Clearly, expenditure on political campaigning would not be an appropriate use of charitable resources but, having made this clear, I think that the Charity Commission's guidance strikes the right balance. Of course, charities have a vested interest like many other interests in society, including well funded commercial ones, but charities perform a valuable function in a democracy, as someone else said a little earlier, in ensuring that the interests of those whom they represent are properly considered by policy and decision-makers and properly reflected in public debate. I remember the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, expressing concern in a debate in this House about the role of lobbyists from charities in the European Parliament, but I was pleased to see the Council of Europe recently drawing a distinction between professional and civil society lobbying. The European code of conduct on lobbying in a democratic society, particularly as it relates to NGOs, states that,
Finally, it is sometimes possible to detect a bias in favour of smaller, third-sector and community organisations, as against the larger national charities, in the interests of fostering local communities and social action. Indeed, we have even caught a whiff of it
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"Charities ... cannot simply expand their volunteering without also expanding the infrastructure to provide support, advice, training and, crucially, management of volunteers. In the evaluation that we have done of scores of projects over the past 10 years, we have to confess that failures in management are the most common cause of ineffectiveness".-[Official Report, 16/6/2010; col. 1021.]
The right reverend Prelate then referred to my own contribution, so I am more than happy to return the compliment. It means that the voluntary sector still has work to do to put its house in order. Its diversity is a strength but fragmentation is not. At a recent count there were found to be 733 voluntary organisations in the visual impairment sector, so there is a major need for rationalisation and consolidation. There is much talk of partnership-my successor at the RNIB defined partnership as "doing what I want with your money"-but it has always seemed to me that there is no substitute for unified management. The threat of retrenchment may provide an opportunity. It is not unknown for charities to be thought of as entirely staffed by volunteers, but that is an anachronistic way of thinking. Charities have become increasingly professional-first at officer level but now at the level of trustees. That has been made necessary by the considerations to which the right reverend Prelate drew attention, and now by regulation. There is nothing wrong with that-in fact, it is a good thing-but we need to be aware that it has consequences. I predict that it will be increasingly necessary to pay trustees and that the Charity Commission will need to give more systematic and not just ad hoc consideration to that, as it recently did with the RNIB.
When I joined the University of Leeds, my professor said that the universities exemplified the last vestige of the leisured elite. I am sure that that is no longer true of the university, but since coming here I have occasionally wondered whether the leisured elite might not have migrated to the House of Lords. However, it is clear that there is no longer a leisured elite that stands ready and willing to stock the boards of a charitable sector.
Baroness Ritchie of Brompton: My Lords, it is my great privilege to be standing in this historic House in the company of so many noble and distinguished Lords. I thank you most sincerely for the very warm welcome that I have received since I arrived in this House in June. In particular, I thank my sponsors, my noble friends, Lady Hanham and Lady Morris of Bolton, and my mentor, my noble friend Lady Sharples, who has patiently tutored me in our practices and procedures. The Doorkeepers and staff of this noble House have also helped me to address one of the greatest challenges faced by new Peers-navigation around this House. Despite their help, I have on occasion thrown open one of Mr Pugin's elegantly
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I am delighted to be making my maiden speech in this important debate on the role of the voluntary sector in civil society, led by my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach. My passion is working with the voluntary and community sector to transform the lives of the young. Like many other noble Lords in this House, I come here with a keen interest in the welfare of children and young people, particularly those who are most vulnerable and who have encountered difficult and challenging times in their lives.
My background is in local government, and for a decade or more I have been involved in providing services to children and young people and to championing their cause through a variety of roles. As statutory lead member for children in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, I am well aware of the difficulties that some families face, and in particular of some of the hard issues around child protection and safeguarding. Ours may be in large part one of Britain's wealthiest areas but, like most London boroughs, we have areas of real deprivation and need. I pay particular tribute to our social workers. They endure constant criticism in the media, yet in truth they save many lives and I believe that they are generally part of the solution not the problem.
I have also been involved with UK Youth, a national non-uniform charity for young people which celebrates its centenary this year. I see great potential for the national citizen service which will give opportunities through a personal social development programme to a range of young people to play their part in civil society and build on the innovative work done by my noble friend Lord Wei and the Challenge charity.
I am acutely aware that those on the front line in charities can feel patronised by warm words from Westminster so I want to focus today on some of the practical measures that we can take to enable the sector to release the full potential of our children and young people. Starting near to home, voluntary organisations working with the young are particularly dependent on local authority grants and contracts, so I hope that we can encourage councillors in our own parties to sustain the funding of the voluntary sector, even in these difficult times. There are powerful arguments for doing so. In my own borough, for instance, we depend critically on organisations such as Family Action, which runs programmes for young carers and West London Action for Children, which does much to help those who have been victims of abuse. Axing the voluntary sector budget has sometimes been the first response of local councils facing financial constraints. Yet at election time, councils stand or fall on their ability to deliver excellent services cost-effectively-a challenge which the sector is uniquely placed to help them meet. We neglect it at our peril.
We must also recognise that even in the best of times, the state will never have sufficient resources to meet the full needs and aspirations of the young. We must help the sector generate income through social enterprise, facilitate partnerships with the business world and inspire a new age of philanthropy in Britain. This means looking at new forms of partnership between
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Building the big society will also require the energies of the entire voluntary sector. Many of the organisations which make most difference to the lives of the young are faith-based and they need fair access to funding. The charitable sector in Britain has its roots in the church and today, from the Church of England Children's Society to the youth workers in thousands of churches across Britain, there are men and women who are inspired by faith to help the young make more of their lives. The state cannot fund proselytism, but we can and we should work more closely with faith-based organisations which deliver the outcomes that we are looking for, without necessarily expecting them to mask their identity to secure funding.
I turn next to the challenge of regulation. We must recognise that those who are inspired to give their time to the voluntary sector have their hearts in service delivery and campaigning, not in regulatory compliance and bureaucracy. So I wish my noble friend Lord Hodgson well in his mission to help the Government identify ways in which we can make it easier to establish and run charities.
Of course, obligations run both ways. The current difficult times require a response from the sector in delivering services cost-effectively. For instance, do we really need an estimated 72,000 charities to be working and involved with children and young people? Openness to sharing services, to better partnership working and to mergers where the case is proven must form part of the sector's response to a new partnership with government. Charities also need to guard against mission drift, by which I mean the danger of losing sight of the very vision and passion with which they were created as they tailor their activities to the dictates of government programmes.
Finally, I feel that we should stop seeing children and young people as passive recipients of services. We should encourage them-as, indeed, the sector is doing-to exercise real leadership in their lives. We have 12 million people under the age of 18. They are key citizens in our communities, with both the desire and the capacity to help shape their local areas and even society as a whole. They want to learn through doing, to take responsibility and to make their own mark positively. This has been a particular objective of the National Children's Bureau, which I am proud to serve as a volunteer, pursued through its lead role in the National Participation Forum. Research undertaken by the forum shows that much progress has been made in children's involvement in decision-making. I cite but two examples: Youth4U has enabled young people to shape local service provision and delivery, and the Disabled children's manifesto for changehas demonstrated how an often-overlooked and excluded group can shape and influence policy.
I believe passionately that if we can but mobilise the full energies of those charities working with the young, we will free a new generation from the curses of addiction, isolation and hopelessness. If we can go further and release the ambition and the capacity of our young people to lead, the big society will move powerfully from rhetoric to reality.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, we have had a galaxy of new talent on display this afternoon from right across the political firmament, a veritable aurora borealis of political speeches. It gives me the greatest pleasure to congratulate my noble friend on her distinguished maiden speech. She and I have had the pleasure of working together for many years. I know first hand of her contribution to the charitable and voluntary sector, which she described in most modest terms. She has contributed to the alleviation of child poverty and to youth crime prevention and education. In her role as a senior councillor in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, she headed up family services and children's services, thereby coming into contact with many of the issues that have formed some of the most sensitive topics that we are discussing today. Thoughtful, considerate and sympathetic she certainly is, but there is also a hint of steel. She will be no pushover in your Lordships' House, which is as it should be. I am sure that we will hear many more distinguished contributions from her.
