HL Deb 25 June 1975 vol 361 cc1397-516

3.10 p.m.


My Lords, this is a crucial moment for the whole of what I may call the welfare world. This debate is about voluntary bodies, but as we have heard from Lord Windlesham's speech, I do not think we can entirely separate the voluntary sector from the statutory sector. We must be talking in terms of what they can do together. In fact over-compartmentalisation, as shown in the recent report of which the noble Lord made mention, is one of the real drawbacks to the work in this field. I am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, did not succumb to any temptation to remove this debate from the Order Paper, because in the last resort the problems which are now falling very heavily on the voluntary movement are to a very large extent the result of inflation; and as one of the Houses of Legislature of this Realm we have a responsibility for this in varying degrees, each and every one, and therefore we have a responsibility to cope with the results and the hardship which may ensue.

The noble Lord, Lord Trend, in a very interesting review of Lord Windlesham's recent book Politics in Practice, said last week in The Times Literary Supplement: It is not easy to organise compassion ". It seems to me that this is what this debate is about. It is particularly less easy to organise compassion in a moment when a very great many people are frightened, and a great many people are on the retreat. That is why, as is evident from the list of speakers, we are all extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, for opening this debate, particularly from his long and specialist experience in this field.

It is not inapposite that I should be one of two old Gordonstoun boys to take part in this debate—in fact I am only sorry that my noble kinsman, Lord Gainford, who has in the past had a certain amount to say on this subject, is not speaking today to make it three. Not least of the influences of Kurt Hahns on British education was a renewed emphasis on service as part of education, not just service in the rather more old-fashioned sense of training people for service, but of trying to see education and a school as part of the community and working within that community—an ideal which, unfortunately, for various local reasons, was realised better at Salem than it was at Gordonstoun, but reasons which are pertinent to this debate on which I should like to touch briefly later.

We are going through a period of appalling financial stringency. We know that there will be less money available in grants from central Government and from local government. We know that there will be less funds coming from private sources for charities than there are already. There is probably no one in your Lordships' House who has not had to cut down on what they give to charity over the past year. There will be less work by volunteers, not because they are lacking in good will, but because the incidental expenses which previously were often absorbed, such as postage and travel, now become matters to be seriously considered. Already people are having to count the pennies. This is a moment when one can only hope that the priorities are right, because in the cutbacks which undoubtedly are going to happen it is too easy to cut the wrong things or cut indiscriminately, not leaving the growth points for later.

What then are the matters which the Treasury, the Government Departments, the Social Service Departments and individual charities must have before them in this difficult time? The most important thing, which the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has already mentioned, is a real sense of partnership between the public and private world, between the statutory and the voluntary. On the statutory side it is widely accepted by the overwhelming majority of citizens that people should not have to depend for the basis of life, their education and health, and ordinary living standards, on their ability, on the one hand, to grab for themselves, or, on the other hand, on what is doled out to them in private charity. Over a period of time over the whole of Western Europe people have voted overwhelmingly for a Welfare State whose business it is to look after the basic needs of the citizen—and indeed any Government would have failed if they were unable to do that. But it is equally accepted that the State cannot and should not do all. The State and local government, even at their best, can be clumsy, insensitive and wasteful. On the other hand, the work of individuals also has drawbacks. It may be equally inefficient. It may be too often dominated by the use of charity as "do gooding "for the idea of the deserving poor.

I was brought up in an atmosphere in which it was taken for granted that one had a real duty for giving service and charity towards those less fortunate than oneself. It was not until I became much older that I realised how that tradition, even if it was operated sensitively, could cause immense resentment on the part of those who had to depend on such a charitable donation. In this House we have noble Lords who have seen each side of the coin, those who have worked hard and given generously to charity out of their wealth; but, also, there are those who have lived among the poor at difficult times and know how demoralising it can be to be dependent on private charity. More and more Members of this House see both sides of the coin and realise that the two have to be held in tension. The growth of voluntary bodies or societies is the key way of bridging this, particularly if the voluntary societies can be deeply rooted, possibly through their branches, in the communities in which they work, and less and less dominated by the big national committees sitting in London. Unfortunately, there is still a certain amount of disturbance in the partnership between the statutory and the voluntary stemming from ideological grounds. There are local authorities who do not help the volunteer at all, feeling that they should do everything themselves; Gateshead, Barnsley, Rotherham, Nelson and Featherstone. On the other side, there are those who refuse to finance or assist any services which volunteers are giving, feeling that volunteers must do it all where they will, such as North Yorkshire, the Wyre district, and others. I think it is most unfortunate that there are still parts of Britain where this partnership is bedevilled by the ideological stance.

If we have this co-operation, what are the priorities for immediate action? First, there must be more sense in funding and greater continuity. Even in a period of real restraint, there should be roll forward grants so that people can count ahead in respect of what they are to get. I believe they should be indexed, as indeed a great many things should be indexed. We should not necessarily give more in real money. It is possible in a moment of real financial stringency that we should have to index and roll forward on a decreasing basis, maybe 5 per cent. per year. One of the points which I am hoping to establish is that there is considerable waste and overlap, and considerable slack which can be taken up if we have the will. There must be some continuity and a looking forward.

Secondly, let us have selectivity in cuts. There is a dreadful doctrine, particularly rampant in the Treasury, that everyone must be seen to pull in his belt equally. This is absolute nonsense. There are bodies which, if you cut them at all, you destroy; there are bodies which have slack and which can quite easily be cut a certain amount. There must be a scale of priorities. There are two kinds of body which I would put high on the list of priorities. First, there are the unpopular charities. We all know that there is a scale of charitable sex appeal and that very low on it are the rehabilitation of prisoners, of alcoholics and of drug addicts, homosexual counselling and other such matters. Later in the debate, my noble friend Lord Kimberley will be touching on one or two of these matters, which could, quite literally, immediately go to the wall in a period of stringency, and they must be protected.

The second priority is those bodies in which a little money goes a very long way. We must look to see where £1 buys only £1 worth of goods, and where it buys £10 or £15 worth of goods. There are some situations where a little priming goes a long way, and they should have priority. There must also be real economy and a doing away with waste and duplication. The noble Lord, Lord Bowden, spoke recently—I think in your Lordships' House—about the firm discipline that there is on scientific research if one knows there is only a certain amount of money. There are undoubtedly welfare bodies, both statutory and voluntary, which have more money than is really good for them. My heart did not exactly bleed when reading in the Sunday Times last Sunday a statement by an officer of the Citizens' Advice Bureaux in the Midlands that, "We are having to be very stringent in everything we do. At Birmingham they are down to the level of writing on both sides of the paper ". Big deal, my Lords.

One way of saving is by greater co-operation between the voluntary and the statutory sides. For instance, there are plenty of places in the country where school buses do nothing except the morning and evening runs, and they could be employed much more imaginatively for all kinds of welfare work. The working together of the two sides can make for really constructive ventures. I would point here to the recent co-operation between the Committee for the Advancement of State Education in Haringey and Haringey Council, with their production of an A to Z of everything to do with education and educational rights and duties, which they have distributed to every household in the borough with a child at school. Then there are those schemes which combine cost-effectiveness with greater humanity, such as moving people out of institutions into community care; ideas which have had wide currency over a period of time and which have recently been stated with admirable clarity by Nicholas Stacey, the Director of Social Services in Kent. These are some of the immediate ways in which co-operation can work and which can save money and resources.

Before I sit down, there are one or two points which I should like to make about the way forward. Although we have an immediate crisis which must be ever present in the mind of every Member of your Lordships' House, none the less we must look ahead to a new deal for voluntary services. First, there is the real importance of establishing welfare work within the community, to be operated as far as possible by members of the community and not imposed by a rather anonymous local body, or by a big committee working in London. This is what I meant by comparing the work which Kurt Hahn did at Salem and at Gordonstoun, because the house and the village at Salem were already there and he went into a situation where Prince Max of Baden was already the landlord and the whole thing was part of the community. It worked much better than it did by importing a public school into a fairly remote Scottish village. The idea was right in both cases, but you cannot impose outside bodies on a community. It takes years to work and it is much better to encourage the community itself to grow its own welfare points.

Secondly, there is the possiblity of using the talents and enthusiasm of youth even more than we do now. I do not by any means rule out the possibility—and I emphasise that I do not speak as a Party man and this is not necessarily Party policy—that in the future we may think it right that all people should be asked to do national service for the welfare of the country over a period of time. I know that there are tremendous difficulties about this, and I do not think that the immediate result would be worth while. But what would be worth while afterwards is the fact that you would have a whole world of adults all of whom had spent some of their time helping others in the welfare world.

That leads into my third and penultimate point; that is, the training and use of more para-professional people. We already have very good established examples of this in ambulance men and in aids in schools. But there is always a slightly reactionary attitude by professionals to the use of these people—a perfectly understandable caution that professional standards may be lowered. I am sure that this is the way forward, but we need many more people helping in their different spheres and having different training.

Fourthly and lastly, we must not fall into the temptation of thinking that compassion is something which necessarily and naturally occurs to everybody in equal proportions. As the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has said, we are all different and it is difficult to judge why some people help and some do not. But teachers, psychologists and people who study the social services know that there are ways of educating and training people in empathy, that priceless gift which is still not very common of being able to think yourself into the position of other people, to realise not only the obvious hardships and difficulties but the less obvious ones as well. If we are to have a humane society this is something on which we must concentrate in the education of the generations to come. It is not easy to organise compassion, and unorganised compassion can often be almost worse than useless. In this difficult period of time, and in the better future which we hope will come, we must all determine to organise compassion with the greatest possible diligence and care.

3.29 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, the House is both honoured and delighted that the noble Prince, the Prince of Wales is to take part in this debate and we look forward to hearing him this afternoon. I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Windlesham for introducing this debate. The subject is important, and the problems of voluntary organisations are urgent. My noble friend speaks with knowledge and experience as the founder of the Voluntary Services Unit, which is now in the Home Office, but which when he was a Minister was in the Civil Service Department. It is an organisation which has done much good.

There are surely two paradoxes about the role of statutory services and voluntary organisations. The first is that the richer the country the greater the demand for the highest quality of educational and social services of all kinds, and, on the whole, the better those services are. The second is that the better and the greater the extent of the statutory services, the greater is the need for voluntary organisations. Many people have believed that at some undefined point in time voluntary organisations and volunteers—not the same as the organisations but equally important—will wither away. Not only is this not the case, but it ought not to be the case. Over 70 per cent. of the voluntary organisations have been founded since 1940.

The value of our debate today is that it draws attention to the need for voluntary organisations and their plight. It gives us an opportunity to debate their role in society and what their future functions should be. It is impossible to talk about such organisations without being immediately aware of their number and variety. The most casual glance at the Charities Digest shows this. The reason must be their manifold functions covering, as they do, nearly all aspects of life: social services, education, religion, sport, drama, the environment—the list is endless.

I shall talk mostly about those voluntary organisations which are social services, but in so doing I should not want it to be thought that I am unaware or unappreciative of the work of the thousands of other voluntary organisations. I think particularly of those concerned with the environment, ranging from the great national societies such as the National Trust and the Council for the Protection of Rural England, to the 2,000 or more local amenity and conservation societies which have sprung up all over the country to meet particular needs. All of us who value the beauty of our countryside and the splendour of our architectural heritage should be grateful for their work.

In the past voluntary organisations were wholly responsible for most social services and, indeed, some still are. Most, however, have had their original functions taken over by the statutory services, and the fact is that the higher the standard of service offered by the statutory services, the more is a gap in those services felt. No longer is society prepared to say of welfare that food and shelter are enough. Democracy demands that each individual has the opportunity to fulfil himself and that he should not be disadvantaged because of handicaps which are no fault of his own. Voluntary organisations, therefore, offer specialist services and are repositories of specialist knowledge. Unlike the statutory services, which must work within a legal framework, voluntary organisations can pioneer, experiment and take risks. They can carry out research and at the same time offer services outside the statutory services. One example is Dr. Barnardo's who help with children formerly in their care over the age of 18.

Many voluntary organisations work in areas in which the State and local government do little or nothing. I can think of work done for the single homeless, alcoholics, discharged prisoners and drug addicts—all of whom, if not the undeserving poor, are certainly the unpopular poor. Furthermore, some voluntary organisations challenge authority and act as pressure groups. They thus provide a service and at the same time criticise the other services which are provided. They must be immediately responsive to the needs of those whom they seek to help. If, for example, a tenants' association does not help the tenants, then without doubt it will disappear. There is, thus, accountability downwards to the community: a democratic ideal.

Voluntary organisations, thus, speak for minority groups. They supplement statutory services; they offer an element of choice; and, together with the statutory services, each acts as a spur to the other in the provision of better services. To make the case for strengthening our voluntary organisations is to seek support for a vital partner of the statutory services, and not a rival. In much of their work the standards of the statutory services are so high that we are unrealistically critical when we hear of a terrible failure. We need both the statutory services and the voluntary ones, and we need the impatience and daring of the voluntary organisations to complement and goad the statutory services.

I speak for a Party which believes not only in the importance of the individual but in the importance of the variety of organisations and institutions within society. Voluntary organisations are united only in offering services for a diver- sity of human needs. Working with them and with the statutory services, are volunteers. Voluntary work, for the reasons I have given, is important in itself; but it is also important for what it gives to the individuals who take part in it. Volunteers have often been castigated as "patronising do-gooders ". I prefer to adapt the words of, I believe, Professor Titmuss, who defined voluntary work as, "the gift relationship". There are, in fact, many people who want to give of their time, their thought and, indeed, to give themselves, to others. In so doing, at their best, they seek to fulfil the Commandment: "Love thy neighbour" and to do so without counting the cost. It is surely desirable today to encourage this spirit of altruism, this desire to do something for humanity without the expectation of reward. And often it is only the volunteer who can redress a grievance of an individual or family, because he or she can challenge authority at all levels. Certainly the great interest and enthusiasm of the young in voluntary work is one of the most encouraging signs of our times.

In their work, volunteers also educate public opinion because they believe passionately in what they are doing. "Do as I do" is always so much better than "do as I say ". To illustrate this point, when I was on a local planning committee, there were a number of occasions when an organisation put in an application for the change of use for a house, from a residence to a hostel, for example, for alcoholics. Immediately all the neighbours would object, along the lines of: "Of course, we think this is a very good idea, but this is the wrong place for such a hostel ". The fears of the public are far more likely to be allayed by the members of a voluntary organisation explaining the need, than by attempts of town hall officials or local councillors to do so.

Above all, voluntary organisations stand, as it were, on one side of the "Great Divide "—as individuals, against the collectivism of the State. As the State and local government grow steadily more powerful, the voice of the individual and of the minority group is needed all the more. So, too, is the specialist service and the service offering an element of choice. Indeed, both the State and local government have, to an extent, recognised this, either by establishing voluntary organisations in conjunction with the State—bodies such as the Consumer Councils—or by encouraging public participation in decision-making at local level. The tragedy and the challenge of today is that both statutory services and voluntary organisations are despertately short of money, and both are hit by inflation. The inevitable cuts in statutory services illustrate with devastating clarity the social cost of inflation and its effect on those least able to help themselves. Some of the smaller voluntary organisations have already ceased to exist and the larger ones have begun to cut back on the services they provide. They will have to do so even more drastically in the near future. My noble friend Lord Windlesham referred to another instance of this.

That being so, I should like to make some suggestions for helping the voluntary organisations and concerning the criteria for assessing their needs. The first question to be asked at a time of difficulty is: What else can volunteers do? I believe it has been estimated that, at some time, one in four members of the population take part in voluntary work. At any rate, the number of volunteers is so large that there seem to be no definitive figures on the subject. I should like to ask how many of the proposals of the Aves Report have been implemented. This was, so far as I know, the last and most comprehensive report on voluntary services, and among its suggestions was one that there should be a liaison officer or organiser with senior status within each local authority and hospital to organise the volunteers. I am not suggesting they can take the place of the professionals, but volunteers have the time, have reduced the case load of the professional social worker, can act as auxiliaries and are not expensive. Indeed, I believe that voluntary organisations are frequently far more cost effective than statutory services.

May we not, too, consider new ways in which volunteers could work with central Government—for example, within the Supplementary Benefits Commission. The need for grant aid from both central and local government to voluntary organisations is urgent. I do not wish now to speak of the amount that should be given but rather to say something about the administration of it. As I understand it, urban aid ranks for a 50 per cent. Government grant. It is often matched by a similar local authority grant. However, the central grant is usually given in about September when it is too late for the local authority to put a sum in its estimates, for the local authority must do so early on in the calendar year. Only the voluntary organisation suffers from this uncertainty, and any paid employees will not know whether or not the organisation can afford to keep them on. In these circumstances, voluntary organisations find it very difficult to plan ahead. Surely this is a matter of administration that could be put right.

A number of other administrative arrangements have been drawn to my attention. I wonder whether it would be possible for the Government to look at the unrealistically high standards which are sometimes imposed on voluntary organisations for fire precautions and standards of hygiene. No one wants to endanger life or health but some standards can, I think, at least be questioned, because they become so very expensive that they threaten altogether the existence of the organisation. The uneven level of charitable rate relief among the newly reorganised local authorities is another subject of worry and one that has been raised with me. There are, indeed, many others, but I will not take up the time of the House. Many will, no doubt, be raised by other speakers, but if they are not perhaps I may write to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, about them.

Lastly, I should like to say something about the criteria that should be applied in assessing grants and to suggest four—first, that there must be no overlapping between voluntary organisations and the statutory services; secondly, that they should work in partnership together; thirdly, that they should offer a high quality of service; and lastly the question should always be asked, which organisation is the most cost effective way of giving the service?

My Lords, I hope that the Government recognise the acute difficulties which are facing voluntary organisations today. Individuals can and must do all that they can by way of self-help, but in our complex society much help can only come from the Government and it can come as much by what they do not do as by what they can do. Current legislation, taxation and inflation are between them destroying the basis of voluntary organisations. I hope that the Government will think again on some of the issues, particularly those affecting voluntary organisations in the Community Land Bill and other matters relating to Value Added Tax, for voluntary organisations are far too important to us all to be lost.

3.43 p.m.

The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)

My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has provided us with this opportunity this afternoon to discuss the work of the voluntary agencies. It is particularly appropriate that it was the noble Lord who launched our debate today, given his own close involvement in this area of policy and the very notable contribution which he made when he was carrying the same Ministerial responsibility as I do now, at least in terms of the Voluntary Services Unit. The noble Lord asked two questions relating to the Community Land Bill and value added tax, and the noble Baroness raised the same questions. I am sure that they will both forgive me if I deal with those questions in my closing speech this evening rather than now.

I think that the whole House will agree, if only on the basis of the speeches which have been made today, that this debate is taking place at a time when many voluntary organisations are facing a profoundly serious situation. A great deal of the debate today will inevitably revolve around this central problem, so if I may I will turn to it at once.

The present alarmingly high level of inflation inevitably played havoc with the finances of the voluntary organisations. Funds have become increasingly tight while demands have become even greater. In the present serious national economic situation, the Government themselves are under the clearest obligation to limit public expenditure, so I cannot pretend that there is any possibility of the Government making up the shortfall in voluntary funds which will be an inevitable result of inflation and the consequent pressure upon private companies and individuals. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, for having made it clear when he opened our debate that he was not suggesting any increase in the level of Government assistance to the voluntary organisations, although—

The Earl of LONGFORD

My Lords, I very nearly put this question to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. When the noble Lord says that one cannot think of an increase, does he mean an increase in real terms?


My Lords, indeed I do. My noble friend has anticipated the point I was about to come to. In fact, at the moment the situation is that the assistance given by the Government in real terms is greater than at any time since the Government themselves considered that they had a responsibility for assisting the voluntary sector. Indeed, I mean just what my noble friend has indicated, although inevitably at a time like the present all sectors of Government expenditure have to be consistently reviewed.

The most I can say in the context of the present national economic difficulties with which we are confronted is that priority will be given to existing commitments and that every effort will be made to save voluntary organisations doing work of high social priority which would be stopped if no further funds could be found. This will inevitably mean that there will be little or no room for growth or development. There will be little or no room for new initiatives.

The prospect which I am setting out is clearly bleak. We must accept the fact that at least for the time being there are no extra resources to meet growing needs. In such a situation, I would suggest that the most effective way in which central Government can assist the voluntary agencies is by enabling them to put existing resources to the best possible use and helping them to find ways of economising without necessarily cutting their services. We can also help by improving communications between the voluntary sector and Government and by trying to secure a general awareness of the problems facing voluntary organisations.

Of course, there are some—although we shall certainly not hear from them in our debate today—who would argue that we are all in some danger of making too much fuss about this problem; that with the development of the modern Welfare State there is now far less need for voluntary service. I am bound to say that I find this a singularly foolish view. First, it denies the existence of the splendid spirit of idealism that binds the voluntary movement together—a movement consisting of thousands of widely diverse organisations yet with one central objective of relieving the problems and anxieties, and sometimes the pain and anguish, of many millions of our fellow citizens.

There is a second reason why those who sometimes mock the voluntary movement are wrong. There has not been a time—certainly not since the last war—when our statutory services have been under more intense pressure. If the lifeline provided by many dedicated volunteers were cut, many of our most underprivileged people would be the first to suffer. Even if we had the resources—which we most certainly do not—a society in which all human needs were met by the State would be an absurdity. Imagine every child who cannot button his own coat having a statutory worker to do it for him; or every old person who cannot shovel his own coal having a statutory worker to make up his fire; or every household invalid having a statutory companion every hour of the day.

Each of these examples is of a service which in normal circumstances will be provided by a relative, a friend or a neighbour. At the other end of the spectrum are those services which require special skills or resources which most relatives, friends and neighbours would not have and which, therefore, are provided by the State. But in between there is a great grey area where relatives, friends, and neighbours are either nonexistent or else do not have the necessary skills or resources. It is here that the contribution of the voluntary services is essential, to identify needs, to provide individual care, and to demonstrate, from time to time, the point at which individual skills and resources are not sufficient, even when organised to a high degree, and it is necessary for the State to intervene.

What should be—and indeed this question has already been asked—the relationship between the voluntary and the statutory services? The noble Baroness, Lady Young, raised this point in her speech. Ideally it should be a partnership. This can perhaps be well illustrated by recent disasters which have shown, in tragic circumstances, how well statutory and voluntary services work together. Moorgate was an obvious example of this. Even more recently, there was the Devil's Bridge coach crash on 27th May, when 32 people were killed and 14 injured. Here the police force, the fire service and the ambulance service worked together to carry out the necessary rescue action, to provide immediate attention for the victims, and to begin identification and notification of victims' families. But it was voluntary agencies such as the WRVS, St. John's Ambulance Brigade, Rotary and Round Table, which made it possible for bereaved relatives to be taken to hospitals; for them to be advised on legal and personal matters, transport and accommodation; and for the victims' families to be cared for until alternative arrangements could be made for them. The statutory and the voluntary services each had a clear role; they were complementary, not exclusive, and together they could ensure that both the immediate and the long term needs of the people concerned were met.

