It is a pleasure to follow Susan Elan Jones.
During my time as a fire officer, Strathclyde fire and rescue was, as it still is, supported by volunteer firefighters. Indeed, in many remote and rural areas and islands, these dedicated individuals provide the first, and sometimes the only, response to emergencies in their own communities. Another public service, the NHS, experiences increasing demand for patient transport, and patients are seeking to minimise their time spent at hospital. Free transport tailored to an individual’s needs is provided by charities such as Ayrshire Cancer Support, and they are to be applauded for their good work. I also want to mention Maxine Allan for the Whiteleys Retreat, which provides rural respite facilities for children living with cancer. Some charities, such as the British Heart Foundation and Ayr’s SeAscape, are fortunate to have volunteers with the specialist skill to upcycle furniture and PAT—portable appliance testing—tested electrical items for use by those given accommodation, particularly those who have been homeless.
A ladies lunch club held in aid of Ayrshire hospice recently helped to fund a new spa room for the patients; that was a remarkable achievement by these ladies, and there are many such groups throughout my constituency. On a visit to Alloway guides, I found them collecting items to pass on to others less fortunate than themselves and the seed of caring and sharing being planted at an early age with the project Citizen Girl. Volunteers also ensure the continuation of many annual events in my constituency, such as the Boswell book festival and the Cumnock tryst. Even Ayr’s famous Gaiety theatre is reliant upon the contributions of a team of volunteers, and the Belleisle conservatory was saved from dereliction to a delight by a group of dedicated volunteers.
However, there does not need to be a material or financial contribution, but simply people giving their time. The Rotary clubs have been mentioned for the good work they do, and I joined the Alloway Rotary just last Saturday for a litter pick in its community; that is most welcome.
By helping others, people might also help themselves get on to the employment ladder. Many life skills acquired while volunteering are transferable and often prove to be impressive on a CV. Many individuals who started out volunteering with the Prince’s Trust and other organisations have succeeded in finding permanent work placements.
Finally, I want to mention the most wonderful volunteer group and charity we have in the British Isles: the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, not just at Girvan but throughout the British Isles, and those who volunteer to serve at sea to save the lives of seafarers or those who are enjoying themselves on our very pleasant beaches, and equally those who are land-based who raise the charitable funds that wholly support the RNLI. As a nation we should be extremely proud of the volunteers who go to sea and those who raise funds on the land.
Although it is important that volunteers are properly vetted on sensitive matters, we must ensure that this valuable resource is neither exploited nor burdened by unnecessary regulation in what is a potentially litigious society. I hope that the Governments will continue to recognise the value of volunteers, and the contribution they make to their fellow citizens and their communities.