§ 15. Mr. Gareth Thomas (Harrow, West)
What the work programme is of the active community unit; and if he will make a statement. [1041211
§ The Minister for Citizenship and Immigration (Beverley Hughes)
The active community unit leads on work to achieve the Government's target to promote the development of the voluntary and community sector and to provide people with opportunities to become actively engaged in their communities, particularly in deprived areas. The unit's work programme includes a wide range of activities aimed at increasing the sector's contribution to public service delivery, increasing community participation and building the capacity of the sector.
§ Mr. Thomas
Will my hon. Friend encourage the active community unit to consider what further role local residents associations can play in working alongside crime and disorder partnerships to tackle antisocial behaviour? Will she join me in praising the 19 Pinner and Hatch End associations in my constituency for their successful campaign to get Pinner police station reopened?
§ Beverley Hughes
I certainly congratulate those organisations on their success, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend's support for them. Local residents are fundamentally important both as volunteers in local organisations and in contributing their views on how services can make a difference in their community. I shall certainly ensure that the active community unit helps local organisations to encourage residents and their associations to make connections with crime and disorder partnerships, because the role that they can play in tackling antisocial behaviour is very important.
§ Bob Russell (Colchester)
Will the Minister confirm that the concept of volunteering in our society has declined rapidly over the past 20 years in particular? Looking at the special constabulary, whose numbers have fallen dramatically since 1997, does she agree that the active community unit should address the decline in volunteering so that we can recruit more special constables?
§ Beverley Hughes
The main thing is to encourage participation in voluntary activity of all kinds. Individuals will differ as to the ways in which they feel most comfortable making a contribution to their community. The active community unit works with organisations across the board to enable people to make that contribution, whether through the special constabulary or the many other organisations that want volunteers.