I should like now to discuss how the Government are attempting to assist voluntary organisations in carrying out their work. Perhaps I should say this first. When we talk of voluntary service, we sometimes tend to think in terms of the well-known organisations, such as the WRVS, the Red Cross, and the NSPCC. But at its most basic level, voluntary service means help on an individual basis, and the voluntary organisations of course consist of numbers of individuals who have joined together in a common cause. This is the single most important resource available to the voluntary services—people. And the greatest need at the present time is to match supply and demand; to be able to channel the efforts of those who are willing and able to help in the direction of those who need their help.

This is clearly something which ultimately can be done only at local level. But the Government are trying in several ways to encourage the more effective use of what are usually referred to as "unattached" volunteers. With the help of the National Council of Social Service, Government funds have been used to establish a volunteer bureaux develop- ment officer, (and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, was closely involved in this) with responsibility for encouraging and advising on the establishment of volunteer bureaux throughout the country. As a result of the work of that officer, and with the co-operation of local authorities and local councils of voluntary service, there are now 130 volunteer bureaux in the United Kingdom.

These provide a wide network of information for would-be volunteers as well as matching supply and demand in their own areas. By advising volunteers of the opportunities open to them, the bureaux are saving individual organisations both time and money and enabling them to make use of many people who might otherwise have stifled their impulse to serve because they did not know where to go. It is not enough to recognise that there are many would-be volunteers and set up volunteer bureaux to help them. If the total resources of the community are to be used efficiently, the volunteers must have a worth while job to do. Shortly after the appointment of the volunteer bureaux development officer, the Volunteer Centre was opened, with a large amount of Government support, to give effect to some of the recommendations of the Aves report (to which the noble Baroness referred) on the work of the volunteer worker in the Social Services.

The centre was established to promote current developments in volunteering and to foster the development of new opportunities for individual volunteers, community groups, and voluntary organisations. It is concerned with research into community development, with advice for those involved in the training of volunteers, and with the relationship between volunteers and the statutory Health, Social, and Probation Services.

Those of your Lordships who have seen the recent Volunteer Centre publication Bargain or Barricade—to which the noble Lord referred, and a copy of which I have arranged to be put in the Library—will, I think, appreciate how valuable the work of the centre is in helping the statutory and voluntary services to recognise each other's problems and co-operate to provide solutions.

A comparatively recent development in the field of voluntary service has been the growth of community groups which, instead of concentrating on specific services, aim to help the community to meet its own needs in a variety of different ways. Although these community groups in fact differ considerably from the traditional voluntary services they meet a very real need and often play a supportive role which enables people to be self-sufficient who would otherwise have to rely upon statutory services. Because they are locally based, these community groups are not directly the concern of central Government, but some of them have received Government assistance through the urban aid programme. And the Government are helping to provide a more general support through their substantial financial assistance to the Young Volunteer Force Foundation.

A new Young Volunteer Force venture, which is being fully funded by the Government, is the establishment of two area resource centres, which are intended to provide central support services, committee rooms, information and advice, for all the neighbouring small community groups. Although the urban aid programme is an important source of funds at local level, local voluntary services would normally look to local rather than central Government for support. Local circumstances in fact vary so greatly that priorities must, in general, be decided on the spot. The Government have, however, reminded local authorities of the need to take the contribution of the voluntary services into account when deciding on their own allocation of resources. I hope that Government discussions with the local authority associations may indicate ways in which local voluntary organisations may be helped without placing too great a burden on already severely strained local resources. In the present national economic situation it would be wholly wrong to attempt to impose new burdens on local authorities.

Many local voluntary services have experienced considerable difficulties—and this was a point touched on by the noble Baroness, Lady Young—because of recent local government re-organisation. Local councils of voluntary service are helping both the local authorities and the voluntary organisations to adjust to the new situation. The position is particularly difficult in the new metropolitan counties. In Greater Manchester and in Merseyside grants from the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust and the Gulbenkian Trusts have been of considerable assistance. The Government have now made money available for the appointment of a development officer in each of the other metropolitan counties, so that this work may be pursued there, too.

As a general rule, central Government must concentrate support on financing central headquarters administration. This may sound rather unglamorous and certainly very humdrum. But without efficient headquarters administration many initiatives at local level would just not get off the ground. We are all well aware of the magnificent contribution made by the WRVS, the National Council of Social Services and community service volunteers. These and many other national bodies receive substantial Government support for this purpose. But there are other and perhaps more important ways of helping than by the direct provision of funds.

The most significant development in central Government help to the voluntary sector in the last few years has been the establishment of the Voluntary Services Unit, now situated in the Home Office. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary takes a close personal interest in the work of the unit, and I am responsible, as I hinted at the outset of this debate, for its day-to-day activities. The primary role of the Voluntary Services Unit is to co-ordinate the response of central Government Departments to the voluntary services. For this purpose each Department with an interest in the voluntary services has appointed a liaison officer who co-operates closely with the Voluntary Services Unit in ensuring that departmental policies do not disregard the voluntary sector. The liaison officers have regular meetings at which information and advice on all aspects of voluntary work as it affects central Government is exchanged.

My Lords, the unit's second function is to help voluntary organisations to find their way around Whitehall, and to provide them with as much general assistance as possible. The unit identifies appropriate contacts in the various Government Departments, and offers advice on how best to make applications for funds and on alternative ways of dealing with problems. On a more general level, the Voluntary Services Unit organises informal discussions and has held two seminars primarily for voluntary organisations, one on Management and Common Services in Voluntary Organisations and once, more recently and more topically, on Financing the Voluntary Sector. These brought together many people involved in the voluntary services, local government, and related professions who might otherwise never have met and exchanged ideas. Plans for a third similar seminar are already in hand. The unit's third function is to stimulate the use of volunteers where it seems appropriate to do so at central level and to encourage co-operation between voluntary bodies. Most of the work I have already mentioned in relation to the volunteer bureau development officer, the Volunteer Centre, YVFF and so on, is funded through the Voluntary Services Unit.

I should like to give one or two examples of some of our other recent decisions. A grant has, for instance, recently been given to the organisation Fair Play for Children to enable all the various bodies concerned with children's play to try to co-ordinate their activities so that duplication and waste of resources can be avoided. Another grant has been made to the Young Volunteer Organisers Resources Unit attached to the National Youth Bureau, with the specific task of encouraging the use of young volunteers throughout the country. Other grants have been given to Outset, which uses young volunteers in tasks for local authorities, and the Family First Trust, which makes imaginative and co-operative use of volunteers, and of those subject to community service orders in helping homeless families.

I realise that many voluntary agencies, when asked to consider co-operating with others in the same field—and this point has already been touched on this afternoon—fear a loss of independence and individuality. But that is not the experience of those who have done so. To give a particular example, the National Youth Bureau now undertakes all the printing required by the National Association of Youth Clubs. This saves the National Association of Youth Clubs a considerable amount of money, brings the National Youth Bureau extra income, and, perhaps even more important, ensures that the two organisations keep in constant touch and know of each other's activities. Arrangements of this kind do not challenge the independence of any organisation. But in present conditions they are obviously of the greatest benefit. The fourth role of the unit is to make grants to voluntary organisations or projects, where the work spans the interests of a number of Departments without there being an obvious lead department.

The Voluntary Service Unit budget serves a useful purpose not only in enabling organisations which previously went to make one central application for funds but also in helping smaller, more unconventional projects which might otherwise fall between several stools. It is perhaps sufficient to indicate the range of Voluntary Service Unit interests by saying that as well as providing support for major bodies such as the WRVS, the NCSS, and YVFF, grants go to such widely diverse interests as the Romany Guild and Gingerbread.

I hope that what I have said indicates the importance the Government attach to the voluntary services. They have a senior Cabinet Minister as their spokesman and a unique unit in Whitehall to cater for their needs. Nevertheless, as I have already indicated, the Government recognise that the voluntary movement is now facing some of the most formidable problems it has experienced in its history. We are determined to do all we can to help. But it would be absurd for me to pretend that the Government can solve the problems of the voluntary services, or even do more than affect them at the margin. It is only the voluntary services themselves who, with the support of the public, can ultimately ensure their own future by adapting themselves to the present situation.

I have great faith in the spirit which has enabled the voluntary services to grow in strength over the years. I am convinced that this spirit is as strong as ever. The voluntary movement has always been prepared to fight its way through the most forbidding problems because it has recognised that without its efforts, many of our most deprived fellow citizens, would suffer great hardship. It has been that spirit, that deter- mination, which has gone to make this country, with all its present daunting problems, one of the most civilised and compassionate societies in the world.

4.7 p.m.


My Lords, I cannot imagine that during the course of this debate there will be many of you who will dispute the continuing need for voluntary service to the community—in one way or another. The fact that voluntary service is still given, and is apparently still necessary, in an increasingly egalitarian welfare society may seem something of a paradox. And yet one must take into account the very real desire on the part of all sorts of people to give service to other human beings without thought of any remuneration or particular recognition for themselves. This is increasingly the case nowadays, with so many more young people becoming involved in voluntary, and indeed professional, social work.

It is interesting to note that the majority of bodies engaged in the provision of social services accept the desirability—even the necessity—of using voluntary help to supplement their services and to fill those gaps that inevitably occur. In the evidence submitted by the Association of Social Workers to a committee set up by the National Council of Social Services and the National Institute for Social Work Training, it was said that, those members who had already had considerable experience of using volunteers in their work were sure that much could be done to extend their use; others were not so certain. It is worth bearing in mind, too, that the attitude of central Government Departments with major responsibilities for the personal social services is one of encouragement and appreciation of the present and future place of voluntary work in these services. It is sometimes the case that voluntary workers are able to bring a more personal and sympathetic approach to those they work with than is possible for some of the professionals. I say "sometimes" because obviously it is a ridiculous generalisation to assume that only volunteers are human beings, while the trained social worker is somehow a slightly less than human cog in a rather bureaucratic machine.

I know there are in this House many experts far better qualified than I who will be speaking in the debate today. Therefore, I should like to concentrate on one aspect of service which has attracted my interest for some time, and that involves younger people. Being still young enough myself to remember, I think I can safely say that as adolescents most people have excess energy to spare and need adventure, excitement and a challenge of one sort or another. Reading the history of the First World War (and even of the Second) it has always intrigued me to discover that so many young men were caught up in the emotional and almost chivalrous excitement of a new war and all the chances it provided for adventure and glory in the service of one's country. All that desire for glory and adventure was so tragically and bloodily consumed in two World Wars with the deaths of whole generations we could ill afford to lose. Those who survived learned a great deal, grew up extremely quickly, and, one can only imagine, became wiser and more reasonable men.

One of the arguments I have often heard in favour of National Service—and, incidentally, of its re-introduction—was that it gave young people a taste of discipline when they most needed it, and also a taste of adventure, if they were lucky. The point I am getting at is not that National Service should be re-introduced—there is no reasonable or logical justification for a start—but that somehow we ought to be thinking in terms of re-creating some of the challenges of war within a peacetime situation, so that adolescents in particular can discover themselves and their individual capabilities through the challenge of adventure and hardship. It seems to me that the problems we suffer from in society, as a result of violence, mugging and general anti-social behaviour on the part of younger people, are partly due to a lack of outlets into which pent-up energy and frustration and a desire for adventure can be properly channelled.

In so-called primitive societies, the potentially awkward phase of adolescence is overcome at puberty, when the young boys are required to prove that they have become men by performing various tests and initiation ceremonies. Through these they become more responsible members of the tribe and are treated accordingly by their elders. Dr. Kurt Hahn, the founder of my old school, and also that of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont—and here I must be careful not to give the impression that it is an old boys' reunion—did not exactly require Gordonstoun boys to undergo initiation ceremonies upon reaching puberty, but he believed that a boy must challenge himself and discover his own level of endurance and will power. He also believed in the acquisition of self-knowledge (and thereby self-discipline) through service to others in challenging circumstances. My experience was that this worked surprisingly well, which is one of the reasons why I am so keen that other people should be able to experience it.

Of course, you cannot eliminate all the problem that arise, but so often you would find at Gordonstoun that the most difficult and unco-operative of boys underwent an astonishing transformation once they were absorbed into the more exciting and adventurous world of such things as the Coastguards, or the Fire Service, or the Mountain Rescue Service, or the Surf Life Saving Society—where you could actually perform a useful function to the community, but could do so only by subordinating any selfish attitudes to the overall requirements of the team. People therefore discovered what responsibility and self-discipline meant. It did not necessarily mean being a "goody-goody" and always obeying the rules, but in a life-saving situation it involved a high degree of commonsense, courage and teamwork, often thought to be beyond the capacity of young people.

I am always astonished by the amount of rot talked about Gordonstoun and the careless use of ancient clichés used to describe it. It was only tough in the sense that it demanded more of you as an individual than most other schools did—either mentally or physically. I am lucky in that I believe it taught me a great deal about myself and my own abilities and disabilities. It taught me to accept challenges and take the initiative. Why else do you think I am brave enough to stand up before your Lordships now?

I am brave enough to do so, because I believe very strongly that many more young people should be given the opportunity to find adventure and excitement through voluntary service and by organising themselves after an initial period of assistance and training from an outside organiser. I know of a young people's organisation on the South coast of England, which specialises in inshore rescue work in the Solent and surrounding areas. The boys who comprise this rescue body are an outstanding example of what can be achieved with a group of young people who have found fulfilment and excitement in the very demanding field of sea rescue, where they have earned the praise and unqualified admiration of the Coastguard and of thousands of yachtsmen. Some people may say that it is wrong to allow young boys to take a boat out in rough conditions, but, as long as adequate precautions are taken to guard against unnecessary and irresponsible risks, there can be no more rewarding or educative experience for anyone. I must here pay a tribute to the work of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, and at the same time urge them to be aware (as I am sure they are) of the desirability of involving as many young poeple as possible in their front line operations and recruiting their enthusiasm and sense of adventure.

I would hope, too, that in due course many more schools, for instance, situated near the coast in suitable areas, could supplement the local statutory services (after suitable training) by themselves operating such things as rescue boats. This kind of activity, as I am sure your Lordships know, is carried out most successfully by the United World Colleges of the Atlantic—and especially at St. Donat's Castle in South Wales—where the pupils themselves have operated rescue services for several years with immense skill and professionalism. This sort of activity is obviously dependent upon funds—which, as we all know, are extremely limited for voluntary organisations and schools—being made available, but I have already been pursuing an idea which has attempted in a very small way to help what one might call the more alienated sections of young people (who might otherwise tend to drift into forms of anti-social behaviour and delinquency) to organise themselves with limited financial or technical assistance to undertake the more imaginative sort of schemes. I have so often felt that given the right incentives (and, indeed, materials or equipment) many more young people could become involved in helpful work for the community had they but the chance and the interest.

I have decided to establish experimental schemes with the aid of a committee in areas with which I have a titular connection, and so far the response in each part of the country has been extraordinarily encouraging. It is obvious that many young people—and particularly those who are often categorised as among the most impossible and the most difficult—are only too keen to become involved in useful or imaginative schemes, but they lack the funds or the necessary equipment. Once an impetus has been provided, it is most heartening to see how it is continued and developed by the young people themselves. It is also heartening to discover how comparatively successful has been the scheme adopted recently by the Home Office for the treatment of offenders through community service rather than imprisonment, borstal or probation. Investigation has shown that in several cases the ex-offender continued voluntary service beyond the termination of the court order.

I know that there are many organisations which have for long made great use of young people's enthusiasm and ability—organisations like the Red Cross, or St. John Ambulance Brigade, about which I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, will be speaking shortly, or the Royal Life Saving Society, where the Life Guard Corps is essentially a service for young people. But there are others which have been slow to realise the role young people can play—especially in an age when people seem to grow up so much more rapidly than before. Many private schools have also failed to appreciate the value of their facilities to young and old alike during the holidays when they are not normally required. I can understand that there are many problems involved, but I do not believe they are so insurmountable as to prevent any sensible consideration of the suggestion.

I think that one of the factors of overriding importance in this debate is the recognition that voluntary service is as beneficial to the volunteer as one hopes it is to the recipients of that service. To be frank, it is quite simply "good for the soul". Voluntary service is an essential element in any society that calls itself civilised. It is in many ways a measure of people's concern for each other as human beings and the only way in which concern, compassion, a sense of duty or service can be properly expressed. Therefore, it seems to me that, in a sense, the Government have a duty to ensure that as many people as possible are able to offer themselves for voluntary service in a wide range of fields, particularly by making helpful concessions (financial or otherwise)—as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has already emphasised—in order to enable organisations to continue to provide those enormously valuable services to the community which we should never allow ourselves to take for granted.

4.21 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of LEICESTER

My Lords, pity the poor Prelate who has to plod his pedestrian course after a dashing clear round such as we have had from the noble Prince. We are deeply honoured at the contribution he makes to our counsels. This afternoon he has brought a breath of the sea and mountain air to reinvigorate us on this summer afternoon.

I was glad to respond to the invitation of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to say a few words in this debate. We are glad to have him taking a leading part in one of our debates again, and I was only sorry to have to tell him that an engagement in the later evening would set a limit to how long I should be able to stay in your Lordships' House. I know, too, that the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, is showing an equal interest in this important field. I read with admiration the question and answer article that he had written in the Health and Social Service Journal in the early part of this month. I could not help noticing that, like all Government spokesmen of whatever Party, he had to stress how much was already being done and how very hard it would be to do anything else. But all government is carried on by a dialogue between those who see visions and those who have to deal with hard facts as they know them. Even if many of the answers he has given to specific proposals at present have to be in the negative, we believe that we are nevertheless sowing seeds in this debate which may bear fruit in later months or years.

I begin by feeling that more is being done about voluntary work and voluntary service than ever before. We have already had many examples mentioned this afternoon: the Voluntary Services Unit now in the Home Office; the Volunteer Centre now at Berkhamsted, and the practice which is growing rapidly to my certain knowledge of local authorities appointing liaison officers to act as links between the statutory services and the voluntary organisations. It is widely understood now that the voluntary services are not so much supplementary to the statutory services as complementary. They can provide something which it is hard for the statutory services to provide in quite the same way. No one suggests that statutory servants are lacking in humanity, but in the very nature of their work they have to define their task very strictly and accurately. That is part of their professional expertise, and compared with that position the volunteer, or the servant of a voluntary agency, is rather more free to define his work as it goes along.

We are grateful too for the measure of financial assistance which is greater than it has been before, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said in his speech. I give one example known to me. In my own City of Leicester there was a new venture started for drug addicts and other youthful drop-outs. We were able to lend them a disused vicarage for a number of years, but in the end, with the aid of a grant from the urban aid scheme, they have been equipped with a new and adequate building and will be able to go forward in the future from strength to strength. I shall come to some requests to the Government at the end of my speech, but I should like to begin by recognising what is already being done and not letting it be thought that all these efforts are unappreciated.

I see voluntary service in three tiers. The first of them I mention only briefly but lest it should be forgotten; that is, that the Churches have played for centuries an important part in this field. Not many clergy would describe themselves as voluntary social workers, but I shall, in fact, using the old language on Sunday next, tell my new clergymen that it is their duty to seek for the sick, poor and indigent people of the parish, so that they may be relieved by the alms of the parishioners or others. That is rather antiquated nowadays, but we still say it as a reminder of the past. But the clergy and the Churches have continued to be organisers of voluntary social work to a very important degree. Lest you should think that this is just old hat, and old clerical hat, I hold in my hand the report that reached me only this week about social care in the diocese of Chelmsford. It is a most comprehensive document covering family care, voluntary care, housing care, and almost every aspect of voluntary service that can be provided.

Secondly, there are what I call the long-established charities and philanthropic agencies. When so many new things are developing it is important that we should not forget the continuing task and service of the old charities—and I do not hesitate to use that word. It is a pity that it ever became a word clouded by unhappy associations. It is a beautiful word. I think of all those great charities founded roughly 100 years ago for the blind, for the deaf, for the handicapped, for unsupported mothers, and unwanted children, and all the rest of these fairly easily definable groups. Many of them, of course, now receive important support either from central or local government, but do not let us be so fascinated by new developments that we forget those who have born the burden and heat of the day and still continue to do so to the very great benefit of those whom they try to help.

I imagine that behind this debate and at the back of the minds of most of us there is what one might call the new voluntary movement, the movement that has seen a great burgeoning of all kinds of new experiments by groups, societies and individuals to pioneer new forms of human and social service to those in need or to their neighbours. I can illustrate this from my City of Leicester because this city has been chosen by the Volunteer Centre as the scene of a particular inquiry into voluntary social service, particularly into residential care, and I have had the privilege of discussing these matters with some of those from the Volunteer Centre engaged in that inquiry.

Perhaps I should begin by mentioning that we have, as many cities now have, a Council of Voluntary Service. Until a short time ago that was called the Council of Social Service but the stress on the voluntary principle has led to the replacement of the word "social" by the word "voluntary ", and that is not without significance. One of its activities is to carry on a volunteer bureau, about which we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich: and I thought that your Lordships might like to hear briefly what it looks like at the other end. I have studied carefully the statistics of the Leicester volunteer bureau for its first full year of activity. I find that 66 agencies applied to the bureau for volunteer help and that about 600 persons applied to it for opportunities to serve in one way or another. Of those 600, it was able to place about 300 in firm voluntary appointments. I was interested in the kind of people who applied. Housewives led the field, quickly followed by students, and then by girls and boys still at school. Of the girls and boys, the girls greatly outnumbered the boys, and if there is any sex discrimination there I can only say it is self-imposed because there is no reason why the boys should not be equally as useful as the girls.

The age groups concerned were led by those between 20 and 30, although there were plenty younger and some very much older, including some aged over 70 who were still ready and anxious to do a hand's turn for their neighbours. They were drafted into all the usual voluntary services—helping in hospitals, working with the Red Cross, going to the WRVS, and some to an interesting project in Leicester called the Home Start Scheme which is a kind of variant of the Family Service Unit and which is endeavouring to help young mothers, particularly in the very earliest days of their family life. We must be careful as this becomes more and more organised that it does not lose that note of spontaneity and originality that is the hallmark of the best kind of voluntary work.

A word about another form of voluntary service; that is, what I call community self-help. a subject which has been touched on in several speeches today. I see great possibilities in this. Ever since the Seebohm Report we have been aware of this articulation of a new possibility that even urban streets might develop a kind of coherence and belonging together, producing something like the neighbourly care which is quite common in our older villages. That is splendid. Also splendid is the use by the statutory services of these local groups in discovering need, and in channelling help in the area from those who are able to give it for the benefit of those who particularly need it.