I need to declare an interest. I am president of NCVO-many speakers have referred to the contribution of our chief executive, Sir Stuart Etherington, who manfully sat through 20 of our speeches earlier today before the attractions of the bar proved, I think, too strong. I am also chair of the Armed Forces Charities Advisory Committee. Having listened to 21 speeches, it is clear to me that there is an understanding in all parts of the House of the value of the charitable and voluntary sector, so I do not propose to go over those general points again save in one respect. As some noble Lords have remarked, most charitable and voluntary groups are very small. The Charity Commission records that more than 80 per cent of registered charities have an income of below £10,000 per annum. The level at which annual income has to be recorded is £5,000-above that level, registration is required. During the passage of the Charities Act in your Lordships' House, we argued strongly that we should not have a £5,000 level. We argued it in particular because the Cabinet Office taskforce which set the whole Bill rolling with its report, Private Action, Public Benefit, suggested a £10,000 minimum. We have a quinquennial review, as my noble friend Lord Taylor has said. When we have that review, I hope that we will do something to raise that level.
This is not just about red tape; these charities and voluntary groups have their primary emphasis on the delivery of services. Administration not only diverts precious time and money but can result in the leaders of the group, particularly of smaller groups, becoming overconfident form-fillers rather than competent service providers. In the words of one report, the organisation can become "process perfect but outcome deficient".
However, we are discussing a huge movement. Those who have seen the Charity Commission briefing will have seen the last four charities that it registered-Redditch Nightstop, Hunsley Christian Youth Trust, Liverpool North District Scout Council and Thorpe Bay University of the Third Age. That shows how the charity movement touches every part of our lives in every part of the country. It will play a critical role in the development of the big society because it is flexible and responsive to local needs. What works in Shrewsbury will not work in Sheffield; what works in Bradford will not work in Bournemouth. While I appreciate and understand the role of the state as a universal provider, being a universal provider inevitably makes you something of a one-club golfer.
So much for the big picture; in the few minutes that I have left, I shall focus on just two points: the red tape taskforce that I have been asked to chair, and time and money-the essential ingredients, the petrol and oil, which fuel voluntary organisations. As my noble friend said, the taskforce has been asked to make recommendations to reduce the bureaucratic burden on small organisations, especially in the charitable, voluntary and social enterprise sector. We are a small group-just six-because we want to achieve focus, but we represent charities, voluntary groups and small businesses. I like to think that we have a reasonably extensive bandwidth of political representation as well.
That leads me to an important point. One person who has given us evidence said that this issue is "too important to be left to politicians". That is not fair, because politicians have the capacity to give wing to these ideas and aspirations-or not, as the case may be. I think that what he really meant were the twin dangers, referred to in previous debates, of this sector becoming a political football and of politicians, and perhaps the media, too, sometimes playing up and overemphasising risks and dangers in the sector to sell newspapers or to make a TV programme attractive to watch.
There will be failures and setbacks-there probably ought to be if our voluntary sector is vibrant and edgy-but they need to be set in context. Of course, accidents are terrible; of course, one understands the reaction of anguished parents, families and friends and their asking for regulations to prevent another occurrence of a particular event. However, one needs to ask in all humility: will the proposed regulation prevent the next accident or are we merely shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted? Will the regulation merely shift the risk? For example, a child not going on a school trip may play football in the street and be injured there. Will the regulation prevent the provision of a service which will potentially enrich the lives of many people, both the recipient and the provider? My noble friend Lord Taylor referred to trust. We need to have trust, judgment and responsibility uppermost in our mind when we come to look at the regulatory and bureaucratic burden that we put on our small charities and voluntary groups.
Noble Lords will not need me to tell them that there is no silver bullet for this issue; it is a subject with a high degree of granularity, inch by inch, yard by yard, not just regulatory but attitudinal. Voluntary groups like to complain about regulations but often seek to
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One consequence of being appointed to the taskforce was that I was interviewed by "Newsnight" on Hastings beach in front of a Punch and Judy stall in a high wind. So high was the wind that when the BBC kindly brought out tea and biscuits, the biscuits blew away. I had an opportunity to talk to the Punch and Judy man. I will not weary the House with the bureaucratic nightmare that he finds himself in, but he said that the show, which includes Mr Punch, Judy and the crocodile, which eats someone along the way, historically has as its law enforcer-the Punch and Judy movement is now 350 years old, first recorded by Samuel Pepys in 1662-the Beadle. The Punch and Judy man said, "Of course, no one understands what a Beadle is now, so I call him the health and safety inspector, and he always gets a laugh".
I turn to time and money: first, time. We may not all be financially rich but we all have 24 hours in our day. The statistics from the NCVO state that 26 per cent of people volunteer once per month and 41 per cent volunteer once per year. What can we do to increase those numbers? That is a key question that our taskforce is seeking to address: what stops people volunteering? Is it the intrusive nature of the paperwork? Is it their inability to find a way to link up with a charity? Is it the conditions of their employment: that they have no time? Is it the social attitudes among their peer group? Especially, what stops young people volunteering? A very interesting paper has just been issued by the Charity Commission on the shortage of young people as trustees, to which my noble friend Lady Bottomley referred.
Finally, I turn to money. We need to do more to encourage the creation of grant-giving foundations. My noble friend Lady Ritchie referred to that in her remarks. Individuals who have made substantial sums of money should be encouraged to set up foundations. It will be said that they can give such money via gift aid, and so they can, but it is not quite the same. A foundation can provide sustained, year-on-year giving, often for leading-edge and/or unpopular causes, important issues of public policy that do not immediately tag at the heartstrings. Why are those foundations not appearing in sufficient numbers? There are issues of administrative and tax complexity. There are issues of legal requirements imposed by the Trustee Act. There is public exposure to adverse publicity. One of my more intelligent American friends said, "The British disease is not idleness, it is envy". People fear that if they have a foundation, they will be written about and receive adverse publicity about their activities. Then there are social attitudes, possibly fewer now, by which it is somehow vulgar to have a foundation which carries your name.
To such people, I say only that Oxford University is a world-class university. The Oxford University library is called the Bodleian Library. It was founded and financed by Sir Thomas Bodley in 1598, and the university museum at Oxford, the Ashmolean, the first university museum in the world, was set up by Elias Ashmole in 1677. We have a long history of charitable
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Lord Beecham: My Lords, for a new Member of your Lordships' House, learning how to navigate its geography and its procedures is the parliamentary equivalent of a novice London cabbie doing the knowledge, so I add my thanks to those of other new Members to the officials of the House: universally efficient, helpful, courteous and, in my case at least, patient beyond any reasonable expectation.
In another place, it is customary for new Members to extol the virtues of those to whose place they have succeeded and the constituency that they represent. Like most Members of this House, I do not have any predecessors. Indeed, in a long local government career, my antecedents-especially my paternity-have often been called into question. However, like the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, and the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, I have a constituency, because I, like them, am a serving councillor. I am not sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, who was the second leader after me but one, was sent to keep an eye on me or me to keep an eye on him, but at least we can provide each other with a pair as and when required.
I represent a ward in the west end of Newcastle, Benwell and Scotswood ward, which I have represented, albeit on different boundaries-derived, I may say, after due process involving extensive consultation and inquiry-for 43 years. It is among the 10 per cent most deprived wards in England, notwithstanding significant investment in recent years. I view the subject of this debate through the prism of the area which I represent and as someone engaged with a number of charities and voluntary organisations, local and national, listed in the register-although, I am bound to admit, often in a capacity more ornamental than useful.
The ward I represent has a population of about 12,000 people, and within it I can count 20 different distinct geographical communities and many different communities of interest defined by housing tenure, age, gender, faith, ethnicity or employment status-interests which may sometimes compete or even conflict, and which ultimately require to be mediated. That is one of the roles of local government. Although poor in economic terms-albeit with some areas more comfortably off within it-the ward is rich in organisations. Some are formal charities with paid staff; others are informal and rely on volunteers, bringing to the provision of local services and the championship of that community the intrinsic virtues of the charitable and voluntary sector: local knowledge and engagement, innovative approaches and, perhaps, a disposition to be less risk-averse than the statutory services tend to be.
