Communities: Charities and Volunteers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:21 pm on 13th February 2019.

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Photo of Rachel Maclean Rachel Maclean Conservative, Redditch 6:21 pm, 13th February 2019

It is a great privilege to follow Patricia Gibson, who gave a fantastic speech.

I have been volunteering all my life—it is truly in my DNA. I started when I was around seven, taking children from inner-city Birmingham to camps in the countryside. I continued at university, doing a stint as a counsellor answering the Nightline service, and then with a long-standing role with the National Childbirth Trust. Finally, I spent 15 years with the scout movement. I have also taken an active role at my local church throughout my life.

In my business life, I have seen the massive value and benefit of volunteering and community activity for my businesses and other businesses that I know about. I was proud to be a founding trustee for the LoveBrum charity, which helps to empower small charities that do not have Government funding—true grassroots charities working across Birmingham, where my business was based—to make a real difference and receive funding. It is fantastic to see those charities now going from strength to strength. I have seen how leaders throughout the business community have embraced volunteering for their employees, because they know that it helps to build stronger employees and a stronger work culture. Ultimately, it makes businesses attractive places to work, so it is truly a win-win.

I have been privileged and fortunate all my life to have taken part in such activities. I have made friends for life, developed new skills and learned more about myself than I could ever have imagined. Such opportunities have truly changed my life. In particular, if someone can stand up in a room full of eight-year-old cub scouts and get them to be quiet and say their prayers, it is just a small step to standing up in this place.

In common with other Members, I wish to pay tribute to some of the fantastic charities in my constituency. I have been blown away by the compassion and commitment of local people in Redditch. I cannot mention them all, but I wish to highlight the Repair Café; Carers Careline; Men in Sheds, the recent recipient of a £10,000 Big Lottery grant; Redditch Nightstop; Boys2Men, a charity that recently won the inspirational mentor award from the Kids Count charity here in Parliament; Your Ideas; the YMCA; Home-Start; Where Next; the Sandycroft Centre; and, of course, the League of Friends of the Alex hospital in my constituency.

In the time I have left, I wish to focus on the impact of the National Citizen Service in my constituency, which I have visited and supported. Volunteering is a fantastic opportunity for young people to develop confidence as they go on to tackle the challenges in their lives. In particular, the NCS scheme enables them to get out from behind the technology and screens that so often dominate the lives of young people today. It puts them in situations outside their comfort zone, and they have to work together in groups with young people they would not normally meet in their neighbourhoods or school classrooms. They are learning vital life skills at a really early age. NCS builds their confidence and helps them to develop resilience to tackle some of the problems that they face in this day and age. I really want to congratulate the Minister on the work that the Government are doing in that regard.

I want to highlight the role that social prescribing can play in this really important arena. I have heard Members say that, often, those who volunteer get more out of the process than the people who are the recipients. Surely, this is a fantastic opportunity to harness this power for good to contribute to the health of our nation as a whole. We need to connect our communities—there are people who need help and who need volunteering—in a systematic and widespread way. That would be a massive and encouraging step forward. The Health Secretary has recently outlined such a plan, which, I am pleased to say, will be backed up by Government funding in the future.

I must just mention the Commonwealth games. Redditch is obviously very close to Birmingham where we will holding our Commonwealth games in 2022. I am the vice-chair of the all-party group for the Commonwealth games. I have been leading a campaign in my local area to ensure that there is legacy and an active contribution from Redditch to this fantastic event. We want to play a part and we are looking forward to the games.

We are a nation of volunteers. I will finish with one quote. The recipe for happiness is very simple. What we need is, “Someone to care for, something to do, and something to look forward to.” Volunteering addresses all three of those things.