However, I should not be honest if I did not say that there comes a point at which I think this so-called community self-help may take an unhealthy turn, and that is when it develops into the stirring up of a complaining spirit. I have no use for that. There is a phrase in the Psalms which describes a happy city as a city with no complaining in its streets. We want to be very careful before we foster, almost artificially, a spirit of complaint and grumbling about many things that probably are being done about as well as they can be done in all the circumstances.

Reference has already been made to the financial straits in which ninny voluntary organisations find themselves. The controller of a well-known charity, the Soldiers', Sailors' and Airmen's Families Association, summed this up recently in a few pungent words when he said: Rising costs, penal taxation, shrinking donations and insensitive legislation continue to diminish, if not extinguish, the invaluable contributions an institution like ours can make. I do not necessarily subscribe entirely to that kind of desperately pessimistic view. I think that all voluntary agencies and voluntary service depend on a kind of inner spring of thought for others which will in the end find its way through its difficulties. But, of course, we ask the Government to look with as kindly an eye as possible on any concessions that can be made in order to make the pathway of those who wish to serve others as easy as it can be made.

It would be unrealistic to expect voluntary service to be entirely shielded from the impact of inflation. That would be an unreasonable and, indeed, an unfair demand to make. But minor difficulties could be looked at, as for example in the field of provision for sport and recreation. The greatly increased charges that are being made by local authorities for the hiring of sports stadia might be looked at and possibly some of the impact of VAT might be considered. The details I leave to those more competent than I; but I accept tae assurance of the Minister that the Government have this cause very much at heart, and I feel that in the coming months and years we may see fruits of this debate far in advance of anything concrete that can be formally stated today.

4.39 p.m.


My Lords, it is with all proper diffidence that I rise this afternoon to address your Lordships' House for the first time. I rely implicitly, and indeed explicitly, on the charity and forbearance which your Lordships are accustomed to afford to inexperienced and blundering novices. I hope that it will not be thought presumptuous if I beg to be allowed to add my thanks to those already expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, for having initiated this debate and for the thoughtful and eloquent way in which he did so. It was my happy privilege to be in the chair of an annual general meeting of the National Council of Social Service two years ago when, on the basis of his ministerial experience at the Home Office, the noble Lord gave us an address which reflected his deep concern for this area of our national life.

My concern this afternoon is simply to dot a few i's and cross a few t's. As has been already mentioned, I have for some months been chairman of a committee charged to review the role and function of the voluntary organisations over the next 25 years. This committee is not an official one set up by the Government. It is not a Royal Commission. It is not even a Departmental committee on the same basis as the one over which I presided some 20 years ago in a rather different sphere of human activity. This present committee was established, and is financed, by two of the great charitable Trusts of this country, the Joseph Rowntree Memorial Trust and the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, of which I was until lately chairman.

The joint purpose of the two Trusts is easily stated, though perhaps not quite so easily accomplished. We have now had in this country for some 30 years what, for brevity, we call the Welfare State, which includes statutory provision in many fields where previously the only provision had come from voluntary agencies. It seemed to the two Trusts that about now was an opportune time to look at the whole business of the relations between voluntary organisations, on the one hand, and the statutory services on the other. There is no question—on this point I wish to be emphatic—of any assumed antecedent rivalry or competition, still less antagonism, between the voluntary organisations and the State. The simple question is how these various forms of provision can most comprehensively and most effectively be mobilised to meet the needs of everybody who lives in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. My colleagues on the committee and I have no concern with dogma, or doctrine, or ideology. We are concerned simply that each of us and each of our fellow citizens should live the fullest possible life, with the fewest possible of what a great 19th century political philosopher called "hindrances" to the good life.

In a properly brief contribution to this debate it is inevitable that I should over-simplify. Your Lordships are well aware of the work done in this country, over decades and centuries, by volunteers and voluntary agencies. It has been an essential strand woven into the fabric of our national life. As I have read the evidence submitted to this committee of mine by the voluntary organisations themselves—and I have now read just on 200 such documents—I have been struck by four things, and I beg your Lordships' indulgence to mention each of them, each in three or four sentences only.

The first is the extent to which there is still room in our society for pioneering or trail-blazing groups. This fact, if I may paradoxically put it so, is greatly to the credit of our Welfare State or welfare society. As needs are discerned and met other new needs become apparent. As the minimum provision is increased, new areas where provision ought to be made are revealed. As the level of the universal floor, to put it so, is raised, the bare minimum becomes increasingly unacceptable.

Secondly—and perhaps this is in the long run more important—there is a noticeable change over the years in the nature of the individual persons who come forward as the agents in these voluntary activities. We are no longer talking about the Victorian squire's wife, with her basketful of goodies. We are not talking exclusively about those public-spirited wives whose social position (and whose husbands' income) has enabled them in the past to make a contribution which nobody should decry. Without them the voluntary organisations could never have carried on. But as they are being more and more constrained by economic forces from giving of their time and energy—and, my Lords, make no mistake about it, they are increasingly constrained in time as well as in money—their places are being taken in quite different contexts, as has been recorded already this afternoon, by the young. We are now talking about teenage boys and girls, still at school or employed as office workers or mechanics, who give up their evenings to paint a lonely widow's bedroom or who, as I know from my own experience, give up two weeks of their annual holiday to go to camp, either in this country or abroad, with their physically handicapped contemporaries.

Thirdly, we have to recognise the growth of groups which have been brought into existence for self help, or, as I should prefer to call it, mutual aid and support. I am thinking of the almost fantastic growth of organisations, self-originated and largely self-supported for, for instance, one-parent families. They have special needs—needs which it is admittedly difficult for legislation to meet, since legislation is bound to be in general terms and these needs may well be specific, individual and idiosyncratic.

My fourth and last point, my Lords, leads me to a remarkable characteristic of the majority of voluntary organisations in this country; namely—if I can get the word out right—their specificity. Very often there seem to be in existence two or more organisations which from the outside seem to have remarkably similar objectives. Why, it is asked, cannot they amalgamate, or at least share common services and headquarters expenses? Indeed, this is one of the points about which my committee is thinking rather hard. But the subscribing British public shows splendidly British independence in the objectives which it will support. It is not enough to provide eventide homes for the elderly. Those elderly must be Catholics, or Bishops, or Baptists, or Lancastrians, if the subscriptions are to come in.

My Lords, there are dozens of other questions and problems which arise in the relations of the voluntary organisations with each other and of any one of them with the statutory services. I have briefly mentioned only a few, and I have no doubt that before this debate ends many others will have been brought to your Lordships' attention. Fundamentally, as the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, so eloquently said, the question is as simple as this: do we or do we not want to see the voluntary principle maintained in this country; not, as we all appreciate, in opposition to or in competition with, the statutory services as provided by legislation, but as a strand, or at least a thread, without which our national life would be the poorer? For my part, I have no doubt whatever that we want to see it maintained, strengthened, augmented, revivified. Times and circumstances change, and the voluntary contribution is changing and will change in its areas of application, in the individuals who provide it and in their changing appreciation of the needs which are there to be met. If this element disappeared and became no more than a matter for the patronising attention of the social historians, our whole society would be lamentably the poorer.

4.50 p.m.

The Earl of LONGFORD

My Lords, it is a privilege to take part in debates supporting the principle of voluntary action, particularly in this debate which was so well initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham. We have listened to many outstanding speeches, and naturally that if His Royal Highness, Prince Charles, drew our special attention, not only because of his eminence but because, speaking for most of us, he is so much younger, which gives him a kind of advantage. He made an altogether delightful and thoughtful speech which will provide widespread inspiration. He paid a glowing, moving tribute to Gordonstoun as the best of schools. His old Gordonstoun colleague has had to retire from the scene, so at the moment he is, I believe, although I may be wrong, the only representative in our midst of this great school.

I do not doubt the virtues attributed to Gordonstoun by his Royal Highness, but he selected, perhaps not quite seriously, the courage which has taught him, and enabled him, to address the House. He is such a gifted speaker that I do not think it needed much courage—and I think of the people who went to my old school and the brazen way in which they addressed the House. It is an arguable matter whether those who address the House most often are necessarily a credit to the training of their old school. But, with that one exception, I think everything he said was altogether admirable.

It is an honour to follow the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden. The House showed at once that they recognised that he is not only a tremendous public servant, which they all knew, but a fine speaker, which was known to many of us, and we shall all want to hear from him again frequently. I understand that he is now deeply involved in an inquiry on a subject which is less lurid than the one with which his name will be forever associated.

I speak as someone who has himself been associated with one particular issue. It is not perhaps quite the issue with which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is associated—climbing Everest, which is cleanliness itself. But if you imagine someone stretched on a psychiatrist's couch and they say the word "Wolfenden ", there would be only one reaction, and, in my case, it would be one no less pleasing. I find that as time passes people forget which side they were one. They cannot remember whether the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, was in favour of homosexualism or against it, and whether I was in favour—nobody will guess! Leaving aside these frivolous aspects of the matter, I join the well-merited applause which was gained by the noble Lord.

I am to be followed by the noble Baroness, Lady Pike, who herself has followed the late Lady Reading who occupied a unique position in this House and of course elsewhere. No one did more for voluntary service in her time. She initiated many voluntary steps which were then followed by the State. It was the noble Lady who gave a chance in voluntary action to a friend of so many of us here, Mr. Jack Profumo, who, after 12 years in voluntary action has been recently, and so rightly, honoured. That is one of the many services which the noble Lady rendered to voluntary action.

It fell to my lot 26 years ago, when I was a rising Minister (I never rose very much beyond that point, but I was what was then called a "rising Minister ") to make a long speech in this House, one of 46 minutes. But no Minister today, I am glad to say, will speak more than a third of that time. They were more leisured days. It was a long speech in which I declared the Government's support for the principle of voluntary action. In those days, 1949, Conservatives on the whole were not sure that they liked the Welfare State. When I raised that very point in that debate it was repudiated. Looking back, my answer was a shade equivocal; but that was the attitude of Conservatives in those days. On the Labour side, there was much suspicion about the principle voluntary action.

The noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, referred to those ladies who distributed bags of goodies. That voluntary action was remarked upon by many of my dear colleagues on the Labour Benches, and I was called on by Herbert Morrison and others to make a statement. I will not repeat it now, except for one sentence which was rather good and better than I could now provide. "We are convinced," I said on behalf of the Government—and it was an important moment—" that voluntary associations have rendered, are rendering and must be encouraged to continue to render, great and indispensable service to the community." On behalf of the Government in 1949 I said that; and I believe it is fair to say that that is the spirit in which the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, spoke today.

What are the main advantages of voluntary as compared to statutory action? They have been so well set out by the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden. I will not run over them at length, and if anyone wonders whether I am incapable of expressisng them, let them look up my speech of 1949. However, I will take them from the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden. They can hardly be put better. But there were several points of his which I should like to underline which have linked up with my own activity in recent years. He talked of innovation and experiment—which I believe is certainly very important for the reasons which he explained—but also that voluntary action finds it easier than statutory action to serve the purposes of or give expression to the vocation of a religious minority.

He picked out Catholics and Bishops, perhaps bearing in mind the speaker who had preceded him and the one who was to follow. At any rate, he referred to Catholics and Bishops as being roughly on the same footing. If we had any Catholic Bishops there I suppose they would count as double! He referred to these minorities. That is true. Voluntary action finds it easier than statutory action to serve the purposes of a minority, whether a religious minority or a minority distinguished by handicap, colour or by allegiance to a trade union.

Take the National Society fur the Mentally Handicapped, of which I was once chairman, and now so well and perhaps better presided over by the noble Lord, Lord Segal, who is to speak later. Quite a proportion of its members have no personal or family connection with mental handicap. Nevertheless the noble Lord the chairman of the National Society would agree that its tremendous dedication springs from the unquenchable love of the parents for their handicapped children. That is a case where the inspiration of a large group supplies the driving force. That society, certainly today, does not obtain any State help or seek it.

Moving to a different field, I refer to a much newer and smaller society, which is part of a large category, the Melting Pot. From its early days I have been a patron. It was started not long ago by West Indians in Brixton. It is a society of West Indians for West Indians in that part of the world. White men, including myself and others, give what help they can. The society is receiving generous assistance from the Urban Aid and the VSU under the Ministerial authority of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. Whenever I pay a compliment to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, I may be asked whether I have a vested interest and the answer is, "Yes". When the question arises who is to supply money it turns out that it has to be answered by the noble Lord. No one who has any knowledge of the young black people in Brixton, in many cases illiterate, unemployed—and although I say "young black men "I mean young black women also—adrift from home and living on the verge of crime, can doubt that here is a situation where the blacks can help the blacks in a special way. There are services which can be rendered there which cannot be rendered by the whites, although they can help in various ways.

In the same way when some of us started the New Horizon youth centre, which I know will appeal to His Royal Highness, a centre in Soho for young people with problems, many of them drug addicts, homeless, alienated from society, it was very much in my mind—and I was one of the founders and am now the chairman—that this was a way in which the young could help the young. Since then we have expanded to the point of dealing with 2,000 young people in a year. Our social workers, some of them trained and some untrained, now number about 10. We have tried to keep their age down to something like the age of the young people whom are are trying to help. It is an experiment in that sense; it is a new idea—someone else may have had it elsewhere, but I have not heard of it.

We have been able to win the confidence of the local authorities. One of the problems now is that you do not get the confidence or support of the public bodies until you have made headway; and it is difficult to make headway until you get support and financial support from somewhere. Now we are combining with four similar groups, one of them led by the noble Lord, Lord Soper, to seek help from the central authority. Once again, that turned out to be the noble Lord, Lord Harris. That is what we are doing. Five bodies are coming together.

It has been brought out in this debate how important it is that voluntary bodies should combine to cut out waste. It is right that the central authorities should insist on that. In the past, undoubtedly, charities wasted a lot of money and there was too much jealousy between them. One cannot repeat too often that voluntary action is and should be supplementary to statutory action. The noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, said it; and it was said by others. It is a supplement to statutory action and not a substitute for it. It is not an excuse for any failure of the public authorities to cover essential needs.

My Lords, about 20 years ago, I and others initiated the society called the New Bridge for helping ex-prisoners. It has made good progress since then. We get some help and about a third of our funds come from the central authority. There are no prizes given for guessing who is the central authority. It is the noble Lord, Lord Harris. That is the result of a good many years' work, of initiative, of pioneering work, in the face of a good deal of discouragement. In passing, I may say that in the beginning we were disliked by everybody. The other voluntary bodies thought that we were a reflection on their existence. In fact, the Home Office (I believe, or so I heard) said that we were a gang of homosexuals trying to help homosexuals. When it was pointed out to the Home Office, or whoever it was who said it, that I had eight children, it was said that that was just a cover. So, my Lords, you see that the way of the pioneer in voluntary action is hard, but one survives; and here we are getting a grant from the noble Lord, Lord Harris.

The point that I want to bring out is that those who have been concerned in that and in other societies in trying to help ex-prisoners have been the most active in demanding that there should be a State service. There has not been in the minds of the people concerned with prisoners any conflict between improving the voluntary and improving the State service. Now there is a probation and aftercare service which did not exist when we began. But one thing on which there is total agreement between the State officials and the probation and aftercare service officers and the people working in the voluntary field is that much more help is required all round. The total provision is pitifully small; but there is no conflict, and need not be any conflict in that field at all.

Let me, in drawing to a close, deal with one topic only. Where is the money to come from? I am not going into any detail, I have chosen to use up my ration of time discussing problems that have come to my notice and of course anything I have been concerned with is just a drop in the ocean of the national effort. But where is the money to come from? In the early days in the last century, the money, the finance for charitable work, came either from benefactors, well-to-do people, or from mutual aid. Fifty years or so ago, I started social work in the East End of London in what was then the Eton Manor Club started—typically of benefactors—by Old Etonians. There I did what was called social work. I played rugger, soccer, went in for athletics and when I was tired played netball or table tennis. That was the social work in which so many public school people began their social life.

On the other hand, the first paid job that I ever had when I left Oxford was with the Workers' Educational Association when the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, and I, worked shoulder to shoulder. I am sure he will agree that you could not get a stronger example of mutual help in those days. The tutors may not have conferred any benefit on the pupils; but the pupils were emphatic in believing that they conferred a benefit on the tutors. It was a spirit of mutual help and endeavour. You had what you might call the paternal benevolence and mutual help.

In recent years, charitable workers have depended more on trusts and companies. They are now feeling the breeze and it is difficult, or relatively difficult, to raise money from companies compared with what has been in the past. So we look more and more to Government; and, in turn, the Government and the local authorities are hard pressed also. I am not going to spend much longer, because each must take up only so much time in discussing exactly how the Government might help more.

My Lords, I very much appreciate the spirit in which the noble Lord spoke. I know that it is difficult for him in financial times like this but if he can be a little more positive, a little more forthcoming, at the end of the day, then that will be very gratifying. I end by raising my voice in unison with all those who have spoken and who are to speak who recognise the gravity of our financial problems in this country. I assure them that there could be nothing more urgent than this issue of how to help the voluntary bodies to serve the nation.

5.8 p.m.

Baroness PIKE

My Lords, in asking your Lordships' indulgence on this occasion, I am conscious of the fact that it is now nearly a year since I had the privilege of being admitted to your Lordships' House and that during that period I have been a very infrequent attender at the debates in this Chamber. I make no excuse for this; but I am going to do better in future. In the last 12 months, since I had the privilege of becoming the national chairman of the Woman's Royal Voluntary Service, I have been spending all my time and energies in getting to know the Service I represent and in letting them get to know me.

In another place when one makes a maiden speech one has the privilege of paying tribute to the service and work of one's predecessor in the community. It must be very rare in your Lordships' House to have that privilege as I have it today. The late Lady Swanborough, who founded and fashioned the WRVS—Stella Reading as she preferred to be known—made a unique contribution to the development of social service in the community. History will record the strength and power of her leadership, the humanity of her vision and the powers of her persuasion and of her organisation. She built up a Crown service which was born in 1938 to meet the unknown problems of total war and has lived on to meet the ever-changing demands and problems of present day society and which can claim to be growing in strength and in scope, serving as we do some 30 different aspects of social work in the community. I expect our work for the meals-on-wheels service is the one for which we are known best, although it is only one aspect of our work. We started it in wartime and we have been gaining in numbers ever since that time. Last year we carried 13,800,000 meals. This year the number will be greater, representing an increase of 14.9 per cent. over 1972 and 1973. I say this to show how the service is growing. Equally, it is an example of how the more you do in the community, the more you uncover what needs to be done. Voluntary work, as has been said, is not only about meeting the needs of people, important though that is.

In the week in which she died Lady Reading circulated, and sent to many of your Lordships, a small book called Voluntary Service. In that she said: Voluntary Service is recognised in Great Britain as an integral part of the life of the nation, as an integral part of the character of the individual and of intrinsic worth. There can be no doubt that Voluntary Service in out communities is a powerful strand for good in the national character. Trying to strengthen that strand for those working in voluntary organisations sometimes seems an almost overwhelming task. That is why we are so grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, who opened this debate, for the work he did when he was in Government, and which is being done now with the Volunteer Unit.

Many references have been made to the work of the Volunteer Unit in the Home Office. We should not forget that it ensures that the case for the voluntary services has a direct voice in the Cabinet. This is of immense value at the present time. We have been talking about money. Sometimes I feel I have not talked about anything else in the past year since I became chairman of the WRVS. But I do not want to talk today about fund raising, about the necessity for good management, maximising our resources and good administration. These are things we all accept. But volunteering is something which is very personal and very individual. Some present-day taxation is putting an almost intolerable strain on some of the individual volunteers working in our different projects. Take, for example, VAT in a hospital canteen, shop or trolley going through the corridors of our great hospitals. There the women who are pushing that hospital trolley have not only to think of the problems of the welfare work they are doing, not only to sustain the enthusiasm to do that work, but they have to become grass roots accountants as well. This puts a great strain on them. There are three main categories of goods on each shop trolley. These involve the keeping of six different and separate categories of tax records. Surely, we can have some simplification here.

Then there is the car mileage aspect. Many of us work under different categories in this respect. There is the meals-on-wheels rate, the hospital car rate, the rate if you are a local councillor. We should try to work out with the motoring organisations a minimum rate in consultation, taking into account all the necessary costs and expenses, making certain that there is adequate cover for the use of that car but no material gain in using it, so we can have one standard rate throughout our voluntary work. Many people work under different systems. I know of an individual in my organisation who uses her car first of all to do her ordinary WRVS work covering thousands of miles at 4p a mile. She then carries meals-on-wheels at 6p a mile. She does hospital car service work at 7.1p a mile, and with the rest of her time she does her local council work at 9p a mile. This really is absurd if we look at it in general terms.

There is also the problem of the relationship with the professionally trained social worker. I do not want to go too far into this point, but we all know that more and more young people are coming into this profession and are doing magnificent work; and we need them and all their services. It is our responsibility, as volunteers, to build up an understanding and a trusting relationship with them. It is our responsibility, as volunteer organisations, to make certain that we so inform and train our people that we can build up this relationship. Nevertheless, it is important that the knowledge and understanding of the potential of the volunteer is part of the basic training on their side. Too often it is left to the voluntary organisations, who are already under stress, who are already undermanned, to try to carry out that knowledge and that training. I believe it must be part of their basic training because, as many of your Lordships have said, a great many new schemes, new ideas and new works are emerging in our voluntary services and organisations. The older, more established organisations are trying as well to use new initiatives; all the time there are young groups growing up. I have an interest to declare here as I am not only chairman of the Women's Royal Voluntary Service, but I have the great privilege of being chairman of the Executive Committee of the Community Service Volunteers, a group of young people who I think play a unique part in community involvement, an organisation which gives a unique social apprenticeship to young people involved in community work.

I should like to read out one of the schemes which they are carrying out at the present time. CSVs are acting as ' peripatetic house-mothers ' on behalf of the Social Services Departments of Camden and Oxfordshire. This role entails their calling at the home of a family where one parent (or even both) is/are missing, getting the children their breakfast, seeing them off to school: and then being there when they come back from school, giving them their tea, seeing that they do their homework, and leaving food in the oven for their evening meal. In this way they preserve the family as a unit and prevent the children having to be taken into residential care. That is good in itself, and must be good in itself. But, on the financial side, we calculate that the cost of keeping one child for a week in a residential home is £75, and the cost of keeping three children is £225. I hope your Lordships can do this arithmetic—I have checked the figures! Three children maintained in residential care for a year cost £11,700. The cost of one CSV volunteer for a year is £700. Apart from the contribution to the community, the saving for the ratepayer in this situation could be £11,000 a year.