Within the area, we have tenants' and residents' groups, friends of local parks, a community health project, credit unions, welfare rights organisations,
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However, it is a plain fact that while social capital is available in the community, finance simply is not. A sample of 11 significant organisations in the area has shown that collectively they have an income of about £2 million a year. Of that, £1.4 million comes in grants from the city council, the Government, the National Health Service or other national organisations of that kind; £450,000 comes from trusts; £85,000 from the lottery; and £76,000 from the local community-that is to say, 4 per cent from within the area itself, which is not very surprising given the nature of its socio-economic profile. So the voluntary and community sector in that ward is critically dependent on external and, in effect, statutory funding for the continuation of its activities. We must not lose sight of that.
That is equally true across the city as a whole. In Newcastle, we have 2,200 voluntary and community groups that employ the equivalent of 5,000 full-time employees, so they play a significant part in the local economy as well as delivering services. As has already been mentioned, demand is increasing as a result of the recession at the same time that income is falling for these organisations. Many of them have already sustained in-year cuts that have caused problems across a range of services. In fairness to the city council, which is in a political control that I am not entirely comfortable with, it has drawn down on reserves to make good some of the cuts that have been imposed this year on government programmes in the city, but it will not be able to do that next year. An example is the cuts in the migration fund, which has affected two organisations in the ward that I represent to the extent of £70,000 this year, and their future is now very much in question. There is real concern on the financial side among organisations that are delivering the service. There is concern not only about those organisations but about organisations such as the Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service, of which I am a vice-president, which provides support, back-up and a voice for the sector. I was particularly pleased to hear the Minister refer to that kind of organisation as ones that the Government would seek to support. It is crucial that they should do so.
To describe this kaleidoscope of different organisations as a big society is perhaps to use the wrong adjective because it seems to me to reflect the small society of the particular and the local. We will shortly learn just how tight the financial parameters will be within which statutory and non-statutory services and organisations
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The sector clearly has an important role in a mixed economy of provision as well as in advocacy. That role is often governed by contracts, and I hope that the voluntary sector is not seen as a way of delivering services more cheaply, particularly at the expense of its employees. I recall one case in my own authority in which home help services were outsourced to charitable organisations paying barely above the minimum wage, compared with the not-very-princely sum of £7 an hour that the city council was paying. I do not think that the sector looks to perform that kind of role. On the other hand, procurement processes should facilitate the role of the sector by ensuring that contracts are not too large or long to be accessible to smaller organisations. If we want to encourage them to participate, we ought to provide for that.
In the past few years, I have been privileged to attend the annual Compact meetings, originally initiated by my noble friend Lord Filkin, and have there suggested that the sector needs to engage in the scrutiny of public services and needs to be subject to scrutiny because accountability is surely a two-way street. I have suggested that there should be further promotion of peer review in the sector. It has been very successful in local government. I welcome the partnership improvement programme, which has brought together senior officers from councils and the third sector. It has accredited people from the sector to serve with council peers, assisting councils in their review processes. Places have been made available on leadership training courses, and there is scope to build on the work of organisations such as Common Purpose and to encourage secondments between the sector and the public sector. We clearly need to bring them together. Support for the sector does not and must not imply conflict between the sector and the public sector in general, especially local government. We need to promote synergy between the two, bringing together civil society and civic society in the interests of the community and good governance.
Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: I congratulate my noble friend Lord Beecham on his maiden speech. We heard of the Geordie element that runs through his life. I thought it ran through the whole of his life, but I discovered that, rather like Moses, who was discovered in a basket at the age of two, he was two when he entered the city that has so benefited from his talents. He is also learned in the law, a great family man and, above all, despite his-if he will forgive me-slightly diminutive physical stature, he is undoubtedly Mr Big in local government. He led Newcastle with great distinction for nearly 20 years and then went on to take his passion for local government to the national level and was instrumental in bringing together the AMA, the ADC and the ACC, which those of us who have been around for a long time with remember, into the Local Government Association, which is the very
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"We consider that the voluntary spirit is the very lifeblood of democracy ... We are convinced that voluntary organisations have rendered, are rendering and must... continue to render great and indispensable service to the community [Official Report, 22/6/49; col. 119.]".
Since that year of my birth, charities have continued in their work, and I have been a long-standing trustee and employee in the charitable sector. I declare an interest as a past chair and current trustee of the Camden Alcohol Services Agency. I was a founder member of the Association of Chief Executives of National Voluntary Organisations and I was either the chief executive or worked for Alcohol Concern, the Pelican Cancer Foundation and our country's largest charity, the Wellcome Trust. I say that to give noble Lords my credentials before I go on to say other things.
In my early years, I was a great fan of Titmuss and continue to be so. In The Gift Relationship, he sets out his belief that altruism is morally sound and economically efficient. Titmuss thought that a competitive, materialist and acquisitive society-I do not know what he was referring to-ignores at its peril the life-giving impulse towards altruism that is needed for welfare in the most fundamental sense. The Gift Relationship is about blood donation. Those who have read it will remember that Titmuss thought blood donation exemplified the ethical socialism he believed in and the political sense that the voluntary donation of blood is the most fundamental representation of human beings because they give in the purest form without any anticipation of reward. Like one and a half million other citizens, I give my blood in that way. However, I think that Titmuss's ideal was wrong in three ways. First, even with blood, although we are voluntary, unpaid donors, the substructure of staffing, transport, cleansing and testing is provided by paid professional staff. Secondly, as Robert Louis Stevenson said, charity,
Thirdly, another problem about charitable giving is that it tends to support rather popular causes, such as animals, babies and cuddly things, and what are seen as deserving causes. When I was trying to raise money for Alcohol Concern, I used to think that I had a difficult problem. But I was complaining about it one day and someone who was raising money for incontinence pads for the elderly said that I knew nothing. It is
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I fully support-how could I not when I have described my own charitable background?-the marshalling of altruistic causes and the contribution of charitable giving to help produce a better, stronger society. CASA is a small charity in Kentish Town, of which I am a trustee, which looks after people with drink problems. For a mere £800,000 a year we work with more than 800 individuals. One third becomes abstinent; another third retains abstinence; and one person in five reduces their intake. We are doing that for just £1,000 per client, which is probably the cost of one night in a hospital bed. Another local charity, the Coram Foundation, started in adoption and had its origins in charitable work. Today, although local authorities do much of that, Coram helps to place some of the most vulnerable children and has one of the highest success rates.
Finally, Community Service Volunteers uses about 200,000 volunteers aged between five and 105. It supports ageing and disabled people to stay in their own homes or to go to university. It helps to feed people in hospital, particularly those who are frail and elderly. It has a lovely system of "grand mentoring" for those aged 50-plus, as well as putting volunteers into general practice.
Clem Attlee was right when he attacked the idea that looking after the poor can be left to voluntary action. He said that if a rich man wants to help the poor, he should pay his taxes gladly and not dole out money at whim. He believed that the state should look after its poorest citizens. Rather as Howard Glennerster looked at the Conservatives after the war when they were worried about the move to a welfare state with benefits available to all and the tax cost of that, I wonder whether we are now reverting to see the same in this Government.
Yes, we want to use the voluntary sector and we know how effective it can be in all sorts of ways. But it can be effective only with an infrastructure of people who clean premises, those who do auditing and accounting, and those who pay the staff and do all the administrative stuff. Without grants being available for that, and with the cuts that are coming, we will see that charities which could be best at responding locally will not be able to do so. I fear that as local authorities slash their funding, the first thing they will do is look at their grants to charities and say, "That is an easy one". All that will undermine what happens.
While the big society has been inspiring and we want charities to help, the big society vision of the Government will depend not just on civic action but on organised civic action; that is, a professional and well organised third sector. Yet it is this sector which is likely to be most hit by public sector cuts. The charitable sector can strengthen civil society only if it itself is strengthened. Are the Government up for that?
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, on arranging this early debate on such an important issue. From the
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Two things about this appalling economic situation we all face give me some degree of comfort. First, there seems to be a growing acceptance at last that we need a different and more successful value-for-money approach in dealing with our social problems, and not least in penal policy. The second, as many noble Lords have already stressed, is that the practice and organisation of that approach should be as locally based as possible.
