Volunteering

Oral Answers to Questions — Home Department – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 24th June 1993.

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Miss Nicholson:

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about initiatives to promote volunteering.

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

The Home Office funds a number of organisations which promote voluntary activity. For example, at the beginning of this month, with support from the Home Office and the BBC, the Volunteer Centre UK organised a highly successful volunteers week, on which I congratulate it. More than 12,000 inquiries were made by prospective volunteers on the telephone helplines alone.

Miss Nicholson:

I thank the Minister for his full response. Can he tell me whether the Prime Minister's Christmas message mentioned the importance of volunteering as central to our society? Does my hon. Friend see the number of volunteers swelling and the ways in which they assist in the community growing, as I do? Does he agree that it is a wonderful initiative whereby hundreds of thousands of people give freely of time, energy and professionalism and the Home Office supports their work?

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

My hon. Friend is right. The Prime Minister spoke about the importance that he places on volunteering. About half the population volunteer for charitable work at some time in their lives. We want to increase the number of volunteers, the regularity with which they do charitable work and their effectiveness.

Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael , Cardiff South and Penarth

I am tempted to wish the Minister a happy Christmas after that question. I welcome him to his new responsibility for bringing together charities and voluntary organisations and express pleasure that the Government are catching up with the Labour party in that regard. Does he agree that volunteering should not be regarded as a cheap way of getting a job done and that we need to respect the professionalism of volunteers as well as their commitment? Will he give an undertaking to expand the way in which the Government provide training and resources for the support of volunteers? Does he accept that there is a danger that the contract culture may lead to a top-down approach in which the Government may seek to constrain too tightly the work of voluntary organisations?

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

I believe that contracting will probably mean an increase in the use of voluntary organisations. Professionalism is extremely important. It is not a cheap way of providing service, although it is the most cost-effective way of doing so. The great advantage is that it harnesses the enthusiasm of people who want to do that work and provides a flexibility that publicly funded and directed organisations cannot, with the best will in the world, supply.

Photo of Mr Andrew Rowe Mr Andrew Rowe , Kent Mid

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the Prime Minister has shown considerable interest in making it possible for a large number of young people to give one year of their time to voluntary service if they so choose? Does he agree that, by so doing, they will enhance their self-respect as well as learn that they grow by giving? Will he do everything in his power to encourage that initiative?

Photo of Sir Peter Lloyd Sir Peter Lloyd , Fareham

My hon. Friend draws attention to an important aspect of volunteering, where it is of benefit to the volunteer, especially those special groups of people whose self-respect needs developing. I refer particularly to former young offenders. Because of my Prison Service responsibilities and my responsibility for voluntary organisations, I take particular interest in organisations such as the Community Service Volunteers, to which I believe that my hon. Friend was referring, to ensure that they are developed further.