I have tried to show some of the practical ways in which I believe we can look for help from Central Government and some of the practical ways in which we can get help from the Voluntary Services Unit. Some of your Lordships will know of John Gardner, an American who did a tremendous amount of work in America, particularly in the 'sixties. He said in his book No Easy Victory and in his American Godkin lecture in 1969: One of the reasons people interested in improving society never quite come to grips with the central issue, is that they are preoccupied with specific evils that must be corrected. I don't blame them, so am I. But the result is that each reformer comes to his task with a little bundle of desired changes. The implication is that if the appropriate reforms are carried through and the defect corrected, Society will be wholly satisfactory and the work of the reformer done. We all know that not to be true. The task is to evolve an understanding that will sustain a society, capable of continuing change, continuing responsiveness and continuing renewal.

This concept must be at the heart of what we mean by the voluntary principle. Most of us agree that the voluntary principle is wholly good. The problem is how to translate that into concrete terms, how to make certain that that voluntary principle is reflecting the changes in society and in society's concept of what it is right and proper to provide—what level of service, what standard of service, what type of service, what type of provision which it is right and proper to make in the community as a whole.

This point was well made in a letter in The Times. It is rather a long letter and I hope I shall not quote any of it out of context. On Thursday, 29th May, Mr. Isserlis of the Centre for Studies in Social Policy, said: The social needs and problems of the country are not only those of the poor and the sick and similarly disadvantaged groups—important though such groups may have to be in terms of priorities. The social health of the country may well call for saving as well as spending. The social collapse of the country—if it comes—will come from hyperinflation and not from inadequate welfare provision. The social recovery and development of the country must rest not only on what is provided at public expense for particular individuals and classes but also on what is done or not done—in ways that may not always involve much spending at all—to help or hinder enterprise, thrift, economic development, good labour relations, private self-reliance, mutual help, citizen responsibility, public amenity and decency, and the rule of law. Citizen responsibility is surely what we are talking about this afternoon. What better way—probably the only way—to build up responsibility than to face people with the demands in society and with the constraints on resources in society? This is surely the best way of building up responsibility in our society.

So the task of the voluntary organisations, as I see it, is to try to enable all classes, all types, all age groups, all interest groups, those who want to join an established organisation such as mine, or those who do not want to join (and why should they), people of all kinds to give of their time, however small it may be. The great danger at the present time must be that more and more people's ability to give is being confined by their material resources. This is something which we must not let inflation do to us. We must ensure that nobody is inhibited from giving social and voluntary service in the community, because of lack of material resources.

This is a tremendous challenge to a voluntary organisation such as ours. We must maximise our resources as efficiently as we can. We are asking self-discipline from those people who come to help us, but we ourselves must share a tremendous responsibility. We must share our administrative and organisational machinery and make certain that we use it to the full. Where young people come in, they should be able to use our administrative machinery without any cost or any effort to themselves. We must try to get rid of any sense of possessive competitiveness and so on. We get a tremendous reward from voluntary service—a tremendous strength from doing it. The real strength is not just in demonstrating that we are a caring and compassionate community. The real strength is in building up the influence and strength of our own country.

5.23 p.m.


My Lords, as the first speaker after the noble Baroness may I tell her how greatly we welcome this opportunity of hearing from her, and if we may have that opportunity again before too long it will be a privilege. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, spoke of the presence in our midst for many years of the late Lady Reading and her voice, personality and authority will linger in the memories of many of us. It is only right and fitting that she should now have a successor of the character of the noble Baroness, who will be able to sneak with the same practicality and authority as the late Lady Reading. If it were not inelegant to say so, it is not a chip off the old block which we have, but the old block itself.

May I also say a word about my old friend Lord Wolfenden who also made his maiden speech today. It is very difficult to say anything about an old friend for which he will forgive you afterwards. So perhaps I may restrict myself to saying how welcome it is to hear in this Chamber his clarity of thought, conciseness of speech and his mastery of enunciation. We shall look forward to hearing from him on many occasions in future without any specificity about it.

My Lords, when the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, opened this debate he suggested that for brevity's sake as many of us who could speak on a particular topic as illustrative of the wider theme should do so rather than trying to cover the whole waterfront. So may I instantly express an interest, or rather a concern, as the principal official of St. John and its two foundations—the ambulance in this country and in the Commonwealth for the teaching and practice of first aid and the Eye Hospital in Jerusalem. We are also closely hound up with the work done by the Red Cross. Indeed, I have the honour to be the present Chairman of a Joint Committee of St. John and the Red Cross for the war disabled. But I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Hylton-Foster, is to speak about the Red Cross so I shall stick strictly to the work of St. John.

May I say at this point how greatly I welcome what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, about the organisation in the Government and in the country for trying to knit together the work of all the different voluntary services through the Voluntary Services Unit and, as the noble Earl, Lord Long-ford, has said, through the presence in the Cabinet of somebody with responsibility in this field. That is the organisational part of it and it is enormously welcome to all voluntary agencies. The other half, of course, is the financial and other support which voluntary agencies can expect from the State at a time of financial stringency which we recognise as clearly as the noble Lord himself.

If he will allow me, I shall not take him on the broad front of the things that could be helpful, which we have just heard about; a general cutting in taxation, for instance, VAT; a review of transport and various charges of that kind, and so on. I will simply give illustrative points from the outlook of a particular voluntary agency, St. John in this country, with regard to first aid.

I shall take as the first point the help which the Government can continue to give in schools in emphasising the importance which schools should attach to all boys and girls learning some elements of first aid. I know that they already have a wide number of subjects which nowadays they are forced to try to master, but it is a point of citizenship that they should also be able to look after themselves to a certain degree and thereby take some of the strain off the Health Service. It is rather ridiculous that even a professor should have to ring up a doctor because he has a nose bleed or has burnt his finger and does not know what to do. He should have learned that at an early stage of his career, at school. As most accidents happen in the home, it is surely a potent argument for what the Government are already trying to do, and I hope they will press forward with ensuring that all boys and girls in schools have some element of knowledge of first aid. That is one of the ways in which the Government could help.

There is another. Recent legislation is contained in the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 which in conjunction with earlier Acts places a greater demand for first aid training in industry. Indeed, there are penalties, up to the closure of plants, when it is found that the Act has not been complied with. This carries with it a demand for instruction of people in how to avoid these accidents. Where is this instruction to come from? Clearly the Health Service could hardly be asked to undertake this extra burden. Also, I think it is right that the State should, and does, turn to the voluntary services to help to carry out such tasks which are helpful not only to the individual, but to the country at large, considering the very great number of man-hours lost in industry through accidents.

Do we wish, particularly at this point, to ask for a subvention, so that we could provide this extra tuition? Not directly, my Lords; but I would say, indirectly, because we have in hand a research project, FACT, which is an attempt to establish as a fact that there would be a reduction in working days lost through accidents, not only in the factories but in the streets and in our homes, if people involved had a knowledge of first aid. St. John is doing this project in conjunction with the University of Aston. The Canadians have done something similar in Canada. But, of course, such a project needs financial support and that is the smaller kind of financial support that even in these difficult times I should have thought the Government, having passed the 1974 Factory Act, might consider making available.

Apart from the teaching of first aid and the issue of over 200,000 first aid certificates every year, the St. John Ambulance Brigade, including cadets and nursing sisters, does annually about 4 million hours of public duty. These hours are done by individuals at football matches, horse events, demonstrations, pop festivals and the like, up and down the country. They are organised on a community basis, which is something for which the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, was pressing. In the course of these public duties there is naturally great opportunity for what the noble Prince was urging; namely, enterprise, excitement and adventure for the young. To give your Lordships a single example; recently in Belfast after a bomb explosion the military were investigating the rubble around the scene of the blast not only looking for casualties but also to check whether more explosions might ensue. Two young cadets walking down the streets said to the soldiers: "We are first-aiders ". The soldiers then said:" Here are some first-aid kits: if you are first-alders, you had better get busy and do what you can ". And they did. This is the kind of thing that the young do, not only among the bombs and blasts of Northern Ireland, but on the roads of this country. We must remember that although most accidents happen in the home, the next largest number of accidents take place in the streets and on the roads of our country. So there is plenty of scope for that kind of adventure; and, in addition, there is something of the kind to which the noble Prince referred; namely, mountain rescue work which is done with the aid and support of St. John in Scotland.

If we do these things despite taxation and despite the strain imposed by inflation, I think at that point we are entitled to draw attention to the fact that we have not asked for extra funds for these things. But when we do make requests for support for a research project such as FACT, we would hope that the Government would take into account the other services which are already being given by the organisation at no strain to the Exchequer and at no strain to the people engaged in the statutory services.

I do not wish to keep the House very much longer on the work of St. John in this country; but perhaps I might also mention our Eye Hospital in Jerusalem, which is tangible evidence of our care and concern outside this country for the needy of the underdeveloped world. This hospital was built and maintained by this country, with the support of other countries in the Commonwealth, together with the American Society. So far we have managed to maintain it with surgeons coming from Australia and the United States as well as from this country. Of course, the running costs are very high, and here we meet another problem with Government. Regardless of Party, Governments are keen to support new projects but reluctant to support those already existing. I would ask Her Majesty's Government only whether they would think again in this case. In present circumstances, the inflation rate in Israel is higher even than in this country and therefore it must be doubtful whether voluntary societies alone, and ours in particular, can continue to support the running costs of such a hospital, which this year, having taken into account ail the donations given from the Commonwealth and the United States on capital account, will be of the order of £300,000. Next year it will be more.

I would sum up by saying that we understand the Government's difficulty about finance. We welcome the organisation which they have set up to try to see that the various voluntary societies are knit together and that together they will complement—it has been said, rightly, "complement" and not "supplement "—what is being done already by the statutory services. However, we would think it right to ask that, when requests are made, the Government should say:" We will look at this first on its merits as a project ", and then, if they are doubtful whether they can find the money for it in present circumstances, to say to themselves: "Yes, but we ought also to take into account the great sums of money and the enormous amount of individual effort being put forward by the members of this, that or the other society, and try to meet their request with the compassion we think they have deserved. "Perhaps I might repeat again here that by St. John alone 4 million hours of individual service have been given in one year throughout the country.

5.38 p.m.


My Lords, three of the most notable speeches so far today have come from Members of your Lordships' House whose varied and heavy duties prevent their addressing your Lordships very frequently. That is a great pity, because the maiden speeches of the noble Baroness, Lady Pike, and of the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, and the semi-maiden speech of His Royal Highness have all contributed a refreshing note, delivered in a refreshing way, to your Lordships' House.

Many of us remember the noble Baroness, Lady Pike, in another place. Her interest in social matters goes back far beyond her recent important appointment. It is a special pleasure to hear her today making her maiden speech on a subject on which she is so well qualified to contribute to this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, is a native of my former constituency—a local boy long since made good—and I certainly associate myself with the compliment which has just been paid to his clarity of mind and enunciation, and, I would add, his salty wit. There was a touch of salt in some of his remarks which I thoroughly enjoyed.

The noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, is now doing the job that I wanted done 10 years ago. When I was Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster I badly wanted this kind of inquiry to be embarked upon, but the National Council of Social Service and other important bodies were not ready for it. Much has happened in 10 years. I am not a bit surprised that this task is now thought to be due for attention and no-one is more suited to it than the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden. He will have under review some matters which badly need careful but critical examination. I refer to fund raising methods for one, and to management weaknesses and deficiencies for another.

I am bound to say that I find slightly unacceptable the emotional titles which are still retained by some of our charities. They are not in keeping with our present attitude towards disablement and sickness. I wish no harm at all to any voluntary organisation, but when a voluntary body calls itself "The Home for Incurables ", I question it. When another body calls itself, "Action for the Crippled Child" I question that, too. Nevertheless, I know that there is a great deal involved in fund raising and that voluntary bodies have to employ, perhaps unfortunately, many devices and methods of presentation which more resemble the advertising media than the appeal of a charitable or voluntary organisation.

I know the difficulties. I think that for the first time under one roof I secured the attendance of all the voluntary bodies concerned with the homeless, the drifters. A debate which is to follow later this evening is on that same subject. It did not hang together. One could not keep them together, even though I was able to suggest to them that if only there were some basis of co-operation the Government of the day might provide money for the capital expenditure which they found most difficult to raise. Many voluntary organisations may overcome the difficulties of their current expenditure, but it is extremely difficult for them to raise money for capital expenditure. These are the disappointments of work in this field, and I have no doubt that the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, will encounter a number of them. Recently, I came across a body which started with a considerable grant from a charitable organisation, and yet all the money which it was collecting was being spent upon collecting more money and administration. That kind of thing should not pass unnoticed.

Nothing has been said this afternoon about those voluntary bodies which are concerned with the welfare of animals. Probably, it is not within the terms of reference of our debate, although the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, mentioned environmental voluntary effort and conservation societies. I shall not dwell this afternoon on the subject of animals. However, it is a little difficult to discuss voluntary effort in this country, and ignore the enormous amount of effort and money which is being devoted to animal welfare. One cannot brush off the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals when one is talking about voluntary effort in this country.

A kind of general blessing has been given to voluntary effort—that it is good in itself; that it has a moral basis; that it is idealistic; that it does good. Not a word should be said against it. We want more of it. There are still so many gaps to fill and so many who wish to come forward to render some service to their fellow citizens. I subscribe to a great deal of that, although I think that we must not blind ourselves to some of the challenges that are being thrown up by voluntary effort in one field or another. I shall be raising questions on voluntary service which concern me—and, if I may say so, it will be one of the few challenges which has been made so far this afternoon. At the same time, it should be borne in mind that almost everything which is now done by the State in matters of social welfare and social service was first done by voluntary action. This is an irrefutable fact and I believe that it provides all voluntary effort with a certificate of exemption from irresponsible criticism. Nevertheless, we wish to examine the value of what we are doing in certain fields, why we are doing it, and what is the significance of this action in the social structure of the community.

May I refer to voluntary service by young people? The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, referred to the Young Volunteer Force Foundation, of which I was the first chairman, and I was ably and devotedly served by Mr. Selwyn Lloyd, who is now the Speaker of the House of Commons, and Mr. Jo Grimond as my co-trustees. We had the task of launching this organisation, getting it on its way and trying to find the opportunities which it was thought we should provide for young people to take voluntary action and make some contribution to what society needed. This concept of a Young Volunteer Force Foundation derived from a report of a committee of the National Council of Social Service—called, I believe, the Carpenter Committee—which recommended that this kind of work should be done under the umbrella of the established organisation of the National Council itself. This recommendation was firmly rejected by the young people whom we consulted and whose co-operation we needed to launch this project. They did not want to have anything to do with the established organisation; they wanted a new one and largely to run it themselves; they wanted to have their head; they were against the established order of voluntary and charitable effort; they wanted something quite different.

It was sponsored originally with a considerable amount of Government money, but it had to raise a great deal of its own. From their Ministerial experience the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, will both remember having to examine the course and progress of this body and having to conduct a kind of running audit of what we were about, what we were achieving and how it was going. It was new, it was an adventure. It has proved successful but it met with many difficulties.

The ideal was to involve uncommitted young people, who did not want to have anything to do with the youth clubs and other established forms of voluntary effort for young people. They wanted a wide range of activities and we found them where they were perhaps most needed—in the large urban areas. Ours was what I would call a grass roots movement. We tried to involve the youth of working people, and believe me, my Lords, this is much more difficult than involving the youth of middle class people. On the whole, the working class is not fond of charitable effort. From the point of view of working people, it has an unhappy part in our social history. "Charity" is a dirty word among working people and that is why we call it "voluntary effort ". It was the patronage of the poor by the better off, and one has to be careful about the psychology.

We set up our centres in large urban areas with the consent and support of local authorities, and we went about recruiting hundreds of young people who could undertake activities of various kinds. We found that these young people wanted to do what Beveridge suggested in his 1948 book Voluntary Action should be the concept of voluntary action. Your Lordships will remember that Beveridge wanted to raise voluntary action above its practical details. He wanted it to be a contribution to democracy, a distinguishing mark of a free society and our volunteers became involved with, and critical of, the social environment in which they were called upon to work. Collective action brought about articulate comment, criticism and even protest and this became our major problem; one might say the revolt of young people against what they saw and the environment within which they were asked to work. Local councillors did not like being told about the mismanagement of local affairs.

There was one town where our volunteers made a social appraisal of the town which was so devastating, so critical, that the whole urban district council rose up in anger and almost banished us overnight. We had more than one storm of that kind, because, as I have said, these young people were not just dispensing social service; they were becoming politically aware of the conditions under which they were giving that service. These young people perhaps saw more of the roots of discontent, hardship and unhappiness than many of the councillors themselves. I am afraid that many of our volunteers challenged the Establishment, and we discovered, apart from their critical attitude towards social conditions, that if one could involve them physically and emotionally and enable them to translate their values into action there was nothing more selfless and noble to be seen in social life. It was really moving. Of course it was sometimes tiresome for those in authority.

If we put this in a wider perspective, the first question I would ask is whether voluntary service of this kind among young people is primarily for their benefit or for the benefit of the community. Is it a social service or a youth development enterprise? Is the use of the services of young people in this way somewhat misplaced? I believe that, as it turned out, the social need was not the underlying purpose of what we were doing. Although we were filling gaps in other people's lives, the volunteers were making good something missing from their own lives, and I have asked myself a number of times whether the gaps in the lives of young people should be filled in this way. Is this the only way? Where does this work and experience fit into the development of adolescent life? Some of it undoubtedly does.

We hear a great deal about adventure, but the boys and girls whom I am talking about have no access to the kind of adventure that His Royal Highness was talking about. I am afraid we must admit that the opportunity for adventure is to a large extent based on an opportunity which is not given to the great mass of the families of working class people. They cannot go off to the Coast Guards; they cannot have the same opportunity for adventure as more privileged young people. Again, is it right that we should ask young people to make good the mistakes and failures of the old? As chairman of the Young Volunteer Force Foundation, I used to say that I did not want all these young people mixing porridge for old age pensioners, or doing little else than mending their window sashes or putting washers on their taps. That did not seem to me to be the field of work in which young volunteers should be engaged. The young have their own lives to live, and it is not right to turn them back on the social problems which they have done nothing to create and can, unfortunately, do so little to relieve.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord—


I thought, therefore, that young people should be fitted for the challenges they have to meet and—


My Lords, may I—


Does the noble Lord mind? I am taking rather more time than I should. I have already spent 19 minutes.




I am sorry, my Lords, but I must press on. We were constantly directing the efforts of the young volunteers into channels which they wanted to explore, and we felt that what they wanted to explore was perhaps of greater importance to us than discovering in the abstract a social need. We have to face the fact that many of our young people have become more separated and alienated from their elders than was the case in past generations. Parents are rejected, the conventions are flouted. We have vandalism, violence, protest. Are these all part of the war being waged on the older generation? Youth is now demanding more of life, and is also demanding change. There is a kind of earthquake tremor under the foundations of society. They do not accept what has been laid down by people who have gone before.

The truth is that in my lifetime this country has never known what to do about its young people. Three generations of young people were asked to volunteer or were conscripted for war. I had no problems. At 17 years of age I was in the Army. At 17 years and eight months I was in France. I came back, but a million did not. I came back at the age of 22 and my youth had been taken care of. In 1939, the youth of another generation was also taken care of. We have now been free of the threat of major war for close on 30 years. We are in the middle of the second postwar generation of young people who are showing that there is much that they are not prepared to accept. I wonder whether, in our system of education and in the preparation for work, we have fully understood the need to have a closer rhythm of development in the life of the young than we offer at the present moment.

Basically, our attitude towards young people is what it was when I was young in the early part of the century—you go to school; you leave school; you go to work and, when you have worked long enough, you retire and are on pension, and that is it. Many young people are separated by our system of formal education from the realities, values and opportunities of work. After all, the nation is going to rely on work; it is not all leisure or adventure. We have to make work more enjoyable to the young, but we must also make it more enjoyable for all people if we are ever to get on top of our economic difficulties. At present, there is a great tendency to shy away from work as being too unpleasant and irksome. We look for diversions. We demand of the nation more money for leisure and for enjoyment.

I read in the newspaper tonight that the new Minister of Education is thinking of releasing some of the more rebellious spirits in the last term of school, to let them go somewhere because they are a nuisance in the classroom. In reality, they have finished their education, at least at the school, and they want to go. But what will become of them? Who will take care of them? We let them go out of the school gates and say, "Goodbye". Except for the Youth Employment Service, which is doing such splendid work, the training schemes are all too few. These young people go off the school register and on to the unemployment register. We have to explain, when we look at the figures periodically, that so many tens of thou- sands of our school-leavers are unemployed. What an humiliation to a young boy or girl to go from being a pupil to being unemployed! Is that all we can think of? In many cases there is no employment immediately available, but our training facilities for young people are pitiful compared with some other countries.

In my view, more should be done to establish a partnership between education and preparation for productive work. It was envisaged in the 1944 Education Act, and is to be found on a modified basis in day release schemes at the present time. What I have been saying may appear to be the reverse of voluntary service by young people. It is not intended to be that. Nobody could have put more work or more enthusiasm into the YVF than I. In present conditions, as in the past, it has a very important contribution to make towards the formation of the character and range of interest and the desire for service of young people. I wish that a great deal of this could be put into preparation for productive work. I do not think that voluntary services should be used as an outlet for the energies and frustrations of the young, when the real remedy lies elsewhere. We have to keep a balance and bear this in mind when praising, as we are are entitled to do, the services rendered voluntarily by young people. Finally, my Lords, perhaps we are not being fair to them by engaging their activities in this way. Are we sure we understand that the rhythm of their lives is very important, and that the intervention of conventions in school and work, and the separation of the two, is perhaps more damaging than we realise?


My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, sits down, may I ask him whether he would agree with me that boys from working class homes can join the Scouts and get adventure? Can they not take part in adventure playgrounds? The noble Lord was trying to make out that boys from working-class homes cannot get adventure, and I cannot understand that.


My Lords, I have sat down, and I do not want to detain your Lordships a moment longer. But adventure playgrounds are not the same kind of adventure that we heard about earlier this afternoon.

6.5 p.m.


My Lords, at the risk of returning to the subject under discussion, which was so ably put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, I should like your Lordships to cast your minds back a week or so to the film shown on television about the life and loves of an earlier Prince of Wales. Your Lordships may remember that at the time of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, Gladstone said to the Prince of Wales, "And how is your hospital fund?" The Prince of Wales said, "It is £200,000 ", to which Gladstone replied, "That is the best thing that has come out of the Diamond Jubilee ". I am glad to be able to tell your Lordships that that Fund is now 100 times as big. At the invitation of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, may I concentrate on the help we try to give to volunteers, putting aside the staff college that we run and the grants we make. It is a curiosity that in this debate no one has defined what is a "volunteer ". I imagine one has to bring two things to the definition: first, that he is working in his own time, and secondly that he is unpaid.