Future plans will need to fit within the Government's big society, which is still a somewhat puzzling concept. I have to agree here with the noble Baroness, Lady Wall of New Barnet, who has sadly just left her place. She chose a quote from the excellent briefing from the Library, which I chose myself but will not repeat. But I would stress the NCVO's words,
It is as well to remember that many of the responsibilities that the Government accept today were started in Victorian times as charitable efforts. Today, the initiative is still as likely to come from the voluntary sector, while requiring some significant help from the Government-probably local more than central. It is in those circumstances that the NCVO's Sir Stuart Etherington-I declare an interest as a member of its advisory body-is clearly concerned about the difficulty of achieving that in the face of these funding cuts. As many noble Lords have stressed, cuts are already having a serious effect, particularly on the most vulnerable and deprived people who receive the services of that sector. How then would it be best to manage the distribution of such public sector and other funding that may be available? That will be crucial.
It is the value-for-money issue and the need particularly at this time to prioritise the actions that can produce the best long-term results that I want to urge on Her Majesty's Government. There is a need to cut costly bureaucracy drastically and to reduce overregulation of risk taking, which should be done ruthlessly. Who would be against it? But far greater long-term savings can be achieved if more emphasis is placed by civil society on, for example, early support for those children living in deprived or chaotic families to ensure that they do not end up as yet another product of Keith Joseph's 37 year-old cycle of deprivation in the criminal justice system. The Prison Reform Trust's recent publication, Punishing Disadvantage, illustrates graphically the widespread disadvantages and unstable lives of so many of those imprisoned for the first time.
The Justice Secretary, the right honourable Kenneth Clarke, is, I hope, moving in the right direction for future offenders with plans for far fewer offenders to be remanded or imprisoned, especially for offences
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Another issue, and one particularly relevant to community action in order to keep youngsters out of prison, is the availability and circulation of information about what current schemes are working successfully. Each community needs to decide what will work best for it, but there are now many examples of alternative action which remain relatively unknown. What is needed is sensible compiling and, above all, some form of national visibility. One example among many strikes me as very positive. As we have just heard, the Government are going to set up a national citizens service that will run volunteer training camps for 16 year-olds. But why start as late as that? Why not get the volunteering instinct embedded much earlier?
Summer Camps, an inspiration started years ago by Chris Green and chaired by my noble friend Lady Warnock, run several camps in the summer holidays for a mix of youngsters from eight years old, all from different schools and backgrounds. They are an excellent example of this kind of approach. With my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham, I visited one this year at Hatherop Castle that was run by my noble friend Lady Warnock's own daughter, a teacher who has been involved for all the years that the camps have existed. However, most of the leaders of the sub-groups had also themselves been enrolled children and were quite brilliant at handling and inspiring the very full range of activities we observed. To cap it all, my noble friend's own daughter's daughter, herself now aged eight, was able for the first time to be a full camp member and quite obviously loved every moment.
The scheme is a brilliant advert for big society-type action, and reminds me of another volunteering example. I refer to the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, a huge and impressive yearly week-long event that has been going since 1947, and which for the past five years has been chaired superbly by Terry Waite. It is run by no more than seven paid staff but is supported by no fewer than 600 volunteers, many of whom return year after year, with the majority taking their annual summer holiday to do so. Surely, that is the big society in action.
Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, I echo the comments of others who have expressed their gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for securing this debate. It is timely for two reasons. First, when we hear a lot about the Government's flagship, the big society, it is helpful to discuss exactly what the Government mean by that. Secondly, the contributions that we have
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The starting point for today's debate is that neither the concept nor the actions of the big society are new, and I share the concern that "good society" might have been a better title. But if the definition of a big society is one that tries to engage with and contribute in some way to strengthening communities and specifically to seek greater engagement with people who may feel marginalised, this has been ongoing for some considerable time. That does not mean that there is no room for expansion and improvement, but we need to be clear that while charities, the voluntary community sector, social enterprises, co-operatives and mutuals must play their part, it is not their responsibility to create the big society.
I should like to touch on three issues. First, what is the role of the third sector? In the Labour Government, my final ministerial role was as a Cabinet Office Minister and the Minister for the Third Sector, which has now been replaced by the Office for Civil Society. I think that we on the Labour Benches can take huge pride in the support and opportunities we provided to the sector and the role that it was able to play in civil society. I am also very proud of the partnership that we had with the sector as a whole, and I am pleased to see that the present Government have not thrown all that away but are building on some of the important work that we did.
From service delivery to volunteering to co-operatives and social enterprises, I met people with such a commitment to their work that I was genuinely inspired by what they achieved. I recall going to Blackpool to meet representatives of an organisation that sought out jobs and gave support in those jobs to people with severe learning disabilities to ensure that they could play their role in society. I visited another organisation, Crossroads Care in Waveney, which supports carers who often care for those with Alzheimer's. It was interesting to see that people who had cared for their loved ones throughout their lives came back as volunteers to contribute even more.
It seems that everyone instinctively thinks that charities and the voluntary sector are good-they seem to be appreciated-but it is not until we see the depth and breadth of what they achieve and what they can do that we fully appreciate the massive contribution that they make. These organisations and so many others make a real difference to the lives of individuals and to strengthening communities, but I fear that their initial excitement at the Government's championing of the big society is turning somewhat to nervousness as they see the likelihood of a greater demand for their services and a decrease in funding. The Government face a real challenge in ensuring that the big society does not just become empty rhetoric or a buzzword, but something that we can all support and play a part in. We should see the contribution that is already being made at national and local levels as something on which we can build.
In the Government's drive for what it calls a smaller state, is it expected that these kinds of organisations should have to pick up services that are no longer
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It seems that there is a tension between the Treasury view of the third sector and charities as a service delivery sector doing more for less, with payment by results, and the vision of the big society or a good society that is more about the wider engagement of all sections of society. I refer to that tension because as well as providing services and supporting people, these organisations also need to be advocates and campaigners, a point that has been referred to by others in the Chamber this evening. The Government should only ever see this as helpful and part of civil society engagement, even if it is not always welcome. It does not mean that every organisation is necessarily involved in political campaigning or politics-the noble Lord, Lord Rix, gave the example of Mencap being able to engage in the wider issues and make changes to legislation, which is extremely important-but if they have ideas and suggestions about how policies could be changed or tweaked to improve them, they have a duty and an obligation to say so. It would be ridiculous if an organisation dealing with homeless people that had suggestions for how housing benefit could be improved or arguments for why any proposed changes should not be made were prevented in any way from making them.
I was encouraged by the Minister's comment that more engagement was required that would lead to social action, but Governments cannot define the limits of that engagement, and advocacy and campaigning are of great concern, so it would be helpful if he could offer the reassurance that no organisation will be prevented from being anything other than entirely open and will not face a threat to any funding it receives from the Government.
The second issue is that of funding. We all understand that the Government consider the deficit to be the most important issue. While no one doubts the need to reduce spending to deal with the deficit, there is considerable disagreement about the scale and the speed of the reduction, and the level of impact that is acceptable. The impact on the very sector that the Government want to do more for civil society is enormous. I was encouraged when the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, talked about the infrastructure organisations, but NAVCA, the very organisation that supports them, has seen a cut of 50 per cent in its staff at head office. They are important people who support the sector at the grass-roots level.
We need to look at the scale of the cuts that some organisations are facing because they are quite alarming. We heard today about the NCVO survey, but the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services is trying
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Grants are only part of the income of the sector-contracts and fundraising make up other parts-but there are serious consequences to cuts in grants; they are not pain-free. The Government need to undertake an assessment of the impact of these cuts. ACEVO has written to George Osborne and the Treasury and, supported by 100 organisations throughout the voluntary sector, has offered to look at the situation and work with the Government on where the cuts would have the least possible impact.
I should like to say something briefly about volunteering, which partly fits into the concept of the big society, civil society and good society. Society is strengthened by the work of volunteers, whether as trustees for charities, the WRVS or conservation volunteers, in many ways. Not only does it provide direct help to those organisations but it provides skills and confidence to the volunteer, and many potential employers now look for volunteering as part of a CV. Volunteering England estimated the value of volunteering in 2005 as more than £48 billion.
However, I share the concerns expressed to me by the WRVS, Volunteering England and others that volunteering is not cost-free. Any individual may give their time freely but there are costs involved in training, expenses, management and recruitment and in matching the volunteer to the right kind of position in an organisation. The WRVS is rightly concerned that to cut the investment in volunteering runs the risk of undermining much of what it and other organisations do, for example in the field of social care. Other organisations give similar examples of the immense value of their volunteers; the volunteer is free but the organisation bears a cost in organising their work.
