Communities: Charities and Volunteers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:05 pm on 13th February 2019.

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Photo of Martin Docherty Martin Docherty Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Industries of the Future and Blockchain Technologies) 5:05 pm, 13th February 2019

I could not disagree with the hon. Member on a range of matters, but I do so specifically on the over-75s licence fee issue. It is incomprehensible to me why the BBC would even consider such a thing, given that social isolation is a profound issue across not only older age, but a whole gamut of ages. I may come to that point in a moment.

The right to form voluntary organisations—charities or unincorporated organisations—is a fundamental pillar of a modern, liberal democracy. Such organisations are founded on the lived experiences of communities, on geography, on choice and on need. Nevertheless, charity is no replacement for good government. Maybe that is what many have found with issues around food banks and services having to be replicated by volunteers.

The unincorporated organisations and charities challenge policy makers and Governments in general, campaigning on issues on conscience and locality. I think of the Women’s Aid organisations in my constituency, which—with the new local authority administration—are addressing specific targeted issues such as domestic abuse and violence, and access to services. They are also raising the matter of three-year funding strategies, rather than constantly having to come back to the local authority or Government Department year in, year out for the same type of funding scheme.

These organisations deliver public services in ways that are too numerous to mention, including by supporting people through drug addiction. This includes the Dumbarton Area Council on Alcohol in my constituency. Organisations such as Tullochan and Y Sort-It in West Dunbartonshire enhance the lives of young people through group activity and individual support. Importantly, the unincorporated organisations across all our constituencies run groups of all shapes and sizes, such as Clydebank’s Morison Memorial lunch club, which offers friendship and wholesome food every Thursday; I can testify—I am sure that Scottish Members will recognise this—that it has the best and finest tablet in Scotland.

Charities and voluntary organisations connect and enhance our communities socially and economically. In Scotland, the investment from the Scottish Government has again increased to £24.9 million, with additional resources and support from a range of other funding bodies and groups, such as local authorities and NHS boards. Indeed, voluntary organisations are seen as an essential part of shaping public service through community planning in each of the 32 councils of Scotland.

From a Scotland-wide perspective, the voluntary sector covers every facet of Scottish society, and I am grateful to the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations for the following figures. There are over 45,000 voluntary organisations—on top of the charitable sector—in Scotland, employing more than 106,000 paid staff. That is 3.5% of Scotland’s workforce. The workforce is dominated by women, who make up 71% of it; this is significantly higher than in the public and private sectors. The sector also employs more people with disabilities than the public and private sectors. Over 1.3 million people in Scotland volunteer, and over 30% of women, people from rural communities and those aged 16 to 24 volunteer. There are over 250,000 charity trustees, many of whom will never actually see themselves as volunteers; and that is a clear point about many trustees and those involved in the governance process.