There are four types of volunteers we try to help. The first are those in the field, and they are the salt of the earth. In the King's Fund, with our charter in front of us, we have to indulge in a certain amount of sophistry, because it is the King's Fund for the Hospitals of London. But, as chairman, I am clear in my own mind that people are more important than patients. In a sense, to have a patient in a hospital—and noble Lords will appreciate what I mean—is a confession of failure. We must keep the patients out of the hospitals. Let them come in if they have to, and then we try to ensure that the volunteers can fulfil a variety of personal needs which are not met by the hospital staff. It would be tactless to say that this increases the staff/ patient ratio. The trade unions connected with hospitals would not like that phrase at all, but it is true to say we increase the number of people caring for the patient. One thing we must remember—and those of your Lordships who have been in hospital will remember this—is that one is an isolated person, because the whole of the hospital team, even including the cooks, are mixed up with one's illness. It is often the case that the patient in hospital regards the volunteer as being the one person bringing normality to the bedside. I am the first to agree that there is a need for education. We want disciplined amateurs in this sphere.

Then there is the second type of volunteer who, in the minds of some people is perhaps the most important—the person in the self-help organisation. Possibly these people are the most worthy of all. There is the Spinal Injuries Association, Combat Huntington's Chorea, Colostomy Welfare Group—but your Lordships will know enough about it without my having to explain. If a person is subject to one of these specialised diseases, what a comfort it must be to find that he is not the only one in that situation, that there are people who have been through the same trouble who have, in the end, come out with their full life, in moderation. But the trouble at this moment with this particular organisation is that inflation has cut their income, and inflation has increased their needs. It should be commended to all community health councils that they should look to the self-help organisation in their own areas as having one of the most important claims on their interests.

The third type of volunteer, and extremely numerous, is the League of Friends of Hospitals. It sounds funny but when the King's Fund met the National Health Service as it came into being in the 'forties, it was thought at the time that the King's Fund would have nothing more to do; there would be no more grants for hospitals, because everything would be found in the National Health Service. Of course we were wrong, and we are still wrong today. The League of Friends are people who devote their expertise to raising money to help in hospitals. I have little doubt that some of them, I hope more and more, are members of the community health councils. This is work which the King's Fund has taken very much to its heart in present circumstances.

The ignorance which exists about community health councils is quite extraordinary. We made a small survey in a large city in the Midlands, and only 19 out of 94 people had ever heard of community health councils, and of those only 7 had a rough idea of what it did, the other 12 saying it was a variety of things like keeping the streets clean, and setting up family planning clinics. Perhaps this is not surprising, because people do not think about these things until they are ill. However, if we are to make a success of the councils, the Government must play their part, associated with the King's Fund in one particular instance, in bringing to bear all we can to ensure that their minds are thinking along the lines they should.

The fourth kind of volunteer comprises those mixed up in the charitable organisations, those we have been talking about today, and even those like the King's Fund, which has many committees. Those committees would not be such a success if people did not in their own time devote a lot of energy to seeing that they really work.

I have a feeling, which I should express, that there are tendencies today in the organisational life of this country which seem to point to a reversal to the sort of bureaucratic set-up that existed in the 18th century. I shall never get over the abolition of the management committees in the reorganisation of the Health Service, in what we now know as the "dirty grey book ". What is interesting about it is that it was not the fault of one Government—if" fault" is the right word—but of two. Perhaps we shall one day read a book on how it really came about that that service was so disorganised that we are only just beginning to get over the shock. I would hazard a guess that perhaps there was an element in the Civil Service who felt that the new set-up was more advantageous than the last one.

If I may give another example on the same theme—and I apologise for going slightly off at a tangent—I was once on a body called the British National Export Council, another voluntary organisation so far as I was concerned because I certainly was not paid; that was abolished. I remember a noble Lord who sits on the other side coming to make this announcement. This organisation, made up of partly paid people and partly of volunteers, was told all of a sudden that the work it had been doing was no longer wanted. I know that several of us were very upset indeed. It is a matter of great regret that cut off from so much of the voluntary work are those people who were making what I think was generally considered to be a worthwhile contribution.

So I end with four questions in my mind. The first one is, are volunteers in hospitals really welcome? It is very easy to say, "Of course they are "; but there have been tendencies in the past—I am glad to say that these are disappearing—for the trade union element, for all the reasons you can think of, naturally to regard with a certain amount of dismay the number of volunteers coming into the hospitals, particularly if they were not educated amateurs. This I indicated at the beginning of my speech.

Secondly, will a determined effort be made to bring the community health councils back to their original aim? In those hospitals just round the corner in your own area there is no longer that management committee; there is only this team, and, sniping from the sidelines, these community health councils, the very people who at one time were on management committees and sharing the responsibility for the hospital. The only promise that I would make is that in conjunction with the Department we in the King's Fund will do our best to bring to the community health councils all the expertise possible to help them make up their minds as to the best efforts they can make in the Health Service as it stands today.

Thirdly, I hope the Government will not blow hot and cold on voluntary committees which help them in their work. Those special self-help organisations that I have spoken about seem to me to be something which have a special need, and I hope in a variety of ways they will get the help they want. Lastly, I would merely say that there is this commitment, so far as I and my colleagues in the King's Fund are concerned, with this very long history of over 70 years of working with the Department in a peculiarly British way; we can do things on behalf of the Department which in the long run can be of great benefit to us all.


My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to intervene for one moment? Could he say whether the King's Fund, which is such a wonderful organisation, can now be used outside the area which was originally covered by the King's Fund, in other parts of the country? I have always felt that this limitation was a great disadvantage, for instance, to my part of the country. I wonder whether it is now extending over a much wider field.


My Lords, I must give a truthful answer to that, even if it bounces back on me at a later stage in King's Fund circles. The truth is that the King's Fund is for hospitals in London, and its counterpart is the Nuffield Provincial Hospital Trust; they make grants in different ways but on a similar scale. But we have interpreted our remit in a very wide way, and in our staff college we train administrators for the whole of the country. We also have conferences of doctors and administrators from all over Europe, Australia and New Zealand, because, perhaps with a little bit of sophistry, we feel that this can only do what we want it to do and that is to help the hospitals of London. We are as all-embracing as we can be. But please do not raise too many legal complications on that issue!

I was just about to say that the King's Fund looks very carefully into the future. It tries to reorientate itself to meet the changing conditions. I think it is one of the organisations which the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, has in mind, which need encouragement and which I hope are doing good work.

6.18 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to try to say something today on behalf of the mentally handicapped. I do so in no way as an expert, and in fact as a complete beginner. But I think it important that someone should speak on behalf of the mentally handicapped, if only because they do not have the advantage which the physically handicapped possess of having eloquent spokesmen in your Lordships' House on the Mobile Bench.

I would preface my remarks by recalling an incident that happened to me last year in France. After an interval of eight years, I again met two mentally handicapped friends. I was not expecting to be recognised, but to my intense surprise I was immediately greeted. I should add that during those eight years I had added a beard, and that our original acquaintanceship had lasted only about three weeks. This made me reflect and wonder who really is normal and who really is handicapped. It makes me ask the question: why did this incident happen at all? I think the answer is that those two men had lived for 10 years in a community where handicapped and non-handicapped share their life and their work, and this is a very stimulating experience.

It sometimes happens that many of the normal barriers, the barriers one expects between the "we" and the "they", the helpers and the helped, are broken down in such a setting; broken down perhaps by the action of faith, hope and charity. In that kind of setting the handicapped and the non-handicaped call forth a deep response, from each other. The name of this particular community is l'arche, which is a French word meaning literally a masonry arch, but also has connotations, for example, of Noah's Ark, and of the Ark of the Covenant—perhaps both the Old and the New Covenant. I had the privilege of acting as cook for about a week in 1964 when this community was just beginning with two handicapped people and four or five others. Since then, three very large communities have grown up in France, and there are now houses running on l'arche lines in no less than eight countries, and the Continents of America and Africa, and India are represented as well as England and Scotland.

I come now to the needs of the mentally handicapped in Britain. Voluntary bodies have been pioneering in this field for a long time, and I am quite sure that they will go on pioneering. My noble friend Lord Grenfell cast considerable light on this in a debate in your Lordship's House in 1972 when he mentioned rural training, living and working communities in this country. The previous year Command Paper No. 4683, Better Services for the Mentally Handicapped, had pointed out that there are three times as many mentally handicapped people over fifteen years of age as there are under fifteen, and pointed out also that there are tens of thousands of mentally handicapped people living in subnormality hospitals who could be discharged tomorrow if only there were suitable places for them to live with appropriate degrees of care and support.

My noble friend Lady Loudoun elicited earlier this year the information that some 8,000 mentally handicapped children are now in hospital who receive little or no education. I believe that there is a Government programme to try to cope with this situation which will provide some 250 places per year. How one wishes that that programme could be multiplied, because most of these children will have become adults before their turn will have arrived in so limited a programme as we have at the moment.

It may perhaps be said that since 1971 Governments of all Parties have made strides, have progressed, in providing adult training centres and hostels for mentally handicapped. I welcome this, but does it cope with the backlog that we have already, and cope at a time when about one child in every thousand of those now being born may suffer some degree of mental handicap? There is—and I say this because I live only one mile from an adult training centre—some uncertainty as to the exact purpose of these places. Is their purpose to train people for jobs in the outside world, or is it rather to provide occupation on fairly simple contract work? At the present time many adult training centres are understaffed, and all will be subject to the financial pressures and squeezes which affect all local authorities. I hope that even in this rather difficult situation the temptation will be resisted of concentrating only, or in large part, on the occupational side and the contract work side, and that the training for normal work in the community, or normal work in sheltered workshops, will be given adequate priority. I think that almost all adult training centres could use more volunteers. Most of them have good links with the local branch of the Mentally Handicapped Children's Society, but there are many other voluntary and community societies, organisations, groups, who could be involved in what the statutory adult training centres are doing.

This is the broad picture: that on the one hand there is a great unmet, unsatisfied need of mentally handicapped people; and on the other hand there are pioneering efforts of voluntary bodies to try to do something about it. To give a few examples, the National Mentally Handicapped Children's Society has already been mentioned in this debate, but I am very much struck and attracted by what they have done both at Slough in the field of industrial training and at Lufton Manor near Yeovil in the field of training for farming and horticulture. Then there is the varied work of the 400 local branches of the National Society, and of the other bodies involved in providing residential communities for the handicapped and sheltered workshops for the handicapped. Recently a new umbrella body has been formed called The Campaign for the Mentally Handicapped with the object of educating and informing the general public and of striving to secure justice for the mentally handicapped.

It may well be that in the present economic and financial situation there is very little chance of getting at all quickly adequate and comprehensive statutory services for the mentally handicapped, and that is why I would urge Her Majesty's Government to bring together essential Government Departments. health authorities at all levels, and local authorities specifically, in order to help the existing voluntary agencies. This help need not, and should not, be only financial. There is great need for encouragement and partnership of all the three levels of government with voluntary agencies. This kind of partnership can touch on such matters as staff training, and the secondment of personnel in both directions in the use of premises and transport. If that is done, I am convinced that whatever public funds are spent for the benefit of the mentally handicapped will achieve maximum value for money. If we can have this greater degree of co-operation, the mentally handicapped will benefit enormously, and great steps will be taken to remove the stigma of mental handicap which unfortunately has not yet been entirely dispelled.

6.30 p.m.


My Lords, I must crave your Lordships' indulgence and in particular that of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, because due to a long-standing engagement I shall have to leave before the end of the debate. We have listened this afternoon to some fine speeches covering a wide spectrum of the voluntary community services. I shall speak briefly on one aspect of these services; that is, the regional councils on alcoholism, which are just one of a group of many charitable organisations which, as we all know, are today in dire straits. I do not have to repeat that we are immersed in a grave and severe financial crisis and it may well seem wrong now to talk about possibly increasing Government grant aid to some of these community services. But before we accept this fact we must look at the other side of the coin, and look at it objectively. We have to get our priorities right. Priorities, of course, come in many different orders and sequences; it depends on the point of view of the individual as to whether they are the social services, voluntary services, schools, defence, roads or nationalisation. I have even been told that the Community Land Bill would involve 12,000 additional civil servants and cost about £58 million a year.

Many of your Lordships will know that the problem of alcoholism and problem drinking in this country has increased very rapidly in the last few years. In 1972, for example, there were five regional councils whereas today there are 15. These councils are purely information and advisory centres designed to give help and succour as necessary and they are run entirely voluntarily. However, they, like many other of the voluntary community services, rely entirely on Government grant aid, on the local authorities and on charity; but unfortunately this type of charity does not have the public or popular or universal appeal of, for example, the Royal Lifeboat Institution, the Red Cross or even Lord Caccia's St. John's and other well-known charitable organisations. Government grants are minimal and the local authority grants are usually even less than minimal. There is also usually a complete lack of co-operation between the regional councils and the local authorities.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, said that local people did not want to know about "undesirable" charities and I am afraid she is right. The noble Lord, Lord Wells-Pestell, said recently: We would provide the money if it were physically possible to have the co-operation of local authorities. This is the crux of the matter. The local authorities do not want to help; they do not want to know about what they consider are unpleasant matters. It would, however, be far more costly for the social services and the Area Health Authorities to provide adequate services for the sufferers and their families without the aid of the voluntary societies. For example, the cost of one full-time official, trained and expert in the field of alcoholism and problem drinking, would pay for the training of 20 to 25 voluntary counsellors.

It is alas true today that voluntary societies compete in the open market with statutory bodies for professional workers to obtain the best results, and their inability to do this considerably lowers their cost-effectiveness. I therefore feel that it must be the duty of statutory funding bodies to try to help guarantee the salaries of voluntary societies which have been accepted for Government grant aid. My noble friend Lord Beaumont of Whitley said that grant aid should have some continuity and I wholeheartedly agree with him on this; because, otherwise, it is bad both for morale and for these services if the professional workers in the voluntary fields permanently have to worry about safeguarding their salaries in the high cost-inflation days in which we live. When grants are made to voluntary societies, and particularly to those societies which find it difficult to raise money—as I said, because they are unfashionable or "unchic", or because they appear to support unpopular causes such as alcoholism and problem drinking, where unfortunately still there is a totally unnecessary stigma attached and widespread public ignorance of the nature of the problem—the statutory bodies should, or I would even say must, make some adequate allowance for present-day inflation.

As the founder president of the Cornwall Council on Alcoholism, I can state categorically that £100 was originally given by the local health authority and that still, in 1975, that amount is the same. There are, I agree, some slightly more fortunate councils in England which have had a slight increase, one rising by as much as 15 per cent. Perhaps some noble Lords feel that the regional councils should be nationalised or taken over by statutory workers; but I hope I have shown that this would lead to a large decrease in cost-effectiveness. Let it not be forgotten that there is usually a much greater willingness among sufferers from the illness of alcoholism and among problem drinkers to go to a voluntary counselling service for help rather than to go to what appears to them, quite wrongly I admit, to be the frightening image of authority.

6.38 p.m.

Baroness WHITE

My Lords, as I appear just past the midway point in the long list of speakers for this debate, I will endeavour to reduce the average length of speeches so far and will therefore confine myself briefly to two subjects. I have been constrained to speak in this debate because I have the honour to be the chairman of the International Committee of the National Council for Social Service and I feel that the international aspect has hardly been touched on so far. We have connections all over the world with others who are concerned with voluntary social service, but naturally enough in the last year or two we have been concentrating very much on relationships with our partners in the European Economic Community.

We were not sure, of course, what the position of the United Kingdom would be or which way the referendum might ultimately go, but we felt that it was incumbent on us to make certain so far as possible that those concerned with voluntary social work in this country should be informed and should keep themselves informed of the kind of organisations with which we would be in partnership in the other European countries. To this end, in the last 18 months we have held about a dozen seminars in different parts of the country, including Northern Ireland, and we also had one by invitation in Dublin, so that we could be appraised of the kind of organisation, often very different, to be found among the other Members of the Community. We have also opened a Europe desk here in London, and I mention this so that if voluntary organisations wish to be put in touch with or obtain information about comparable organisations in Europe, we would be glad to try to help them.

As a counterpart to this, we also have a representative in Brussels—a very intelligent, personable young woman—who keeps in touch with the work going on in the Community and alerts us to developments there of which we should have knowledge. Naturally our resources are by no means unlimited, but it might be helpful to Members of your Lordships' House who are connected with various forms of voluntary work in this country, to know that there is a fairly easy channel, if your own organisation is not international, whereby you can at least obtain information. We have a bulletin issued monthly entitled Look Europe. It is a very readable document which stresses the developments taking place in social work in the countries of the various members of the Community.

My Lords, I wish to keep to my pledge to be brief, and so I shall not go into the further ramifications of international work in this field. But I must say that since I took on this responsibility I have found it extremely interesting to note how strong is the voluntary aspect of social work in our country compared with many other countries. Even the Scandinavian countries, for example—with which we so often feel akin in these matters—have far less voluntary work in the sense in which we would understand it than we have in this country. I was astonished a little while ago, while in Stockholm and Copenhagen, to find that the secretaries of the Councils of Social Service there were both civil servants. We work as closely as possible with the Departments concerned in this country, and while we have observers from them at the meetings of the executive committee of the National Council of Social Service, we should not expect to be administered by a Government Department.

Having touched on the international aspect of this subject, I wish to say a word or two on a question which has been the theme song of many speeches in the debate; that is, finance. Unfortunately, I was not able to be present when the opening speeches were made. I particularly regret that, but I was engaged in other public work on the important but rather odoriferous subject of waste management. I am sure that reference has been made to the very great difficulties in which the voluntary organisations find themselves at present. I greatly hope that we shall be able to find ways through the problem, partly by economising and reorganising ourselves where necessary. But I also hope that those who have hitherto been contributing to charitable organisations—even if they are under some stringency themselves—will not cut off such aid, because it can be so infinitely damaging if one has to stop in midstream because an expected source of help is not forthcoming.

My noble friend Lord Longford referred to a debate held in this House, as he said, almost 26 years ago to the day, and it happened that over the weekend I read the report of that debate, in which there were some very distinguished speakers, including the late Lord Samuel, the late Lord Nathan and the late Lord Beveridge. An interesting suggestion was made in that debate by which the funds of the voluntary organisations might be supplemented through no cost to anybody. Two propositions were put forward in that debate and I have been unable, in the couple of days since the weekend, to do sufficient research to discover whether they were ever seriously discussed and, if so, with what result. The National Council of Social Service appears to have no knowledge of the history of this matter. One suggestion was that when persons die intestate and there are no recipients of their estates, the money should not go into the Treasury, but should be put into a common good fund and the proceeds devoted to sustaining various charitable and voluntary organisations. They would benefit from it at no real cost to the State, because the money would not be the State's to start with.

Another suggestion was that banks which hold accounts of persons who, for one reason or another, vanish, and who, after a certain period, one could reasonably presume were not likely to turn up to claim their money, could arrange for this money to be put into such a fund. I thought this an ingenious idea. There could perhaps be an arrangement whereby if the person concerned did reappear, any of his money which had been absorbed into the fund could be repaid to him. I believe that these two ideas are not altogether far-fetched and that there would be a certain equity in them I should he greatlly interested to know whether they were ever pursued and whether any approaches were ever made after that very distinguished debate, so long ago, to, for example, the clearing banks to see whether some such scheme could be worked out.

There is in existence a charities aid foundation which is independent of, but under the general aegis of, the National Council of Social Service, to which general donations can be made and distributed to appropriate voluntary organisations. This is a very suitable recipient of gifts from private persons, or from industry. Such people, or such industries, may not necessarily wish to favour particular charitable work, but they may recognise that they should observe the principle of making gifts to voluntary work or charitable organisations, without necessarily wanting to involve themselves directly in any particular organisation.

I greatly hope that the feeling against charity, which I understand only too well and which was referred to by my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby, could become more and more transformed into a concern for voluntary work. I read in several publications recently criticism of, and complaints about, organised workers in this country. It was stated that they are not conspicuous for their concern with, or contributions to, voluntary work. There have been many suggestions that there should possibly be a voluntary levy for charitable purposes. This has never caught on. But I should have thought that, with the changing attitude which has been occurring, particularly among the younger generation, and in the light of the many self-help organisations which have developed in the last decade or so, perhaps the younger generation of organised workers and trade unionists might feel more in sympathy with the need for supporting many of these organisations. The only field in which I have ever experienced any support from trade unions is a very important one—adult education—which is not one of the areas of voluntary effort where it is easy to obtain money. My noble friend Lord Houghton spoke of animal welfare, and I should have thought that that is the easiest of all. It is far easier to get money for cats, dogs and birds than it is to get money for human beings. I did not feel quite as sympathetic towards my noble friend on that point as he might have hoped.

I was very pleased that we had a maiden speech from the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, because we are awaiting the results of the survey he is undertaking, and we very much hope that it may produce some constructive ideas. I should mention another survey in which I am very much interested—into charity law—which is being undertaken by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman. Certain charities which find themselves greatly restricted by some aspects of the present law on charities could be affected very significantly by this survey.

I hope that out of this debate we shall find ways of improving the position of the organisations, which are so multifarious that one hardly knows where to begin and end when speaking about them. But they are organisations on which a great deal of the quality of our national and community life depends, and therefore I am particularly glad that today we have had this opportunity to discuss them.

6.50 p.m.


My Lords, starting with the assumption that there is a need for voluntary services in the community, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, for choosing this moment to draw our attention to the need to keep them going, despite the grave economic problems facing the country today. The importance of the subject is emphasised by the two excellent maiden speeches which we have had from the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pike. I am certain that we shall listen attentively to them when they speak again.

I turn briefly to some of the problems facing voluntary organisations. I must declare an interest in the Red Cross of which I have the honour to be chairman of the London branch and a member of the national council. I wish to draw attention to three main problems—inflation and how it affects charities, taxation and the established voluntary organisations, of which a number are represented here today. First, I shall deal with inflation, which inevitably increases the cost of organising voluntary service to keep it at the level of efficiency necessary to make it a practical means of supporting the State services. Inflation increases volunteers' expenses, especially those of travelling. It also increases the costs of running services on an agency basis, probably for the local authority.

In the past volunteers have often paid their own expenses. Inflation and taxation now make this impossible. They discourage the young, whom we all want to gather in after they have left school, as was mentioned by the noble Prince this afternoon. Services run on an agency basis are largely dependent on local authority grants. There is great anxiety at the moment lest these are no longer forthcoming. It is generally accepted that voluntary societies can run these services more economically than the local authority. I am sure we all need to be reassured that those who require these services will not now be neglected. This problem was highlighted in paragraph 73 of the Local Review of Charities in the Report of the Charity Commissioners 1974, and also in the Home Office Voluntary Service Seminar Report on financing the voluntary sector (paragraph 20F).