We need to recognise that the responsibility for the Government's big society and civil engagement rests with all of us and not on the shoulders of charities and the voluntary sector as much as it has, although they will continue to play a major role. If we are serious about encouraging and strengthening civil engagement, the Government need to work with charities and the wider third sector and support them in the work that they do. If they do not, we will be in danger of losing momentum, and the consequence could be that we would lose the very engagement that we seek.
Speaking where I do in the list, I can comment on the high quality as well as the large quantity of maiden speeches today. It is a privilege to speak in the same debate. Of those who have spoken, my noble friend Lady Benjamin mentioned that great Trinidadian, Learie Constantine. My family knew him and perhaps in this corner of the Chamber I am nearest to his grave, whence I thought I caught the distant whisper of a cheer.
I declare interests as the initiator of two trusts conducted under the admirable umbrella of the CAF, one for lay causes and one for ecclesiastical. I have also been a trustee for an average of 14 years each of a random set of half a dozen charities involved in archaeology and economic development in the Andes; a literary shrine in Cumbria-perhaps the best buttressed in the world in terms of original manuscripts; training in architectural conservation; the creation of a monument to extinct species, with a separate carved tablet for each species; a charity sustained by alumni, both male and female, of my old school, who inevitably take a keen interest in current controversies; and, finally, the Churches Conservation Trust, which is publicly funded by both church and state, one of whom I had once privately to remind that there were two income streams, not one.
Circumstantial evidence in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, suggests that, in a similar way, both the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford and my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach had some hand in the welcome sponsoring of this valuable debate. I say quietly in support of the right reverend Prelate's statistics that, in the UK Giving combined research for the Charities Aid Foundation, the NCVO and the Office for National Statistics, religious charities take the largest generic share of the total amount of income donated and lead the table for both individual mean and medium monthly donations, even though, of course, medical research, hospitals and hospices and children and young people have the three largest numbers of supporters.
Speaking two-thirds of the way down the batting order, much of what might be said is likely to have been said, but knowing that such debates are treated as quarries after the event, I shall try to add some things that I do not think have specifically yet been said. They will have the same randomness as the trusts of which I have been a trustee.
First, in the UK Giving-the research grouping I mentioned earlier-overview for 2008-09, the final key finding of six was that the uptake of gift aid for small donations remains poor. Only once has a one-off beneficiary of action by me ever sent me a confirmation of the gift. I give credit for this to St Matthew, Bayswater, a church which the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Arts and Heritage visited on its annual outing. At the risk of sounding bureaucratic, I think that gift-aided small donations would grow if the donor were reminded in this way, and the beneficiary might make better subsequent use of the names and addresses of those well disposed towards it.
Secondly, it should be a matter of pride for us that in the Charities Aid Foundation's World Giving Index for 2010, of 153 countries, the UK comes eighth, with Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States ahead of us in their respective continents, and Ireland,
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Thirdly, there was a reference to discrepancies between earlier speeches and the briefings we were receiving. While valuing all the briefing, it is worth remarking that the Charity Commission's survey shows that three times the number of respondents believe that they or their family have used the services of a charity once they are told what charities do, whereas the UK Giving research group puts the factor at six times in the same circumstances. If in this golfing week we settle for a compromise of four and a half times, it still suggests that in these times charities could collectively raise their game in publicising the services that they charitably render to us all.
Finally, CS Lewis once remarked that when you heard of someone going around doing good to others, you could always tell the others by their hunted look. That may be true of an individual but not of individuals gathered together in a charitable cause. They are a collective force to which any Minister would be sensible to be responsive, to the ultimate good of us all.
Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, I join other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, for bringing forward this Motion for debate, and I congratulate those noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches today.
Charities play an essential role in strengthening civil society by, among other things, raising public awareness through their campaigns, informing and influencing decision makers and taking on the provision of services and the funding of research. Public trust and confidence in charities is high and the sector deserves our support.
In this debate I want to talk about Diabetes UK and the work that it does. The charity has more than 170,000 members and is one of the largest patient organisations in Europe. With more than 2 million people currently diagnosed with the condition in the UK and an estimated 500,000 people who have the condition but are not aware of it, it is something that needs to be taken seriously by everyone. I have first-hand experience of the work that it does: I am a diabetic, a member of the charity and I declare an interest.
Diabetes UK campaigns in a number of areas to improve the lives of people with diabetes. Despite examples of good care, children with diabetes do not always get the care that they should and they can face discrimination and even bullying. The children's charter reports on the issues affecting children and young people with diabetes, their demands and those of their parents, carers and healthcare professionals.
Diabetes UK launched a petition for people to show their support for better emotional and medical care and improved support for children with diabetes. I was shocked to learn that, depending on where they live, some children with type 1 diabetes are denied an
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To mark World Diabetes Day 2010, Diabetes UK will be launching a campaign and report on 15 November to improve the lives of older people with diabetes in care homes. It is estimated that as many as one in four care and nursing home residents in England has diabetes. Residents with the condition have a high prevalence of vascular complications, are more susceptible to infections and are more likely to be hospitalised compared with people with diabetes who are still able to live independently. Diabetes UK has produced a report to illustrate what needs to be done to assess and manage people with diabetes in the residential care setting.
Many people find it difficult, at times, to get their voice heard about decisions or issues that affect their lives. Diabetes UK's advocacy service provides advocacy to people with diabetes as well as friends, families and carers. The advocacy service prioritises people who may be potentially vulnerable. The Diabetes UK Careline is the only dedicated diabetes helpline in the UK. The confidential helpline is staffed by trained counsellors who can provide information on living with diabetes as well as time to talk things through. Here are just a few examples of the questions that are often asked: "I've just been diagnosed with diabetes. What should I do now?"; "I'm finding it difficult to cope and accept the diagnosis. What can I and can I not eat?"; "What are the different types of tablets and insulin?"; "How and when should I be tested?"; "What is the law about driving?". Not everyone has a specific query. Some will call simply to talk things through about their concerns and how they are feeling.
The charity is one of the largest funders of diabetes research in the UK, which includes research into cause and prevention, care and treatment, and finding a cure. It has awarded two new RD Lawrence fellowships to outstanding researchers to develop their skills and independence as future leaders in diabetes research. Dr Maja Wallberg will be studying the process in which the body mistakenly attacks its own insulin-producing beta cells in type 1 diabetes. She aims to further our understanding of how our bodies normally counter this immune response, and ultimately she aims to find a new way to protect beta cells. Dr G Mabilleau will also be investigating the molecular mechanisms behind Charcot Foot-a painful complication of diabetes that is often difficult to diagnose and treat-and hopes to develop new treatments for the condition.
By 2025, it is estimated that over 4 million people will have diabetes-a serious condition that causes heart disease, stroke, amputations, kidney failure and blindness. Diabetes UK is working to make the lives of people living with diabetes better and to find a cure. That, I am sure, is something that everyone in this House supports and a fine example of how charities strengthen civil society.
Lord Chorley: My Lords, we have indeed a long list of speakers, but I am not surprised given the huge range of expertise in this place and the major role that
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First, please do not overload the sector, please do not expect too much of it and please have regard to its limitations in both personnel and capacity-points that have all been made by many previous speakers. Secondly, I make a very different point: the charitable sector, both as a doer and as a source of funds, is very much wider than social services and local community activities. The sector covers education; it also covers our national heritage, the arts, the environment, landscape protection and preservation, scientific and social research-one could go on. That is surely the beauty of the breadth of definition of charitable activities which are subject to tax relief. Nevertheless, that wider aspect of the charity sector has hardly been touched on this afternoon. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who spoke about the environment, and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, who talked more about the arts and heritage, were the only two speakers who have, as it were, gone beyond the social services.
