Communities: Charities and Volunteers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:22 pm on 13th February 2019.

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Photo of Victoria Prentis Victoria Prentis Conservative, Banbury 5:22 pm, 13th February 2019

My parents were dedicated to voluntary work. Whereas other children played cricket, as you did, Mr Deputy Speaker, or played mummies and daddies or shops, my sisters and I used to play “holding a meeting”, and it was invariably a charity meeting. So it is not a great surprise that, all my adult life, I have tried to work at least one day a week for charity. That has enabled me to move from charity to charity locally, helping to buy a bus for Leonard Cheshire and selling cushions for Fine Cell Work—good golly, that was difficult; nobody likes giving money to prisoners, apart from those involved in the criminal justice system. I also raised money for the urology department—try that, guys; a urology ball, anyone?

There are two things that I am most proud of. First, along with my right hon. Friend Andrea Leadsom, I set up NorPIP, as a founding trustee. Our by-line was “Two is too late”, which is not quite true, but it focused strongly on the attachment issues between parents who are struggling and their very young babies. Secondly, I set up the benefactors’ board for my local hospital trust. We described that as the icing on the cake. What we were adding to the NHS, which we all really supported, were the bits that the NHS could not fund, such as new bits of equipment that it could not take the extra leap to fund, nice duvet covers for the children and equipment for the hospital school. I am proud to have set up that fund and chaired it for many years. I am also proud that my predecessor’s wife took it over when I was elected to this place. She is a great lady, and he is a great man. He has had a knock-back in his charitable experiences today as Age Friendly Banbury has not received the funding it went for, but I know that will not set him back.

I am trying to say that charity work is a great background for someone to be a local MP. It means they know people locally—leant-in people locally—and they know what is going on in their local area. It is of course a great background for everybody. As Martin Docherty-Hughes said, it is really good for everybody’s mental health to volunteer. When our son died, my work for Save the Baby helped me to get back to playing a part in society. We can get positive things, as you know, Mr Deputy Speaker, out of tragedy.

To put it politely, volunteers are so much more powerful and good, at fundraising in particular, than paid charity workers. People give money to people. We know that, and we have proved it time and again.