Secondly, taxation is also a major problem. The imposition of VAT has severely affected both nationwide and international voluntary organisations, particularly those giving service like our sister organisation, St. John, and my own, the Red Cross. The financial effect is serious enough, but the administrative implications are worse. What is more, it is a disincentive to charities to have a turnover of more than £5,000 in order to be able to increase their activities, because if they should they would then be liable to VAT.

Another burden falls upon those who have to work out the different rates of VAT on aids to handicapped people, which has to be paid on aids that are not zero-rated, and also on replacements in medical loan depots, unless they are individually applied for with a doctor's certificate. This requirement was laid down in Statutory Instrument 821/1974. My Lords, are charities being used as tax collectors for the Government? I should like to ask the Government whether the Charity Commissioners consider that tax collecting is a charitable purpose? I wish now to refer to community land reform, which will be a crippling tax for charities and will inevitably mean a reduction in services, as land and property have been regarded as an investment. I will not labour the point, because it was mentioned earlier. And, of course, capi- tal transfer tax is likely to have a considerable adverse effect in the long term on charitable income obtained from legacies.

I come to what I call the established voluntary societies versus the rest. Governments always say they are committed to the voluntary sector, but I often wonder whether they realise how much they rely on the experienced charitable organisations with traditions and standards to maintain, whose own volunteer members provide the service which is so often done on behalf of the local authority. The importance of preparation and training for the job was illustrated in the Indo-China war by the Save the Children Fund team, by the Scottish Red Cross team who stayed there to the bitter end; and also, so far as the Red Cross is concerned, in the Moorgate tube station disaster which was mentioned earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich.

On that occasion, 25 Red Cross volunteers arrived within half an hour of being called out by Inspector Fisher—who I am sure we are all delighted was knighted in the last New Year's Honours for his excellent work in that terrible disaster—and remained on duty in shifts to the end. They worked there with the WRVS and the Salvation Army. Their job was the difficult one of taking relatives to the mortuary until it was impossible to get the bodies there, because they were either decapitated or too decomposed. They then cared for the relatives, and late in the evening dealt with their welfare problems—because it will be recognised that the statutory services have limited hours. After 5 or 5.30 p.m. they have left and therefore, in their absence voluntary societies have a big part to play.

There has been a general recognition by successive Governments of the value to the State of the voluntary charitable movement, because it relieves the State of many of the functions which it would otherwise be forced to provide. I should like to see recognition by the Government of the need to provide facilities and opportunities for training in hospital wards and emergency and accident departments throughout the country, so that when the need arises the Red Cross, for instance, can continue to function as an emergency organisation by providing competent volunteers with knowledge and experience in the basic nursing, welfare and first-aid procedures and can be well equipped when the time comes. In emergencies there is no time to learn. Those who volunteer do so as their contribution to society, and not to do somebody out of a job.

The noble Lord, Lord Caccia, mentioned first-aid in industry, which is important. In London we are running several courses a week and are limited only by the expense of training the instructors. During the bombing episode we were training many peple in emergency aid, so that people could look after themselves. Voluntary organisations exist fundamentally to discover those who fall outside the net of the statutory services. When she was addressing the Coventry Social Services conference last year, the Secretary of State emphasised the shortage of manpower and the need for trained personnel. Therefore, I hope that the Government will take all these factors into consideration, so that the voluntary organisations which work with what I would call the modern type of volunteer can continue to fill the gaps as and when they arise.

7.1 p.m.


My Lords, this has been an intensely British occasion. What I was expecting to happen has happened. The noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, advocated animals before I got round to advocating children. Another thing which was quite British happened. I was doing a careful count and I think that the first speaker to use the word "abroad" was the 10th speaker on the list. The noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, in a splendid maiden speech, has talked about "abroad". I shall do so, but I would first declare a direct interest on this subject on two counts: first, as chairman of the Disaster Emergency Committee and, also, as chairman of the Save the Children Fund.

In that latter connection, may I say what I delight it is whenever the noble Prince addresses us in this House. And in that connection, may I also express in this House my gratitude to his sister, Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne. She is not just the President of the Save the Children Fund, but an active and very much involved President, to whom we are very grateful. The Disaster Emergency Committee—in case any noble Lord should be unaware of it—is a committee of the Heads of five leading charities who work internationally: the Red Cross, Oxfam, Christian Aid and its Catholic ally, Cafod, and War on Want, as well as the Save the Children Fund. I mention it because it has a moral in respect of the organisation of voluntary agencies. This group comes together spontaneously when there is a disaster of international gravity which would be deserving of and likely to get the sympathy of the British people. Within if not hours certainly a day or two it has access to television, and the enormous sums of money that the British people hand in on occasions when there is a real need come pouring in to that famous address PO Box No. 999.

I mention this in terms of organisation because the voluntary agencies are sometimes reproached for their rather miscellaneous nature and alleged inability to co-operate or to keep out of each other's way. It is in the nature of voluntary effort that it should have its untidinesses, but this activity shows that one can co-ordinate spontaneously in a way—and I pick up a cue from the noble Lord, Lord Hayter—that would be resisted if one was compelled to co-ordinate. I think that the voluntary agencies, in this respect, have something of a duty to co-ordinate spontaneously. I give an example from my own experience. We have an excellent relationship with our friends of the NSPCC because when we come across a case which seems to be theirs, we hand it to them and they do the same to us when a case involves play groups, one of our specialities. Across the board, we all ought to be doing it—perhaps more of it and perhaps more quickly. But it is the right process, and a process which the Government, or anyone giving money, have a certain right to demand of the voluntary agencies.

Going over quickly some of the points not wholly dealt with, I should like to say a word about taxation. In that context I was grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Pike, for the expert contribution which she made to this debate in her maiden speech and particularly to say how much we on these Benches appreciate the remarks she made about Lady Reading. Lady Reading was a familiar and intimate member of this group; we all have vivid memories of her and it is a delight to be reminded of her. The noble Baroness spoke about the disadvantage of the various forms of taxation with which we find ourselves dealing. She concentrated in one of her statistics on mileage, but it also applies to taxation itself. She said that you have to have a nest of accountants somewhere when you are dealing with this matter, but the money would be spent more advantageously than in hiring them to look after your taxation problems. Some of our activities are called "exempt", some "chargeable", others are subject to VAT, in part probably rather than in whole, and some of them, like my present speech, are zero-rated! This is not a way in which voluntary agencies should be asked to spend their time and money. I hope that the Government will have another look at this, because while it takes time to tidy up it is not humanly impossible.

I make one suggestion on taxation to the noble Lord, Lord Harris. He is aware, and anyone who has worked in Government is aware, that one of the things that the Treasury hates to do, or any financial authority, is to make available the same sum of money for operation "B" which is a slight adaptation of an operation which we shall call "A". Obviously, you must not move money across to divergent operations; but at the slightest sign of adaptation down comes the veto, "No—it is not the same thing. You cannot have the money that you were getting for this operation before it was adapted. "That can be unreasonable, because as the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, made clear, so much voluntary work has been essentially pioneering and still is. In the course of pioneering, you emphasise changes because changes there must be. Then you find yourself up against this piece of bureaucracy, and that is the thing which should be eased. I hope that, as the noble Lord, Lord Harris, attaches "Greenwich" to his name, he will be able to introduce a little latitude in this matter.

I have spoken already about pioneering and I would emphasise it again. I should like also to deal with a point which bothered some critics of the voluntary agencies; notably, Mr. Nightingale in his authoritative book on the subject, A Question of Doctrine. He seemed to feel that the agencies ought not to act as the agencies of Government. The argument may be that if you once act as an agency of the Government, you become beholden to the Government not just in operation but in policy. If one would apply that criterion, many thousands of Nigerians who are alive today would be dead, because the Save The Children Fund became the agency for relieving and helping the children for the British Government during a large proportion of the Nigerian civil war. It was only because we were ready to do that, and the Government were ready to trust us, that these people are alive today. My argument would be—and it may be a closed argument by now, but it is worth mentioning—that if you have a robust Board or Committee in charge of your operation, you can decide before accepting Government money whether or not you are getting it on terms which are tolerable. And traditionally voluntary agencies will take an extremely honest line on issues of that kind. So my comment would be this: that it would be a bad principle to adopt that you cannot act as an agency of Government, but that you must make sure in doing so that the terms on which you accept are those suitable and give you release if Government policy changes in ways that your organisation will not accept.

My Lords, those are a few points which I have mentioned, because in essence they have not been raised before. I think we should feel grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, not simply for launching a humanitarian debate or a review. Although we are dealing with affliction, with disease and want it is a cheerful debate because we are debating about good, enterprising people who are trying to improve this world, be it ever so little. If the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, is unhappy about youth and distrusts our offers of adventure, I should like him to look at some of the organisations with whom I deal anywhere from Belfast to Bangladesh, because there is the adventure of youth. If the noble Lord saw young people working in a club in Devonport or a young nursing sister working on a boat on a river in Bangladesh, he would see the adventure of helping other people. Perhaps that is the great adventure of life. Because that is so, I can assure your Lordships—and perhaps I do not need to do so—that once you get involved in this activity it is something you never want to leave. For that reason, your Lordships' House should wish well all the great efforts which the voluntary agencies are making to make the world a little better for a large number of people.

7.11 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Windlesham for introducing this Motion. I think it may rightly be said that the need for voluntary service is absolutely paramount for the simple reason that it brings out character in young people; it brings out the best in older people, and costs the country little. Because of its great impact on young people, I want to make a small attempt to follow the noble Prince, Prince Charles, in what he said concerning voluntary service and young people.

Contrary to what many would think, young people today have a great idealism for which they are constantly probing for an outlet. Often when they cannot find any natural outlet young people turn to undesirable ways of fulfilling their desires. Then comes the tragedy of life, when young people take the wrong turning and cannot get back again on to the right road. It is tragic when there are not sufficient openings in voluntary service for young people who are full of vitality and enthusiasm. The critical time is when young people, having finished their academic studies, want to try out their idealism and make their mark as adults before starting a career. It was in this field that National Service played such a vital rôle. Countless people today look back with a feeling of satisfaction and gratitude that they were able to serve Monarch and country by doing National Service, even though at the time many probably kicked against the traces and thought they were wasting valuable years of their lives. Today we have voluntary service, but not National Service—more the pity!—for there is real need for some form of service to the nation so that young people do not grow up with self uppermost in their minds.

Young people, above all must be made to feel they are needed and not that they are trying to squeeze in somewhere. It should be made clear to them that they are being welcomed with open arms to do a vital task. It is also essential that those involved in voluntary service are convinced they are doing a worth while job. In short, the vitality of youth must be harnessed for the good of the country, and that is best done through voluntary service, as by doing this their characters will be developed, and they will learn to stand on their feet.

In the so-called underdeveloped countries life is often primitive compared with our Western way of life, and people survive mainly by their own efforts. In doing so, they lack what we today consider to be the necessities of life, yet they have something which many in the Western World will not have—happiness When people live unsophisticated, down to earth and close to nature lives, a form of voluntary service and voluntary restraint is all part of the daily life and is different from our highly sophisticated life where, ironically, too much has been done for us by the State. Initiative has been squashed by countless rules, regulations and laws, so in the end many people are tempted to sit back and wait for the State to do everything. This tends to hold back voluntary service.

The country cannot thrive unless people pull together for the good of the whole community. Today, it is only too evident that certain elements are not working for the country as a whole. The concept of voluntary service, self-discipline and voluntary restraint no longer comes naturally to all. The concept of voluntary service and self-discipline must be brought back. I believe that self-discipline, doing what is right and not taking the easy way out, is necessary if democracy is to work. If this is to be done, voluntary service must be encouraged wherever possible. It is by doing voluntary service that young people learn self-discipline.

Governments can help over voluntary service. The role of Government is not too demanding but highly important. Voluntary service should not be beholden to Government. The hands of the voluntary organisations must not be tied; they must be free. Direct Government help should be in the form of priming the pump to get an organisation started. Having primed the pump, the country will reap the reward of the small initial investment, because thereafter the work will be done by enthusiastic voluntary workers and leaders, many of whom are unpaid and give up their valuable spare time to keep the wheels turning.

Government should also help indirectly over training of leaders for voluntary service. While on the subject of leaders, may I say it is imperative that the leaders chosen for training should be men and women, boys and girls, of the highest quality. It is they who set the tone and the pace. The youth of today are every bit as good as their predecessors, and the forces for good are immense. What is needed is that these forces should be made use of, and for that we need leadership—something often sadly lacking in the country today. It is a sad state of affairs that young boys waiting to join the Scout movement are prevented from doing so by the lack of leaders. Leaders must be found. Once again I must stress that quality is far more important than quantity.

I believe Government might help in another way. They might consider a scheme which is, I understand, practised in America, whereby members of registered voluntary organisations get tax relief on expenses incurred in connection with their voluntary work. That is small recognition but, none the less, much appreciated by those who give so much in the interest of others. Anyway, it would be a small price for the country to pay. Happily, there is great encouragement from the Church. The Church is playing an important role in connection with voluntary service. This is as it should be, because voluntary service is surely part of the Christian way of life. I hesitate to suggest that if the Church went out even more into the field of voluntary service its ranks would swell, and the new active recruits would be mainly young people whom the Church cannot do without.

May I touch on another highly important aspect of voluntary service, the international side? Nobody can doubt that the work of Her Majesty's Ministers and diplomats would be easier if the people of different countries understood each other and each other's problems better. Voluntary service can play a big part here. Voluntary service is not confined to this country. There is the organisation Voluntary Service Overseas which does a splendid job is many parts of the world. In addition, many voluntary organisations like the Scouts encourage boys in the movement to travel overseas. Today, the United Kingdom's Scout movement sends some 5,000 boys to other countries, and fully 5,000 foreign boys come to this country each year. Each boy goes overseas as an ambassador of his country, and with few exceptions they are spendid down-to-earth ambassadors. This two-way traffic is greatly to be encouraged. Cheap travel concessions would do much to help and to swell the numbers.

Leisure hours for many are getting longer, though not for executives. Because of this young people, with all their vitality, must be given opportunities to let off steam in good healthy ways, instead of resorting to crime, violence and vandalism. It is here that the National Playing Fields Association has a vital role to play in helping to provide grass-roots facilities for sport and recreation in the form of a back-up to the Sports Council, which is entrusted with the task of helping to provide the major sporting and recreational facilities in the country. In the National Playing Fields Association we have not only vast encouragement but also continuous positive action from our most energetic President, the noble Duke, the Duke of Edinburgh, who sets us all such a fine example not only in sportsmanship but also in his concern for young people. We are most grateful for his leadership.

My Lords, it is imperative that the new local authorities recognise the importance of sport and recreation for the wellbeing of our country by giving young people the opportunity to develop along the right lines, both in body and in mind. All too often, local authorities let sport and recreation slip to near the bottom of their priority lists. This tendency must be reversed. Help can quite easily be given to sports clubs by making the present 50 per cent. rate relief mandatory instead of discretionary. This is the year of local government reorganisation in Scotland. The new local authorities must not only accept responsibility for sport and recreation, but in these difficult financial times they must ensure that sport and recreation do not descend in the priority list, because the future of our country depends on the youth of today. It depends on their physical and mental wellbeing and, above all, on their character—all vastly more important than material wellbeing.

People today are desperately trying to grasp something to unite the country. If we do not have National Service, I hope that the Government will encourage voluntary service which gives tone and quality to life and enriches the community as a whole. The future of our country depends on people—our youth. Voluntary service can make them. Young people must be encouraged to take part and, above all, opportunities must be within their grasp.

7.26 p.m.


My Lords, may I first say that I will be very brief. I should like to express my appreciation of the speeches made by the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pike. I am sure that we all hope to hear from them again on many other occasions. We would all agree that significant changes have taken place in the social services during the last few years. One change is the far greater co-operation between the voluntary and the statutory services; another is the emphasis on helping people to help themselves, rather than merely helping them; and the third,—and to me most important of all—is the greater recognition of human rights and human dignity.

This debate recalls for an experience of my student days when I was training as a social worker. I was sent to visit girls and young women who were expecting babies, and I was asked to look at their marriage lines. I did not very much like the idea and I resolved the problem by putting a tick in the appropriate place without asking the question. The result was unusual pressure on what I called in those days the "married beds" in the local hospital. Of course that could not happen today. One of the great social problems today is loneliness and isolation, and this problem has probably been aggravated by our greater recognition of human rights.

For example, we trust our general practitioners, our doctors, not to reveal the confidences placed in them, although it might be very helpful if social workers knew about them. We do not feel that it is possible to open the front door of a near neighbour and look in because we have not seen him for a month or two, and fear that he may be ill or dead. We feel that his home is his castle, and everybody else in the street will feel the same. As we all know, occasionally there are tragedies that might have been averted. Equally, of course, the police cannot just walk in; they have to have a warrant. There are more problems of that kind today than we have had in our history.

I have been wondering whether we could persuade the Government and my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich to initiate and, to some extent guide an investigation into this problem, perhaps through the media of tenants' associations and wardens of blocks of flats. Indeed, many streets in the country nowadays have wardens. Perhaps 100 of them could co-operate in an investigation into the problem of how we can help our neighbours who are suffering from loneliness and isolation, which we all understand but in which, happily, we are not all involved. If an inquiry could be directed by one or two full-time people, much co-operation would be offered to them by the ordinary people. If we do not get the views of ordinary people as to how we can help them and their neighbours, we shall not get very far. If I may say so to my noble friend Lord Harris, we hope that there will be progress in that field in the not very distant future.

7.30 p.m.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords. I also should like to congratulate the two very experienced maiden speakers and to thank the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, for introducing this debate, because all over the country voluntary agencies have been hard hit by inflation—and almost every speaker today has mentioned this point. If this debate does nothing else, I hope it will give encouragement to thousands of dedicated people who are serving their community in many different ways through their voluntary service. It is essential in these difficult days, when some agencies feel they are being strangled, that morale is kept up. If this drops too low, it is easy to give up the unequal struggle.

I should like particularly to thank the noble Prince for his contribution, stressing youth. If for one moment I might substitute Gordonstoun for borstal, I should like to do so. Even when young people have drifted into delinquency, they have proved time and time again that they can do excellent voluntary work. At one borstal, the volunteer lads were named "the blue angels ", so successful were they in their efforts to help the local community. It is opportunity that is needed. I do not think that, even if they have the opportunity, many parents would want to send their children away to face the rigours of boarding school. They have not the choice if the courts send young offenders to borstal; but, knowing both systems, I can assure your Lordships that boarding school is far tougher!

I, like the noble Baroness, Lady Hylton-Foster, am a member of the Red Cross; but the noble Baroness belongs to London while my area is totally different, being the vast rural acres of North Yorkshire. I am connected also with several other voluntary agencies and therefore must declare an interest in this debate. The WRVS have a great advantage over many voluntary agencies, because they are able to offer members repayment of their expenses, and are reimbursed for such payments by the Government. My Red Cross members have long distances to cover, and many villages are now cut off from public transport. When we pay our members' expenses, we have to find the funds. There is definitely a dropping off of many of the younger and more active members, because present economic factors are forcing wives to go out and do paid work in order to supplement family incomes and keep up their living standards.

Many Red Cross workers do numerous duties to help to implement, as regards the provision of welfare services, Section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. They do especially valuable work in providing escorts for disabled people and running holiday homes for handicapped adults and children. Many local authorities do not have their own transport for the disabled, but the Red Cross often do, and in this way they can do more than just supplement the statutory services; they provide them. Many local authorities have cut their grants or have altogether stopped them. One co-ordinating body which has suffered because of this is the Yorkshire Council of Social Service. They can no longer afford a paid secretary. No doubt the much-needed communication between voluntary agencies will now deteriorate.

There is no doubt in my mind that volunteers will often undertake jobs which the professionals will not consider doing. I remember one occasion when two volunteers heaved an 18-stone helpless woman with multiple sclerosis on to the lavatory; and in my local education authority now is a paraplegic girl of 12 who cannot go to a secondary school because no one will help her to change a pad at lunch time. If the noble Earl, Lord Snowdon, who chairs a committee on the integration of disabled people in society, wants to achieve his aim, I suggest that he ought to look at the integration of disabled children into ordinary State schools.

I was very pleased to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, said today. As chairman of the Spinal Injuries Association and as a representative of people who have broken their necks and backs, I feel more could be done to help these people back into the community after long stays in hospital. The missing link sometimes can be so vital that it can prevent people committing suicide through depression or oversensitivity. This could be established by means of a service manned by fellow sufferers who have succeeded in re-establishing successful lives in the community. To run this service, full co-operation with the hospital social workers is needed, and hospitals could do far more to give incentive and encouragement to such schemes. Many hospital services are so stretched that they cannot give the full and comprehensive rehabilitation which is necessary for patients with lasting disabilities. Many hospital workshops are closed because there are no instructors, and this is due to the hospital service being unable to compete with industry in the recruitment of staff.

In many parts of the country, training and rehabilitation units have no adequate facilities for dealing with the more severe cases. For example, the training college in County Durham, which is run voluntarily with State aid from the Department of Employment, works very successfully. But it cannot cater for the more severe injuries and, therefore, this means that there are no training facilities in the North for these unfortunate people. One young man of 20, who sustained a neck injury, was discharged from hospital to his home in Richmond, Yorkshire; and when a social worker and the disabled resettlement officer called at his home, all they told him, in their ignorance, was that he was unemployable. That young man trained himself to be a computer programmer and, with the help of a volunteer who battled on his behalf for a transport grant, he obtained a job. He is now in full employment, mobile and happy, because he is earning his own living. All this took him five years to achieve!

Until we have better rehabilitation facilities—as good as those of Germany—I hope that Her Majesty's Government will give incentive to volunteers to help each other in conjunction with the statutory services. Fellow sufferers belonging to the Ileostomy and Colostomy Association are doing valuable support work, as they are with "stroke" cases. Because of the lack of speech therapists, fellow sufferers are also helping each other in their arduous fight to regain speech. These groups need accommodation in which to meet and they also need encouragement to succeed. But they can do a great deal to help themselves even without very much financial outlay. When there is bias against the volunteer it is a sad thing, because no one knows better the struggles involved than those who have gone through such an experience themselves.