My own interests lie, as your Lordships will probably have gathered by now, entirely in heritage and the natural environment, and I declare a number of interests. I was chairman of the National Trust for six years, but that was 15 years ago. I am a vice-president of the Council for the Protection of Rural England and the Friends of the Lake District. I am a former deputy chairman of the British Council and was a president of the Royal Geographical Society. I will stop at that point. I mention in particular the National Trust because it now has nearly 3.8 million members and hopes to achieve 5 million by 2020. When I was chairman, we thought we were doing pretty well when we got up to 2 million. It is also the biggest private landowner in England and Wales and it remains resolutely private-that is its strength-but can claim back tax on covenanted subscriptions and gifts on death of property of national importance, while the necessary endowment funds do not attract inheritance tax. These tax arrangements are crucial to the work of the trust, which is probably the largest volunteering organisation in the country.
In thinking of what I wanted to say this afternoon, the Library dug out for me some fascinating statistics. They show-this comes as no surprise-that the USA as a country has far the biggest charitable sector, both absolutely and as a percentage of GDP. The latter is 1.7 per cent and, given its huge GDP, the sums involved are enormous. Then there is a big gap; the UK comes in next at 0.73 per cent. There is another big gap below us and then we have a cluster of European countries. The interesting point is that the reason for this second gap is not absolutely clear to me except that, certainly in some countries, there are limitations on tax deductibility. Possibly history, definitions and tradition have something to do with it. Be that as it may, we should be very careful not to damage the British charity sector by ill thought-out tax changes or other legislative changes. I suspect there is a danger here in the education sector, where some schools recently lost their charitable status.
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On a more serious note, I must draw attention-as indeed a number of other speakers have-to the Charities Aid Foundation, which has made the whole business of giving to a charitable organisation so much easier. Whoever thought of the CAF deserves a really big medal. Perhaps they got it; I hope so. While I am giving out bouquets I must mention our former Prime Minister, John Major. As the noble Lord, Lord Waldegrave, reminded us in the Times last week, it was he who invented the National Lottery and coupled it with setting up the Heritage Lottery Fund. As the noble Lord put it so succinctly, he has been the greatest of all British patrons of the arts in the late 20th century. Nor should we forget the resurrection of Lord Dalton's proposals from the late 1940s with the setting up by the noble Lord, Lord St John of Fawsley, of the National Heritage Memorial Fund in 1980 and the work of its first chairman, Lord Charteris.
The Government are right to recognise the important role of the charitable sector in strengthening civil society, but I would be happier if they saw that sector as being wider than the social services as traditionally described. I hope that the Minister could endorse that. Either way, I also hope that he will accept the following three points or propositions.
First, on the funding barrier, charities such as the National Trust or the Campaign for National Parks are ready to rise to this challenge, but there is one significant barrier to the strengthening of civil society: funding. Spending cuts are going to be felt far beyond just the public sector. Cuts to grants will affect the future of some charities; in fact this is already happening. Yes, charities may be up for the challenge but they need robust financial support behind them. Secondly, the big society, from passionate individuals to large land-owning charities, is already doing much of the work involved in safeguarding and promoting the natural environment. Many of these non-state endeavours will continue to depend on state funding, but charity help on the cheap is not a viable alternative to a well funded sector. Thirdly and finally, this is not a panacea. The big society is attaining somewhat of a mythical status and being lauded by Ministers as a possible saviour to a wide range of challenges, including environmental ones. However it is very important that it does not cloud some of the challenging issues that, for example, Defra will need to grapple with in taking forward the natural environment White Paper, such as failing biodiversity or the disengagement of young people with the outdoors, both of which will need a national strategic approach and co-ordination. A strengthened civil society can help to meet these challenges, but only with a strong lead from Government and an adequately funded public sector.
Lord Best: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for enabling us to have this amazing debate. As the 29th speaker, with so much brilliant material and seven wonderful maiden speeches behind me, I have discounted my carefully prepared speech and tried to think of something new to say. I shall pick up on a phrase that no one has yet used but which chimes with the theme of strengthening civil society-social capital, the link between charitable and voluntary activity and the building up of social capital.
The idea of social capital builds on the same notion. The concept dates from a 1916 article by one LJ Hanifan about support for rural schools in America. He talked about the value of people doing things together and building up a reservoir of strength and mutual support within local communities. He said that,
The concept of social capital became famous in the 1990s with Robert Putnam's book, Bowling Alone, which highlights the decline of people acting together and instead watching TV and playing video games at home, with the demise along the way of the bowling clubs in the USA. That all means that communities cannot call on the resources or reservoirs of help and mutual sympathy that Hanifan talked of.
My contention is that the charitable and voluntary sector strengthens, builds and rebuilds social capital often without the charity concerned being entirely aware that that is what is happening, to the immense value of society at large. Very often a charity appears to have a straightforward single objective-housing the homeless, caring for older people and so on. But on closer inspection the charitable or voluntary body turns out to be playing a wider role in strengthening civil society, bringing people together and enhancing participation and-yes-building that social capital.
I shall illustrate that with one or two studies from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, where I worked for many years. First, food co-operatives were ostensibly organised to improve diet by helping mothers to cook economically for their families, obtain fresh ingredients more cheaply, and so on. The organisations were indeed doing good work in meeting their dietary goals, but in reality they were about bringing together young mothers who were isolated and excluded, in many cases in large and potentially hostile public housing estates, building friendship networks and confidence, solidarity and sense of community on the estates. Similarly, a study of sports clubs showed us that
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I have come today from a meeting of the Royal Society of Arts-and I declare an interest as trustee and treasurer-where we looked at some 30 projects involving RSA fellows and small amounts of RSA funding. They range from projects that recycle light bulbs to mentoring young entrepreneurs and taking over a vacant mill for local, cultural and creative industries, as well as a community gardening project-and so it goes on. They show how a little professional and financial help can go a very long way and how that injection into a small project can build social capital.
I am a trustee of the Tree Council, which is there to get more trees planted and cared for. It has 7,000 unpaid voluntary tree wardens who bring people together in the act of tree planting and tending, building social capital among the people who gather for these purposes in and around these beautiful trees. Food co-ops, sports, the arts, heritage and tree planting-all those activities are about building up that social capital and making the glue that holds a community together, building bridges to a wider society that we all need so badly.
Charitable and voluntary activity, by mobilising people to act together to make a difference, is the most powerful way in which to build the social capital of communities and reverse the social decline that Robert Putnam and others have identified. That buttresses the case for local as well as central government giving every possible support to charitable and voluntary bodies.
Lord Taylor of Warwick: My Lords, I add my thanks to my noble friend and namesake, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, for securing this debate. It may surprise noble Lords to hear that the noble Lord and I are not actually blood brothers, although we are good friends. The debate has been a symphony of star performers who have made their maiden speeches today, and I humbly congratulate all seven who spoke earlier.
I am pleased that the Government will not be changing their mind about the future role of the charitable sector. It is about returning power to the people. The notion that the state knows best for local communities and that everything should be run from Whitehall is a dogma that has had its day.
A number of points have been made very eloquently about the importance of charity and a number of speakers gave excellent examples of the good work done by charities large and small. But there are problems, rehearsed today, in setting up and running a voluntary group, getting more resources, working in partnership with the state. Those are fundamental problems. Again, red tape is a problem that has been emphasised today. I am encouraged by the Minister's remarks that the Government are aware of those difficulties, and by hearing about the pilot projects that will be set up later this year.
Lord Taylor of Warwick: Oh yes. I am a proud patron of the supporters' trust. I mention football because I suggest to the Government that this is an area of British life that they might like to think about in terms of partnership with the charitable sector.
When we look at the premier league in this country, we see that the majority of the most prominent football clubs are based in the inner cities. We know that the players who play for these clubs have fabulous wealth; to earn £100,000 a week is not unusual. Aston Villa has not done particularly well recently-in fact, last season all we won were corners-but it is a big club with a massive fan base. People often say about a club like that that it is about finance and romance. No matter how badly the team plays, 45,000 people will still go, week in and week out, to support that club.
Aston Villa made an important decision a couple of seasons ago. It recognised its wider responsibility not just to the immediate fan base but to the people of Birmingham and the West Midlands. Instead of accepting a lucrative endorsement to wear commercial advertising on the players' shirts, it chose instead to wear the local Acorns children's hospice logo. This increased awareness of the hospice and helped it to raise much needed funds. I have also had the privilege of seeing at first hand Villa's work in the community with unemployed teenagers. I suggest to the Government, although they cannot impose anything on these clubs, that they should open up a dialogue with them; the clubs have a massive influence, especially in our inner cities.