I should like to pay tribute to the people who have worked voluntarily for the mentally handicapped. During the last few years, the facilities for them and support for their families have both greatly improved. These improvements would never have happened without the concerted efforts of the voluntary agencies. The National Health Service hospitals would be very sparse places were it not for the numerous voluntary agencies providing all the extras. When one begins to think of the life boat volunteers, the NSPCC, Alcoholics Anonymous and the thousands of other agencies, the question is: what would happen to the country if voluntary organisations ceased to be? The trustees of monies belonging to Charities have a moral obligation to invest safely: therefore, the yields on their funds are not very high. Unless the Government find it possible to do more in the way of relieving taxes and giving special concessions as regards the Community Land Bill, they may have to foot far more bills than they have envisaged so far.

7.40 p.m.


My Lords, it is always a great privilege to follow the noble Baroness, because in her we have an example of the tremendous amount of voluntary work and valuable services which are given. I have this privilege now. We have heard a great deal about young people; many speakers have referred to them. I should like to pay my personal tribute to the young people who have served as volunteers overseas and done a tremendous job. There are many other young people who are only too willing to serve at the present time but who lack the opportunity to do so. So far as providing services for young people to assist in a voluntary capacity is concerned, there is the danger of patronage, because the young people of today are very mature and independent. Therefore, any hint of the old type of patronage would be enough to put off any teenager. Therefore, I do not advise any scheme which would introduce the question of privilege.

I have been privileged to represent the City of Norwich in another place. There we have an example of close co-operation between the local authority on the one hand and the voluntary organisations on the other—an example, may I say, to many other areas who ought to be indulging in greater co-operation in the provision of facilities. I know of many clubs for the disabled, elderly people and so on, where the people who are receiving such benefits are involved in helping to provide them for themselves and others.

I come now to a problem that has not been spotlighted this afternoon and evening. In many areas elderly people are accommodated in fine, modern flats or maisonettes but are left to pine for a small piece of ground in which to grow a few flowers or vegetables. On the other hand, there are those who, due to increasing infirmity, are unable to cope with a garden and sit worrying about the neglected state of what was formerly a tidy and attractive garden. This is an area where more voluntary and neighbourly help is urgently needed. It is true to say—and here I am pleased to pay my own tribute to them—that organisations such as Task Force which has been set up in South-East London are doing a great deal of work in this field. It is interesting and very inspiring to know that so far they have enlisted the help of at least 10 schools. One of their jobs is to find land and also to help to clear and tidy old people's gardens.

May I draw attention to one example of imaginative voluntary service. Two years ago a mixed group of handicapped and able-bodied students from the Hephaistos School near Reading and St. Paul's School in Barnes carried out a survey project in Paris which resulted in the publication of Access in Paris—a tourist guide for the disabled. Later a similar survey was carried out in Jersey and a guide is very shortly to be published. A survey is to be carried out in Norway to establish ease of access in holiday areas, with special attention being given to youth hostels. The information that is gained in these surveys is fed to British and overseas organisations for the disabled. I feel that there is great scope for this work not only overseas but in home holiday areas as well.

I come now possibly to a "commercial". The Friends of the Hephaistos Fund need financial help, and I am sure that they would welcome an extension of the type of effort they are making, for here—make no mistake—is one imaginative way of increasing the mobility of the disabled, particularly the young disabled, and those who help them.

I come now to a voluntary service which does not ask for, or require, or beg for, State money. I refer to the Friends of Hospitals. In the National Health Service great work has been and is being done by Friends of Hospitals, not only by raising money for special requirements that are not covered by the National Health Service but also by providing such invaluable services as broadcasting record request programmes and sporting commentaries, hospital shops, catering facilities for those visiting geriatric patients and sending them birthday and Christmas cards. Sadly, unless this service is given, often there would be no visit for some of these elderly geriatrics who have no friends or relatives left to them.

I did not intend to mention this, but I remember very vividly that years ago it was my custom as a Member of Parliament with a "dicey" seat to send to all the people who came to see me a House of Commons Christmas card with a little verse and a goodwill message. Then I lost my seat, and some time later the supplies officer at the hospital, who was proud of his cheap contract for funerals and who always insisted on sending a mourner for a person who had died without relatives, telephoned me to say that someone had been brought in dead, that they had been through his belongings to try to trace a relative and that the only thing they could find was a Christmas card which I had sent to him. He asked me whether I knew the man or whether I was a relative. This is an example of a lonely person without a friend in the world. But for this act of mine, for which I do not claim any credit, that person would have had no consolation whatever. This type of thing is being done by Friends of Hospitals in many of the hospitals of our country.

There are many other practical services which are being carried out in this field by voluntary effort. These—let us face it—are adding to the care and recovery of the patient, because all of these little services relieve the anxiety of the patient, help him in many ways, and aid his recovery. I am sure that any member of the medical profession will agree with me about this. Unfortunately, however—and here I come to the point that I wish to make regarding the situation of Friends today—the reorganisation of the National Health Service by the previous Government is creating disillusion among many Friends of Hospitals organisations. Gone is the close personal link of the old Hospital Management Committees. In the eyes of many, there has been the creation of a remote, impersonal, bureaucratic monster, despite the creation of Community Health Councils which are facing their own problem of communication with higher authority.

Area Health Authorities—here I must reveal the fact that I am a member and vice-chairman of an Area Health Authority—with their small numerical membership face tremendous problems in trying to maintain the old spirit of close co-operation. Far too many of these authorities regard Friends' organisations as useful money raisers. As I have already indicated, there is a vast field of voluntary service to be tapped. May I say further—although I shall probably outrage the feelings of some people outside—that far too many officials regard the professional approach as important and the voluntary helper as a downright, damned nuisance. In these days that kind of attitude is not unusual.

This is one of the many aspects of voluntary service that we have discussed today, but as one who was proud to be in Parliament in another place, may I say that at the inception of the Welfare State I was serving in the Forces, and that the Beveridge Report was the key topic among all ranks. There will always be a place for voluntary service in the Welfare State. Indeed, social services can be extended and humanised by voluntary effort.

Like many other speakers, for the sake of time I have cut out a great deal of what I would have said, but may I conclude with these words. Let us delete "self "and substitute "service" in an imaginative appeal to the nation such as was made this afternoon in this House.

7.50 p.m.

The Countess of LOUDOUN

My Lords, there are many areas where, quite clearly, voluntary bodies have made an enormous contribution to supplementing the statutory services. Now, more than ever, this is necessary when the statutory services, through lack of manpower and money are unable to implement their commitments. In the social work field, to mention but two, the Family Welfare Association, which works only in London, has provided and initiated a service to many deprived groups who would otherwise have been neglected; another, similar organisation is the Family Service Unit.

The British Association of Social Workers, in January 1974, set up a three-year research project to study the relationships between social workers and volunteers, and a full report is hoped for not later than the end of 1976. This project has so far been funded by charitable bodies. A recent appeal to the Department of Health and Social Security for some additional finance to enable the Association to make a wider use of the material which is becoming available was turned down. Could not this decision by the Department be reconsidered?

The other point I should like to mention concerns the role of the voluntary services organiser in our subnormality hospitals. There are, of course, many practical difficulties that arise when introducing a voluntary help scheme into a hospital. Some of these difficulties are common to all hospitals, such as overcoming the fears of professional staff in regarding the volunteer as a "threat ". But where voluntary help schemes have been in operation for some time this difficulty is a thing of the past.

Sometimes, too, on the part of voluntary organisations already established in a hospital, there is resentment to the appointment of a paid organiser. I feel that what is most needed in organisational terms in the field of voluntary effort is more co-operation and co-ordination between existing voluntary agencies. If such organisations as the Red Cross, the League of Friends and the WRVS could come together on a national basis to discuss the need for, and development of, the services they provide in the hospitals, it would surely be of great benefit.

When current thinking is for returning patients of all handicaps to the community, much more thought should be given to the role of the voluntary services organiser. Of course, some organisers make a great effort to create for their patients facilities for social activities in the community, and a great number of projects take place outside the hospitals, with the full support of the professional staff; but this is not the case in most hospitals, where voluntary schemes are hospital orientated.

It would be helpful if a clear lead could be given by the Department of Health and Social Security for more emphasis to be placed on using the voluntary services available in the community when preparing patients for return to the community. The importance of an accepting and caring community in the field of mental health cannot be overemphasised. At the present time, even in the best hospitals the potential help available in the community when resettling patients is not utilised, and the expertise of the voluntary services organiser in this field does not seem to be realised. To my knowledge, no voluntary services organiser is included in the health care planning teams in the re-organised Health Service.

The voluntary organisations in the field of mental health have a wonderful record of development of new types of provision which, in a field that is developing and changing as rapidly as this one, is extremely valuable and is something which, perhaps, only voluntary organisations not subject to such strict limitations as statutory bodies, can achieve. They also fulfil the much needed role of pressure groups for a branch of medicine which has all too often and too accurately been described as the Cinderella of the Health Service, a situation the more deplorable when it is viewed in the light of the social and physical consequences of mental health. Mental health is surely a prerequisite of both physical health and a healthy society.

7.55 p.m.


My Lords, this has been a most interesting debate and we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, for inaugurating it at this time. It is an important time and today we have had two remarkable maiden speeches, one from my noble friend Lord Wolfenden, who shares the same activities as my own in connection with the Carnegie Trust and the other from the noble Baroness, Lady Pike, about the WRVS and its marvellous work. To be able to hear two such speeches in a debate of this kind on an occasion such as this makes the whole thing even more worth while than it might have been. I think we were all delighted, too, to hear the voice of the Prince of Wales—from whom we have heard before because he made a speech on a previous occasion—and I agree with eyeryone that he is a most delightful and enterprising young man, and I believe he will help a great deal in this question of the work of youth organisations. Incidentally, he is now the chairman of one of the biggest trusts to do with youth; namely, King George's Jubilee Trust, which I served for some 31 years. I left because I thought I was getting too old.




Certainly it does a splendid job and I am delighted to see that the Prince of Wales is now the chairman. I was tremendously encouraged by the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich. He told us a great many things that the Government were anxious to do; he told us, quite rightly, that they had no money, and we all know that, but nevertheless it is wonderful how you can get by if you have the enthusiasm and drive to get help from many sources which are perhaps not always paid.

However, I would urge him to try to get from the Chancellor of the Exchequer every penny he can, because I am quite sure it is a good return on the money and very much cheaper than having to pay for people when they have to be dealt with by a fully paid professional staff and the Civil Service. I was extremely interested in what he said about the Voluntary Services Unit, which I know was started by the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, but I am glad that the Government are still carrying it on and I have heard from conversations I have had with people who have had assistance from that Unit how excellent it is. I should like to congratulate the Government on their attitude towards it, because the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, rightly said that in the old days there was a sort of prejudice between the two Parties—perhaps not political prejudice but a feeling we on our side were doing good to others on another plane, and that is not really the idea at all. However, it turned out like that but it is no longer so. We are now all working in the same field and on the same basis, and I think this is an encouraging and good thing, because there is no doubt at all from this debate that whether it is the present Government or the last Government or any political Party, everybody has it firmly in mind that we all think that voluntary service is absolutely vital to the welfare of the State and the community.

There are three inquiries going on at the present time, and I hope very much that the people who are conducting those inquiries will have the opportunity of reading this debate. The first one, which has now been completed, is a small inquiry which was made by PEP—Political and Economic Planning—called, A Chance to Share: Voluntary Service in Society. This report which is coming out on Monday contains a number of interesting proposals, poses many questions and is a small but valuable contribution to the working of voluntary organisations.

Then, as we know, the Carnegie and the Rowntree Trusts are sponsoring an inquiry of which the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, is the chairman. Some of us—I for one—have already given evidence to this committee and I am hopeful that there are a number of young people and people of long experience in many walks of life on that committee. I also hope very much that the Trusts will make a report which will help us to understand what the function of voluntary organisations in the last quarter of the twentieth century is to be, because that is the title of the Inquiry. Then, as the noble Baroness, Lady White, mentioned, the committee of the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, is inquiring into the effects of charitable law and practice on voluntary organisations. All these inquiries are very important.

I think our debate has been very apposite, and I hope that all these organisations will read the Report of it. I do not think there is a single voluntary effort which has not been mentioned. I have listened to all the speeches, and have learned a tremendous amount, even though I have spent nearly all my life in voluntary organisations of one sort and another. I have had the interesting experience of being both on the giving end and on the receiving end. This is something which does not happen to everyone, but it is a very interesting experience. For 36 years, I have served on the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, and for 31 years I have served on the King George's Jubilee Trust. In those capacities, one is in the position of receiving the applications, looking at them, analysing them, seeing what type of organisation is making the application, and seeing whether or not one thinks it is an organisation—however small and original—which should be supported.

At the other end, I have spent a great deal of my life running youth activities. For a good many years, I was chairman of the National Association of Youth Clubs. I have also been in local government for a long time so I have an appre- ciation of both sides of the picture, which I have found is very interesting. As the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, said, there is no doubt at all that voluntary organisations have started a great many of what we now accept as statutory services in this country. That is a great tribute to them. I am now talking about the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Today, voluntary organisations are bodies which should be pioneering and experimenting, because those of us who have been in local government know that you cannot really risk the ratepayers' money by backing something when you do not know whether or not it will be a success. But if you are in a voluntary organisation, and you have a bright idea but are not sure whether it will be successful, you can get a trust or some local fund to back it, which can quite often lead to something quite considerable.

In the sphere of youth work, when I started—and goodness knows how many years ago that was; I should not like to tell your Lordships—there was no statutory money at all. We had nothing to do with education authorities. The local authorities thought we were running some small show which was very nice, but that was all. But today, every local authority has a youth committee; it is part of the further education services of local government. That is as it should be. When I say "part", I mean that it plays an independent and co-operative part, but it is accepted by local government. That is a good example of the way progress is being made.

My Lords, it is very important, when one thinks of co-operation, that once local authorities accept what the voluntary organisations have pioneered and take it on, the voluntary organisations should not continue to try to do exactly what they did before, because in that case the voluntary organisations are wasting time and energy. But they can certainly supplement, as many here have said. Those of your Lordships who have worked in the hospital and health services know how much people can supplement what is already there, but it is important that the voluntary organisations should not continue to do what they did before, just because they have always done it, when the local authority, or the Government, have in some way or other incorporated their work into the State system. That is something which ought to be looked at.

One of our principles when distributing money—and I think this has worked fairly well—is to work on the basis of backing good people. Often applications for a new venture have come to the Trust with which I have worked and we have looked to see who was supporting or backing that venture. I will give your Lordships some examples of what I think have been successful pioneering efforts. Before anybody heard of Leonard Cheshire, before he started any of the Cheshire Homes, he was known by one of our trustees. He asked us to help with the very first Cheshire Home in Hampshire. We did, and it proved to be a remarkable idea and a remarkable effort. We helped him to build the first Cheshire Home. I need not tell your Lordships, who know better than I, of the large number of Cheshire Homes which now exist all over the country and all over the world. This was a pioneering effort and we backed the man, Leonard Cheshire.

I am sure many of your Lordships know about the Children's Bureau, which was started by Dr. Pringle not very long ago. We thought Dr. Pringle was a remarkable person who had got hold of a good idea. We backed him, and the Children's Bureau is now one of the important social work organisations today. We backed Music for the Physically Handicapped. I cannot remember the name of the man whom we backed, but it was someone who had the idea of music for the physically handicapped, and it is now accepted as being one of the best ways in which we can help physically handicapped people.

Then there is the training of social workers, which we backed many years ago, long before even the universities started on this work. We found Dame Eileen Younghusband, famous from the LSE days and now retired, but a pioneer of social work training. We backed her, and revolutionised the whole training of youth workers and social workers. I am putting these facts forward to the Government because, with the other voluntary units, this is one of the ways in which the Government can try to get new things going. This is one way of getting real help to change and improve the com- munity services. There are many others, I am sure, of which I do not know or cannot mention because it is too late. But the idea of backing someone who has leadership, who understands and knows about certain aspects of social work, is very good indeed.

My Lords, in the present day there are new organisations springing up, about which quite a number of your Lordships have spoken. I would support some of these very strongly indeed as new developments in a new age. These organisations are started and supported by people who are participating in a certain sphere. I have had some experience of a small organisation called the National Society for Autistic Children. That has been run entirely by the parents of autistic children. It is amazing what they have done with minimum expenditure, the minimum headquarters organisation, and the minimum of finance. This is growing every day, every week and every year. It is being run by people who are interested, and who themselves have autistic children.

Again, the Council for the Single Woman and her Dependants, in which the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, is interested, is an organisation which has been started, run and financed by single women who have dependants, but who, in many ways, have tremendous difficulties if they are earning their living and have to look after aged parents. Then there is the National Council for One Parent Families and the organisation known as Gingerbread for the care of single parent families.

These organisations are new. Some of them are run by young people; they are people who are participating in the actual organisation itself. It is very economical; I am amazed what they can do on an extraordinarily small sum of money. I think this promotion of interest in a new situation is something which should be supported. I admire enormously what people are doing. Young people are working all day and then helping at night, as are also a great many people in voluntary organisations. They are ordinary people who work from nine to five, and then go out and work in the evenings again. Those people are much to be supported and helped, and that is the way in which voluntary organisations in the modern world will have to be run.

There is one other point I should like to make. I believe that some voluntary organisations must be prepared to close down. Lord Houghton spoke about co-operation and the difficulty of getting organisations to co-operate together. I am sure that that is so. There may be several organisations doing the same thing, or groups of young people running one sort of show, and if you ask them to co-operate with each other they will not. It is a real problem and can be the cause of a great waste of money. I should very much like to see some of these reports—and I make this hint to Lord Wolfenden who is sitting here—say quite honestly and frankly that there are too many organisations trying to do the same thing or doing things which should now be done by local authorities or the State in some way or another. I have always thought there ought to be a society for the veiling of statues. Too many statues are unveiled and far too few veiled. Some do not belong to our generation at all, and it would be much better if they were not there. I think one could say the same about some voluntary organisations—I am not specifying which—which could be veiled. I think that would be economical, and would not in any way affect the service given to the community.

This debate has shown that we are all convinced that the co-operation between the statutory and the voluntary, between the officials of local government and the officials of voluntary organisations, is extremely important. I think that is happening all over the country. In my authority, where I have been working for 29 years, we brought in voluntary organisations the whole time to help us. That meant that we did not have so many paid officials in the county council. It saved the ratepayers a great deal of money and it created a good spirit between the statutory people and the voluntary people. I think we are all agreed that this is something we must encourage in every way.

There have been excellent suggestions made by various speakers on the subject of finance and taxation. Lady Pike's description of the different rates of motor car allowances in the whole field in which she works very much appealed to me. Something of that kind is a nightmare, and I hope the Government will try to do something about it. There is no doubt that inflation is causing us all agonies of anxiety as to how to carry on. We must look at the relevance of the work and the way it is being carried out and get the best value for our money. In the pamphlet I have here from PEP, they reveal that there are 1,467 charities with incomes of £10,000 a year or more and the NCSS Charities Aid Fund estimate their annual income for distribution at £330 million. That is a terrific figure, and it shows the generosity of people in this country. I am quite sure that they will still continue so far as possible with their contributions. The difficulty is that it goes only half way compared to what it did before the great inflation started. I think it is doubtful whether in any other country in the world, except perhaps the United States, is there more voluntary work and money than here, and it is something we are all exceedingly proud of. Let us see that we get value for our efforts and value for our money, and since we are all agreed on both sides of the House that we want voluntary organisations to prosper, I hope the Government will take heart from this debate and continue in what I think is the very excellent policy they are carrying out.

8.16 p.m.


My Lords, at this very late hour I must of necessity be brief, first, because it would be wrong to weary your Lordships with all that I intended to say, and secondly, because I am due to relieve my noble friend Lord Amherst on the Woolsack within the space of a few moments. I should like to say how greatly privileged we have been today to hear two maiden speeches of really outstanding quality which have set the seal on the whole of this debate, and also the admirable speech from His Royal Highness. May I also, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Wincllesham, for introducing this Motion, say how singularly appropriate I feel it is that it should take place at this time. Here I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, but not quite for the same reason. I think it is singularly appropriate because we happen to be in the midst of Mental Handicap Week, when all over the country more than 500 branches of the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children, of which I have had the privilege of being chairman for many years, are actively engaged in drawing public attention to the needs of the mentally handicapped in our midst.

One of the striking aspects about your Lordships' House is the large number of your Lordships who feel themselves under an obligation to render different forms of voluntary service, whether charitable, educational, scientific, industrial or economic, but covering the whole vast field of voluntary activities. The one point I should like to stress this evening is that these various forms of voluntary service are not confined to one class of the community who happen to be among the financially fortunate or who happen to have leisure on their hands. The organisation with which I am connected is an organisation of parents of mentally handicapped children, with a vast and growing membership running into many tens of thousands who are drawn from every class in the community. They know no distinction of colour, race or creed. For years now they have had a first claim on our time and energies, just because the needs of these mentally handicapped children have had a first claim on their parents over and above the claims of their normal brothers and sisters. It is just because these parents are often quite exceptionally gifted, and drawn from all sections of the community, as well indeed as from both Houses of Parliament, and because they devote so much of their time to the care and upbringing of these mentally handicapped children, that our community is relieved of a very heavy burden which it cannot in all honesty truly fulfil in any official bureaucratic capacity.

These parents are often far removed from the leisured classes. A West Indian plumber, for example, out of gratitude for the help we have given to his adopted child, would cheerfully give up his overtime at work to do work for one of our London day nurseries. This instance can be multiplied a hundredfold all over the country. When we initiated the series of Gateway Clubs where these mentally handicapped children could come and play with normal children, we were overwhelmed with offers of voluntary help, and within a few months hundreds of these clubs were established in our great industrial centres. Not least gratifying in the response we have in Northern Ireland, where 24 of our local societies are now flourishing and serve as a means of bringing together both Protestant and Catholic parents, reconciled by that common bond of having mentally handicapped children to care for, literally fulfilling the Biblical injunction that a little child should lead them together on the road to peace.

What so constantly amazes me is the readiness of parents whose child has been taken away to a home or institution, to devote their lives by means of voluntary service to helping parents who are less fortunate and who still have the problem of a mentally handicapped child on their hands. This is work that no trained official in the field of social service can adequately perform, however capable and sympathetic, for here we have a sharing of deep suffering, of affection, horn out of involvement and understanding which no amount of care and sympathy can replace. That is why we look to the Government to foster and encourage these voluntary societies in their important work, for they are part of the very fabric of our public life.

May I quote one small incident which emphasises the admirable quality of voluntary service. Yesterday the National Society of Mentally Handicapped Children launched during Mental Handicap Week a unique publication to which generous tribute has already been paid by the Press. It is called Answer Me World. It consists of an anthology of contributions by children, and by parents of children, who are mentally handicapped. It was honoured with an introductory poem by the Poet Laureate, Sir John Betjeman. No official publication, of which there are many, could ever have matched it in genuine authenticity. It has that rare quality that every word rings true, often wrung from the heart and born of a degree of deep suffering. That is a measure of the contribution that only voluntary service can make.