The history of these clubs shows that many of them emanate originally from the Church. Aston Villa, for example, started off as a Sunday school church team. The vicar was concerned about the declining health of the local population, so it was decided to start a soccer team to try to make the local populace healthy. That is the origin of many of our big clubs in the premier division today.
There are about 30,000 faith-based charities in the UK. They see volunteering as part of their calling at the heart of their faith. They can provide the care and
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That, however, was the past. Does the Church have an ongoing role today? Of course it does, but there is perhaps one aspect of the Church that, again, the Government may wish to consider: the black majority churches. I do not believe in a "black Church" or a "white Church"-there is only one Church-but it is a fact that since the late 1940s African Caribbean and, more recently, African churches have flourished. There are thought to be more than 500,000 black Christians in over 4,000 churches in the United Kingdom, and most of those are in the inner cities. The point that I make to the Minister and the Government is that there is a real potential source there for future community leaders, school governors and charity trustees. In many ways, they do not feel in the loop; they seem to have a lack of connection with the establishment. I ask the Minister to consider that when looking at pilot projects in future.
One of the most successful projects to emanate from the black majority churches is the Street Pastors project. It started in 2003 and now there are over 100 projects around the United Kingdom. Basically, they work with young people on the streets who feel excluded and marginalised.
The role of charities in civil society is not unique to this country. Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have an established history of Church-related charities. The co-operative movement linked to the voluntary sector has proved effective in Denmark and Sweden. It is probably no coincidence that whereas the voter turnout in UK local elections is about 35 per cent, it is 80 per cent in Sweden and 70 per cent in Germany. If people feel that they have more influence on what happens in their community, they are more likely to vote.
Increasing the role of the charitable sector in civil society will be a process, not an event, and there may well be setbacks along the way. No doubt it will require patience and persistence but, as a result, the relationship between government and people, even in these difficult times, can become better, not bitter.
Lord Griffiths of Burry Port: My Lords, even at this late hour, I rise to add, I hope, a grain or two of wisdom to what has already been shared. I thank the Minister for giving us this opportunity, and I thank those who have spoken before me who have made their first speeches for enlivening us. I wish that I could have a fraction of the joy that the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, brought to the Chamber as I share my thoughts with your Lordships today.
I have spent all my working life-indeed, I am spending what is left of it-in the charitable sector. It is my life; it is what I do; it is where I am. While I am patron of a number of charities that serve the needs of homeless people and have organisational and institutional
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I shall cast my mind back to a previous part of my life in order to make a couple of points and then detain your Lordships no longer. In the 1980s, 25 years ago, I inherited the redoubtable Lord Soper's work and his network of social work programmes spread throughout London. It was an extraordinary piece of work, I must say. There was a treatment centre for people suffering from various forms of addiction that took people off the streets, self-referred, and took them right through to sheltered housing before eventually returning them to the community, with lots of rehabilitative work surrounding them. We also had a day-care centre in the City of Westminster, which was open seven days a week, 365 days a year, and catered specifically for over-25s, old lags-in fact, the hard end of homelessness. Street homeless people spent most of their time with us, and we had a range of services for them, from housing advice to referral to helping agencies and, especially in those days for people with mental health problems, accessing health services, because local doctors' practices did not on the whole want our kind of client under their wing. In the end we got some specialist care brought in to the project.
We also had a magnificent bail hostel that was an alternative to prison for quite a number of people who would otherwise have been on remand. It was serviced by a rehabilitative programme offered by a professor of criminology from the University of Cambridge-again, providing qualitative added value to what would otherwise have been a basic service. All that was Donald Soper's gift to me, as I took over the management of it.
I should like to make two very simple points. First, the staff who ran these services were all qualified, professional people, who had dozens of volunteers supporting them, thereby providing collaboration between the statutory and the voluntary. That is what we are really talking about-how to make the best of such collaboration. I insisted that however great the need facing these staff might be, they reserved some of their time for keeping observational notes and reflections and statistical information. As it says in the Good Book, the poor are always with us and the voluntary sector, I can assure anybody in this House, will never solve the needs of all the poor. However, the voluntary sector can do qualitative pieces of work which it
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We provided the funding; we had a wealthy endowment of several million pounds, but we needed partnerships with local authorities and government to get the best out of our money. If you are going to campaign, to educate and to bring your wisdom to bear upon the situation, you must use some of your time to reflect on practice rather than simply attending to the next patient.
Secondly, I happened to be in charge of this work during a recession. A lot of our work was done in the City of Westminster and the authorities immediately saw us as an easy target for cutting funding. Almost at once, we found ourselves deprived of a funding base. I take issue with one thing that the noble Lord, Lord Wei, who is not in his place, said in an otherwise splendid speech. He said that the previous Administration had led a lot of charities up the garden path, leaving them stranded and totally dependent on money from the state. There are lots of charities which are up the garden path but have not been led there by anything except circumstance. We are in a recession; people are cutting funds. Expectations of the voluntary sector are increasing, yet the funding collaborative patterns are being impoverished by the day. It really is an impossible conundrum. I am not talking about one-strand income charities but those prepared to share resources gained from other sources.
It is difficult, and it was very difficult in a case that I remember from my past. On one occasion, I insisted that the work should be done-that was what our endowment was for-but there was no matching funding and so our endowment decreased. I was prepared to see that happen, because the poor have their demands too. It is not just good bookkeeping-it is the cries of the poor that we must listen to. In the end, of course, the managers of the money that I was spending in this way thought that I was incompatible with their objectives, and I lost my job.
We are in a recession now. We are facing similar tensions now, trying to balance impossible forces. But in looking to increase the participation of the voluntary sector, I hope that Her Majesty's Government will not increase those expectations without understanding that in a recession people are cutting available funding. Less work can be done for the money unless we get resources from somewhere else.
These are difficult times and we will see an increase in social problems that, over the past 20 years, we thought we had begun to solve. It needs an effort from across the forces of our parliamentary system to try to get that one right.
Baroness Greengross: My Lords, I have worked in the charitable sector for more than 35 years, nationally and internationally, and, indeed, I still do. Noble Lords will understand the passion that I feel about the work that charities do. I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for initiating a very important and timely debate.
The charitable sector in this country is renowned for its innovation; it has been over the years and, one could say, over the centuries. It really is the third arm of society: we have the state, the private sector and civil society. It is extremely important but, more than that, we have an enormous variety of charities. With the philosophy of a thousand flowers blooming, we have always had this huge variety, and it is very dear to the national character of this country.
The variation in the sector is extraordinary. We have, for instance, the lifeboat service, big international charities such as Oxfam and the little organisations which make up the majority. Those are usually established because people have experienced life-changing or tragic circumstances, such as the illness of a child. They feel that they must get together and work very hard as volunteers to right a wrong or actively pursue a cause. The majority of charities are tiny: only 0.3 per cent have an income of more than £10 million, and 53 per cent have an income of less than £10,000. These are very small local initiatives.
The Government say that they are very committed to giving increased power to the charitable sector and increasing its role. That is excellent, but in doing so they have to be very careful. For many charities, very rapid growth can sometimes be a problem. I have had experience of this in a big organisation-a federation of charities, some large and some small-and saw how very rapid growth can be difficult if people have not learnt how to manage it or had the appropriate time to adjust to a completely new way of managing an organisation.
Secondly, many charities change dramatically from being independent bodies. Their whole role changes. They start with a strong role as an advocate in representing a particularly vulnerable group in society, which is important. Then they change into the sole provider of a service to the state. They become a contractual provider of a service, often paid-quite rightly-a per capita income, which is their sole income. They are then faced with a difficult situation: can they still go on representing the group, or are they putting their funds at risk? Can they go on being independent when they are under a contractual obligation? These are very difficult situations but they happen often. The Government-whether at a local or national level-have to be careful to get the balance right.
Rapid growth does not always mean greater efficiency. Today staff costs in the charity sector represent around 41 per cent of expenditure. That would not be an appropriate percentage in the private sector. Sometimes we have to question how efficient the charity sector is in its management. These things need to be watched because with rapid change they are difficult to get right. Despite this, I make it absolutely clear that I have total commitment to the charity sector. It does invaluable work and is a cornerstone of our society.
In saying this, we know that the charity sector has to live in the real world. It is in the real world, in which we find ourselves today, that we have to exist. Financial stringency applies to everyone. We need to be careful, again, to get the balance right. When cutting back state provision we must be careful that we do not revert to some of the more unfortunate philosophies
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Baroness Blood: My Lords, I also thank the Minister for initiating this debate. It is about something very close to my heart. I have been a voluntary community worker in Northern Ireland for almost 40 years, so I welcome the debate. I am acutely aware of the tremendous work that is done in countless countries across many lands and peoples, and that most-if not all-in your Lordships' House are involved in many projects. I will therefore confine my remarks to the work that I know most about; namely, the third sector in Northern Ireland.
Over the past 40 years, Northern Ireland, as noble Lords are aware, has come through a really rough time. It was through the third sector-or charitable sector-that Northern Ireland was able to do so. Yes, the political process was very important but the holding together of communities was of equal importance. Although many outside Northern Ireland during that time viewed it as a dangerous place, which it was, many ordinary people from both sides of the conflict began working in their own areas and then across the peace line. Most community groups had their origins in the Troubles.
The voluntary sector, on the other hand, tended to develop around thematic or specialist interests, and provide invaluable support in social care, healthcare, childcare, youth work and many other areas of work that strengthen civil society. All this work requires resources and I pay tribute to all the charitable funders who came on board and took real risks in supporting the ongoing work in Northern Ireland at the grass roots. The Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action has been monitoring the resources that come into the third sector. Its 2009 report records that in 2006-07 the total income for the sector was £570 million, of which the Government's contribution was £259 million -in other words, 45 per cent.
There has been much research and papers written on the breakdown of income coming into the third sector in Northern Ireland but I should like to give a couple of practical examples of how this money is spent on the ongoing work within Northern Ireland. The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, of which the noble Baroness, Lady Goudie, is patron, has a large number of programmes. One such is Communities in Transition, which works in neighbourhoods, supporting areas which have suffered high levels of deprivation and community tension through paramilitarism. This work requires not only resources and time but a strong sense of where people in these areas want their community to be. This programme is currently ongoing in 10 neighbourhoods across Northern Ireland.
I declare an interest as the campaign chair of the Integrated Education Fund. The second area of work that has been ongoing for many years, and which
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The concept of the big society has been long understood and implemented in Northern Ireland although not necessarily in those terms, and, of course, we still have an unconcluded peace process. If there is an increase in unemployment and closure of services, the fear is that many young people in disadvantaged areas may be drawn to political extremes. Over the years outstanding and groundbreaking work has been done in Northern Ireland, mostly funded by charitable donations. The sector's work was never more necessary than it is now, but the question for me is, how far will philanthropists and philanthropic institutions be expected to fill the gap caused by decreased government funding?
Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick: My Lords, I am delighted to speak in the twilight moments of this debate. I hope in these few minutes to add a different perspective, if possible. Like everyone who has spoken during the afternoon, I have had a generation of engagement with the not-for-profit sector. I spent 21 years as a trustee and 15 years as chairman of Crime Concern, which two years ago merged with the Rainer Foundation to make Catch22, to which I shall return later. I have just become chairman of Millennium Promise UK, which is focused on the millennium development goals in communities and villages in African countries. I have a long history of enjoying passions which the charitable sector allows you to enjoy. Probably the most dynamic aspect of it is the sense of purpose, sensible engagement and mind release that comes from any charitable activity that we do. This comes not just to the receiver; it also gives joy to the giver. I think of my good friend Tom Benyon, who received his OBE earlier this year. He is now walking the entire 480 miles from Edinburgh to London to raise £250,000 for the people of Zimbabwe, for the charity ZANE which he founded nine years ago. He rang me last night and told me that he has walked 220 miles so far, pretty much non-stop but with the odd sleep on the way. He talks energetically about what it feels like to do that journey at 71 years of age and to feel refreshed by it. The joy experienced by those involved in the charitable sector comes from the release of endorphins such as you experience on the sports field.
I am glad, too, that in the nature of our debate the charitable sector, which we all relish, appreciate and want to see flourish, is not the sum total of civil society. Civil society is way beyond the capacity even of the 200,000 plus registered charities, let alone the multitude of groupings across every town, village and community in the United Kingdom. It is a bigger
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The thing that has troubled my mind most over the many years of my involvement in charities as a trustee, chairman, instigator and observer is exactly the point to which the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, alluded in the latter part of her remarks; that is, the efficiency and effectiveness of the not-for-profit sector. Every one of us knows the battles that we have been through year in and year out to get the money, whether it is on a one-year, three-year or five-year cycle, and the stress of the waiting and the wondering. Whether it is government, a foundation or just the public and all the people who rely on us for their livelihoods, if we do not succeed, it brings devastation.
That is what led me as chairman of Crime Concern, and Elizabeth Filkin as chairman of the Rainer Foundation, to merge our two mega-charities. Each organisation was worth around £20 million, which put us in the top league of the not-for-profit sector-not right at the top, but in the top league. Putting the two together did not just make a bigger, but a more effective, streamlined, capable, focused and active crime prevention network. In the business in which I am involved, KPMG, we have spent a lot of time thinking about how to empower charity mergers. We worked collectively with the Charity Commission and alongside Social Finance.
I look at the approximately 200,000 charities in the UK-some would say that there are more, but on the website page dated 21 September this year, the number of registered charities was in fact 190,000. But there we are-who knows what the exact figure is? Whatever it is, only 29,000 charities have incomes of more than £100,000. That means that huge numbers are battling year in and year out for critical causes but small amounts, with teams of people, often in competition with other charities and not-for-profit agencies, looking to the same foundations or pockets of cash to stand still.
I am not suggesting that government should treat this as a means of efficiency for budgets, but they should enable and encourage a culture of merging which allows innovation and investment to flourish in order for the sector to keep its vibrancy and not its panic. The charitable sector should be a place where really big people can release their passions. In every sense I can think of no one more delightful and overwhelming than Camilla Batmanghelidjh and the work that she does with the 14,000 or 15,000 kids who she looks after-week in and week out-in tough south London neighbourhoods, and how she has sacrificially given herself and her organisation to their tender care. She should receive not just the applause of the nation and the funds of government but the appreciation of communities in London on whom, frankly, civility relies because of her engagement.
However, she should not be fighting every two or three years to prove the case that she does well alongside the 14,000 children she looks after or the 2,500 who attended Christmas Day lunch at Kid's Company in
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Lord Black of Brentwood: My Lords, with seven maiden speeches being the icing on the cake, this debate has proved to be exceptionally stimulating-and understandably so. Charities touch every part of our lives-from our time as children, when at school we first begin to understand charities' role in a civic society, to our final days when so many depend on the kindness of volunteers and caring organisations as life becomes more complex.
As my noble friend Lord Brooke said in his eloquent speech, if you come far down the batting order a great deal of what you wanted to say will already have been said, so I will look at a practical example of everything that we have been talking about and highlight the role of a specific group of charities whose work is often unglamorous, sometimes deeply distressing, but ultimately exceptionally rewarding. I refer to those concerned with the welfare of animals.
It has been asserted so often that perhaps it has become trite that care for animals is one of the hallmarks of a healthy civil society of the sort that we have been talking about. However, that does not make it less true. It is right to pay tribute to the work undertaken by many different animal charities, and above all to the tens of thousands of volunteers, in caring for sick, vulnerable, lost or unwanted animals. Throughout the length and breadth of the land, they work tirelessly in caring for animals in need. For instance, in 2009 more than 7,000 volunteers from Cats Protection, of which I am a member, helped to rehome or reunite more than 55,000 cats. Thousands of volunteers assisted the Dogs Trust in rehoming 14,000 dogs and providing shelter for an equal number. At the Blue Cross, 1,500 people devoted 150,000 hours to rehoming thousands of animals. As the noble Baroness, Lady Young, reminded us, more than 13,000 volunteers assisted the work of the RSPB at more than 200 nature reserves. Those are all phenomenal figures and a sign of the great and selfless good in our society of which we have heard so many other examples today.
The importance of these charities goes far beyond the remarkable care that they give to animals. They are-in a phrase used earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury-facilitators of change. For instance, many of them play a vital role in the education of children, teaching them from an early age the importance
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