It is a strange paradox that when war or natural disaster, crisis or catastrophe, overtakes our community, people rush with their offers of voluntary service, but we have not yet fully learned how to harness our resources when we enjoy the blessings of peace. That is where our voluntary agencies can help; but they need active encouragement, and an occasional word of praise and appreciation from the powers that govern our country. As the noble Earl, Lord Longford, said, it has always been a source of intense pride to cur parents of mentally handicapped children that they are not Government subsidised. They prefer to depend largely on the pennies of the poor and on their own resources to maintain their organisation, uninfluenced by Government pressure or patronage. Indeed, they prefer to be entirely free to exert pressure rather than to have to yield to it. It is just this sturdy independence that is a source of such strength to many of our voluntary services, and I devoutly hope that it may long continue.

Here I should like to refer to that splendid maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden. He referred to his four Wolfenden points, which to me were strangely reminiscent of President Roosevelt's four freedoms. May I just make a passing reference to that fourth point of specificity. He asked, and very properly, why do not these organisations amalgamate? I remember how keen I was originally on this idea, and indeed how keen the late Duchess of Kent was on amalgamation to save overheads, to pool staff, to promote efficiency. But how quickly did I realise that I was utterly wrong! It was soon made clear that funds would not be forthcoming, that this was their organisation, the child created by these parents themselves for their own children; and we very soon realised that funds would probably dry up at source if it fused into an amorphous, wider, less individual organisation. Not only do these parents provide funds for maintaining the organisation but we always get vast voluntary countributions of funds for research.

I could go on at length on this subject, but that might be unfair at this late hour. However, I hope to be able to Snatch a few moments on some future occasion to discuss this matter directly with the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden. May I in conclusion say that there is a very great deal that the Government can always do to help, quite apart from giving financial aid. Their true objective should always be to foster, to stimulate, to encourage and assist our voluntary services wherever they may be found, and in this let us hope that our present Government may not be found wanting.

8.26 p.m.


My Lords, speaking at the tail-end of a long and informative debate just before the Minister is to reply has been for me a most valuable experience in constraining me to listen and learn a great deal more about a subject about which I thought I knew a good deal already. It has also had for me the salutory merit of removing every vestige of originality in the thoughts that I had come prepared to deliver to your Lordships. In fact, I was tempted at one stage to think that the greatest voluntary service that I could do to your Lordships would be to remove my name from the list and not be here at all. However, at the risk of doing a voluntary disservice to the House, I have risen to support the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, who specially asked me to speak, in his contention—as of course everyone in your Lordships' House who has spoken today has done—that it is crucially important to enable the community work of the voluntary services to continue and not to starve them. I believe, as I think does everyone who has spoken, that there is room for more volunteering.

There is a need to develop the spirit of volunteering on a much wider scale than at present, precisely because, rather than despite, the troubled times that we are passing through today, or perhaps despite the troubled times we are passing through and because of the probability that other troubled times will lie ahead. The spirit of volunteering, as we all would agree, generates the very qualities that we need to see us through our troubles, and on which we would depend; to starve that spirit is certainly no prescription or cure for an ailing prosperity.

If I continue not to dot i's or cross t's on one or two points—my noble friend Lord Wolfenden in his notable speech said he would do this and then proceeded to make some very original points—but proceed to cross some i's and dot some t's to reduce the monotony of unanimity in the debate this evening, I hope that your Lordships will forgive me. In this I am perhaps in league, although I am tempted to cross swords, with that notable swordsman, the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby. I said that I believed that we need more voluntary effort and more voluntary service, and I propose to venture on some rather difficult terrain to pursue this need. Despite the tradition, the reputation, the magnificent work over the past 100 years or so by a number of voluntary agencies, I do not believe that it can be truly said that voluntary service has achieved the status of a national tradition, in the sense that it is evenly and equitably spread throughout our social strata.

The motivation of much voluntary service, and indeed the adult support of it, remain in the tradition of a minority whose background has been, even if it is less so today, the privileged, and in the minds of a great many people outside this House, outside the cosy comfort of our debate this evening, the image of voluntary service is one of patronage epitomised by the flowered feminine head-dress and daubed as "do-gooding". I believe that this still endures in the minds of a great many people. I intend no disrespect for those who head up and serve in the adult voluntary organisations of long-standing and renown, nor of the numerous and admirable mushroom enterprises which are mainly the inspiration of young graduates. Having been closely involved with both types of organisation over many years, I suggest that other people whose background has not been privileged are not represented, particularly in the hierarchies of these organisations, in proportion to their numbers in the population as a whole.

I said I would trespass on to difficult terrain and I hasten to add, having arrived in this socio-political minefield, that this is no reflection on anybody, whether they are involved or have been involved in voluntary service or not. For too long too many people have been perforce at the receiving end of voluntary service and too few have been privileged by the opportunity and experience of rendering it. In rapidly changing social circumstances, that opportunity is changing, too, and I do not for a moment dissent from what the noble Lord, Lord Segal, said, and others have said in different words; that is, that by many individual people whose background has not been privileged that opportunity is not being missed; in fact, it is being taken up. However, it is my contention that the tradition and practice of voluntary service, circumscribed as it has been, and deriving as it has from a past era of charitable patronage, should be encouraged to grow into a wider and more representative culture. Indeed, questions of privilege or social disadvantage are no longer relevant to the principle and habit of volunteering in our society. If worker participation in management is relevant in the industrial situation in our evolving social democracy, and I believe it is, then voluntary participation by working people in giving voluntary service outside the factories is no less relevant.

I digress slightly to link a thought, having had the thought put in my mind by the noble Prince in his notable speech when he referred to community service orders. I have a certain amount of knowledge of these orders, having been to numerous places in the country to see how those orders are getting on. They are still a novel resource available to the courts of law, but they have passed their novitiate and they are now generally available. The view being expressed in the Probation Service, of which I have the great privilege to be the president. is that a great deal of juvenile delinquency could have been avoided by those who are serving these orders and by many others, young people, who have come up against the law, had they been involved in a national scheme of community service. I wonder sometimes how many of those young hooligans who create havoc in the housing estates and before, during and after football matches have been given the opportunity ever to think and do anything for anyone other than themselves.

The noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilion, spoke of substituting Gordonstoun for borstal and in that connection I have received a report from the Durham Probation and After-care Service which provides an interesting sidelight on this viewpoint. It reads: The community service order —and I remind your Lordships that this is from Durham— has shown that throughout the county there is a social vacuum in the field of leisure activities for the young adult. Accidentally, the punishment of comunity service has filled this vacuum for many and the word is spreading. Probationers and ex-probationers, and dare we say ex-offenders. are coming forward without an order from the court to work with and for others. I am about to mount a hobby-horse, encouraged again by, but without any collusion at all from the noble Prince, in giving a little more substance to the idea he mooted in his remarks about giving the opportunity to learn about and do something about service to every boy and girl. It is a hobby-horse on which I have tilted vainly at more than one Ministerial windmill. I am suggesting that it is no less the responsibility of the State to include this kind of experence within the statutory period of full-time education, or immediately following it than it is to fulfil its obligation to provide a basic education in literacy. If Gordonstoun can do it, why cannot the State?

We all know that many schools, perhaps most, now provide some opportunities for community service in secondary education, but we who know anything about this know that it is only a minority who can or do take the opportunity to do so. I believe that this basic thesis could be given expression and form by an education or a training element in the secondary school curriculum embracing all young people for a limited but specific period in their final year at school. If examination or prospects of higher education would be prejudiced by that, then it could be done immediately afterwards; it could be dove-tailed by a variety of models, normally into the final year but exceptionally into or immediately preceding the start of a job. It would be an experience which would give everyone, every young person at an important stage in growing up, an insight into other people's problems and an inkling of their opportunity for doing something to help. It would impart that sense of responsibility about which we have heard and which I maintain is so largely lacking at present. If we really believe in the importance of community, this is a way to achieve it. I believe it could be done without prejudice to the voluntary element in community service which it is so vitally important to preserve. Indeed one can say that such a programme could not be worked without the experienced guidance and co-operation of the voluntary bodies, because skilled supervision in the training of volunteers would be of the essence of the idea and it is in those very areas which are open to the voluntary bodies that a general programme for rendering service and training young people for service would have to be worked out.

Referring back briefly to community service orders, a good deal of fear was expressed at the beginning that community service orders on offenders would be harmful to volunteering and might take away the opportunities of the voluntary bodies, but nothing has impressed me more in the reports from the probation areas in which the pilot schemes were carried out than the point they have all made; that is, that community service order workers have contributed to the scope of voluntary work; they have filled gaps and provided a continuity which has often been lacking. I am quite confident that a general training element in the secondary education stage would not be prejudicial and would produce many more recruits from the voluntary bodies across the whole social spectrum. There need be no fear that there might not be enough useful work to do. It would stimulate research into the many areas of need which so far are not being met, whether in the conservation of our countryside or in our towns.

Again, I wish to quote from a report from a probation area, which gives some indication of the point I have in mind. This report relates to Nottinghamshire and it states: The existence of voluntary helping agencies has contributed as much to the uncovering of submerged needs as it has to the meeting of recognised community needs. Tasks have been referred on a scale which it is impossible to meet. … At times, the entire workforce could have been absorbed by meeting the needs of one particular voluntary agency, or undertaking certain types of work for a single category of beneficiary. The report concludes: Demand on such a scale causes concern about the extent of much unmet and urgent need. It is equally the case that more voluntary help, adequately trained, would strengthen the statutory social services. Ask any social worker or probation officer if he or she is able to give as much individual care and attention as he or she would wish and the client may need, to the many clients on the case lists. I think that from all such officers you would get the same answer—that they have far too many in order to give sufficient individual attention.

Finally, my Lords, it all adds up to this. I have a vision of what might be achieved both in social terms and for the great benefit of individual people in need of care, and those in need of outlets to their energies and aptitudes, by tapping more generally the potential sources of good will in support of the statutory services and the voluntary organisations. It is not just a pipe dream, because in community treatment of deliquency and crime, Holland has for long been setting a shining example which we could well emulate. I hope that it will not sound too competitive if I am tempted to finish by saying that everything they can do we can do better.

8.42 p.m.


My Lords, with the leave of your Lordships I should like to address the House for a second time in this debate. The noises off which we heard a moment or two ago are explained by the fact that it was realised that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, was coming to the end of his speech and that the House was to be subjected to the pleasure of hearing me for a second time today.

I think it would be agreed that we have had a most stimulating debate. It has been one of the occasions in the life of the House which will be long remembered. I believe that there are two reasons for that. First, we have had the notable maiden speeches—referred to by a number of other speakers—by the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pike. I noted that the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, at the beginning of his speech described himself as a "stumbling novice ". I do not think that he did so badly, and that I think would be the view of this House as a whole.

Secondly, I did not realise until this debate—and, I suspect, nor indeed did the noble Lord who initiated it—the wide variety of voluntary organisations which are represented by Members of your Lordships' House. I tried to take a note of these organisations and it certainly does not include all the organisations named. But they range from the WRVS, the problems of which were referred to in the speech by the noble Baroness—and I shall deal later with one of the points she raised—to the reference by my noble friend Lord Longford to the Melting Pot organisation. As he said, the Home Office has a close personal interest in this organisation, which is working among young West Indians in Brixton. Furthermore, we heard about Community Service Volunteers mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Pike, and the Young Volunteer Force Foundation, in the setting up of which my noble friend Lord Houghton of Sowerby was very much involved.

We heard, too, about the King's Fund, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hayter, as well as the various organisations concerning the mentally handicapped, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Segal, and the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, dealt with a number of specific points concerning the problems of the mentally handicapped. These are inevitably the responsibility of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services. I shall make a point of drawing her attention to the contribution made by the noble Lord.

We also had the speech by my noble friend Lady White. I apologise for not being present to hear it. She referred to her own involvement with the National Council of Social Service. The noble Baroness, Lady Hylton-Foster, dealt with the Red Cross and the noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, spoke about the Save the Children Fund. The Scout movement was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Forbes, and the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, dealt with the Spinal Injuries Association.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, dealt with the involvement of the voluntary organisations in the community service orders scheme. As I am sure the noble Lord will agree, this has been a most important experiment, and I wish to take this opportunity, being involved not only with voluntary organisations, but also in the Probation and After-Care Department of the Home Office, to say how much we appreciate the tremendous amount of assistance we, and the local probation and after-care committees, have received from voluntary organisations which has contributed to what I think has been a remarkable success in a very limited period of time. I feel sure that the noble Lord will join with me in saying this.

The noble Lord, Lord Caccia, referred to St. John's. This is the only organisation mentioned with which I have had any association during my life. While still at school, I was a St. John's Ambulance cadet. It was a brief and. I fear, rather inglorious episode, because try as I did I could never remember whether the bandage should be applied left over right or right over left. The people in the brigade were extremely kind to me—I say that without hesitation. But I think they became increasingly saddened as they saw my splints disintegrate while everyone else's managed to sustain a fairly reasonable appearance—

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords, I should like to suggest to the noble Lord that he perhaps allows the Red Cross to try to see whether it could be more successful.


My Lords, I shall direct the attention of my son to the point made by the noble Baroness. The noble Lord, Lord Gore-Booth, touched on the contribution made by a whole variety of voluntary organisations in this country to deprivations and disasters abroad. It is right that on such occasions we should not be too insular. No matter how great are our problems in this country—and they are manifold—the scale of deprivation outside this country is infinitely worse. It is notable the number of voluntary organisations in this country which have contributed to dealing with this problem.

I now return to one of the central themes of the debate, which was alluded to in a notable speech by the noble Prince, the Prince of Wales, and by, I should think, well over half the other speakers in the debate. I refer to the financial situation currently confronting voluntary organisations. I gave this matter a central place in my earlier speech in the debate, but it may be helpful if I add a few words now. It is too easy to get the financial contribution of Central Government out of perspective. Voluntary effort is funded from a variety of sources: donations from individuals and industry; earnings from investment and retail activities; and grants from trusts and charitable foundations. There are also local Government grants and payments for services. The amount of Central Government money compared with all this is relatively small.

Where the Government can play a unique role is in encouraging the use of volunteers and the opening of opportunities for them, and in helping the voluntary services to co-ordinate their activities and communicate with all levels of authority. But as to finance, support for the voluntary services comes from all the main spending Departments. Ordinarily I should quarrel with nothing in the speech by my noble friend Lord Longford, but the only conceivable quarrel I might have with him is that he was kind enough to give me a status in this matter which I do not altogether deserve. I appeared at the end of his speech as being a veritable octopus, with each of the tentacles clasping a substantial sum of money. I fear it is not like that, as the noble Earl would recognise. Though I have responsibilities for the Voluntary Services Unit of the Home Office and, in addition, for some area of Home Office activities, all the main spending Departments have their own block of expenditure so far as the voluntary organisations are concerned.

For instance, the Department of Health and Social Security makes grants to national voluntary bodies mainly for services which might otherwise be provided by statutory bodies, dealing with the disabled, the sick, children, alcoholics and drug addicts. The Department of the Environment pays grants to a number of environmental and conservationist bodies. The Department of Education and Science supports national voluntary youth organisations. The Development Commission gives money to Rural Community Councils. The Department of Prices and Consumer Protection makes a substantial contribution to the Citizens Advice Bureaux Service. The Home Office, as I indicated earlier, offers finance through local authorities under the urban aid programme and the Voluntary Services Unit, as well as making grants to voluntary bodies working in probation and after-care, marriage guidance and related areas.

I expand this point because I was interested in what the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, said towards the end of her speech about her work as chairman of the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, in making decisions about whether or not one gives a grant. From time to time I am confronted with decisions of this kind and in the present situation I find them exceedingly difficult to make. As I indicated earlier this afternoon, the policy which I am sure is right at the moment is to try to keep in business some of the most useful and valuable organisations. At a time of high inflation and level of Government expenditure, this inevitably means that one cannot move into those innovatory fields which otherwise one should like to do.

I followed with great interest what the noble Baroness said because I, too, find this an exceptionally difficult decision. I find it most disagreeable periodically to have to turn down what are clearly most worth while, useful schemes because I am convinced that at the moment the right policy is to ensure we have adequate resources to sustain some of the most important voluntary organisations in the country, and if we spend it otherwise clearly those resources will be dissipated.

I will now deal with another point raised by my noble friend Lord Longford when he quesioned me at the beginning of my speech about the existing level of Government assistance to voluntary organisations. In a speech which was delivered to the National Council of Social Service in December 1971 the then Prime Minister, Mr. Heath, said that direct grants to voluntary services from Whitehall were estimated at £2½ million and that it was hoped to double this figure by 1975–6. Allowing for inflation, that proposed £5 million would now be £7½ million. But the actual expenditure by Central Government on voluntary services in 1974–5 was not £7½ million but more than £16 million. The estimated expenditure for 1975–6 is currently about £20 million. It would be wrong to use these figures as exact comparisons because there is no exact definition of voluntary services and the basis of calculation may be different. But however much it may have differed, there can be no doubt that the Government contribution to voluntary services has increased rapidly.

I should like to go further in putting into perspective the Government contribution by reference to figures in the 1973 Family Expenditure Survey. This was a point touched on in the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. This showed that only 35.8 per cent. of the 19 million households in the United Kingdom made any contribution to charity and that the average donation was 14p a week, which amounts to roughly £50 million a year. It is never easy to decide between priorities among candidates for public expenditure. But to raise £20 million from the public, only another 15 per cent. of households would need to contribute 14p a week.

I now turn to a number of other points which have been mentioned in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hylton-Foster, raised the question of increased relief from VAT for charities and voluntary organisations. They will be aware that this is a question which has been vigorously debated and, as the noble Lord was fair enough to point out, this debate took place when his Government was in Office. During the debates on the 1972 Finance Bill, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, the noble Lord, Lord Barber, pointed out the problem of drawing distinctions between bodies which might benefit from any concessions. He stressed that there were many bodies doing valuable social work which were not technically charities, and that of these bodies registered as charities, a total of over 100,000 were entitled to claim repayments in respect of VAT on their inputs. A considerable extra burden would clearly be imposed on public funds.

Nevertheless, despite the difficulties—and the Government certainly recognise as I have indicated in my speech already, the very pressing financial problems facing charitable bodies and organisations at the moment—during the last 12 months my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been able to give some relief from VAT to a wide range of aids for the disabled and to charitable donations of medical and scientific equipment; and to many other items such as wireless receiving sets loaned to the blind. Repairs and maintenance of lifeboats for the Royal Lifeboat Institution have been zero-rated and sales of goods donated to a charity established primary for the relief of distress do not incur VAT.

I think that noble Lords will accept that something has already been done for charities, although I recognise this does not meet fully the points made in this debate. I will certainly report what has been said in the debate to my right honourable friend so that he is aware of the strength of feeling in the House.

The noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, also mentioned the position of charities, which, indeed, for this purpose includes Churches, under the proposed Community Land Bill. This question has been widely canvassed in representations made to the Government and to individual Members of Parliament. My right honourable friend the Minister for Planning and Local Government met the Churches Main Committee on 24th February. An all-denominational group of Church leaders met my right honourable friends the Prime Minister, the Minister for Planning and Local Government and the Paymaster General on the 23rd April.

At that meeting the Prime Minister said that he welcomed the Churches' support for the general purpose of the Bill. He also said that the Government would consider carefully whether anything could be done within the principles of the legislation to meet the points they made. This assurance was repeated during the Second Reading debate on the Community Land Bill in another place on 29th April. But the only comment I can add is that during the Standing Committee on the Bill on the 11th June, when Amendments in favour of the Churches and charities were being discussed, my right honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of the Environment stated that the Government were sympathetic to the difficulties of Churches and some charities and undertook that the Government would make fair provision for them. In the light of these undertakings, the Government are considering what such provision should be and hope to announce their decision before the Standing Committee has concluded its proceedings in another place.

A number of other detailed points were made during the debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Pike, raised the question of the mileage allowance and my noble friend Lady White raised the question of what would happen to the proposals concerning intestate funds; but due to the lateness of the hour and the length of my speech I will reply to these point sin writing. I conclude by thanking once again the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, for having initiated this debate. I think he deserves the thanks of us all for having raised this issue in the first instance.

9.0 p.m.


My Lords, it is not normal for the mover of a Motion of this sort to speak for more than a few minutes at the end of a debate. There is so much that has been said on which I should like to comment, however, that I am tempted to carry on the debate with those survivors who still remain in the Chamber after a debate lasting six hours or more. But it is a temptation that I must resist. I listened to what the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said, with very close interest. He gave a description in his opening speech of the work of the Voluntary Service Unit in the Home Office which will be of considerable interest to the voluntary movement and will be read widely outside.

In his opening speech, and he has repeated it now, the noble Lord has given a clear statement of Government policy towards the financial crisis facing so many voluntary organisations. He has explained that it will be the Government's policy to keep existing voluntary services going as far as possible even if it leaves very little over for innovation, for new developments or for the expansion of existing services. In some ways this represents a reversal of what the noble Lord, Lord Caccia, was saying had tended to be the previous policy of Governments in his experience; namely, favouring innovatory projects in preference to the maintenance of existing services. Any curtailment of this sort is of course regrettable. I am sure we would all regret it, but if it is necessary to choose in present circumstances, hopefully only for a limited period of time, between keeping the boat afloat and launching new ventures, it would I believe be the judgment of most noble Lords that the Government have made the right choice.

My Lords, this has been a valuable debate. I shall conclude soon, but I do not want to withdraw the Motion and sit down without getting something tangible out of the Government at the end of the day. Let me come back again to two points I raised at the beginning of this debate regarding taxation. I was rather encouraged by what the noble Lord said about the Community Land Bill. Other noble Lords, who have been Ministers and who are experienced in the ways of Whitehall, will have been listening with close attention to what he told us has been said both by the Prime Minister and by Mr. Silkin. On the whole, I regard it as encouraging.

I hope the noble Lord, Lord Harris, will make use of this debate as an opportunity to help him in his work. A Parliamentary debate often can help a Minister achieve an objective, and in particular a Minister who has a co-ordinating responsibility. We appreciate his position. I have been a co-ordinating Minister myself, and so has the noble Lord, Lord Houghton, and for a longer period. Ministers sometimes do not have the power to take a decision on their own account. But what the noble Lard, Lord Harris, has the opportunity to do, and the duty to do, is to raise with his colleagues, with his fellow Ministers, what has been said in this House of Parliament. The official advice will be there; it is extremely important and great weight and attention must be given to it. But Ministers have to take political decisions, and I have confidence that the noble Lord will use this debate to strengthen his hand. As a token of the respect I believe the noble Lord has for those who have spoken in this debate, might I ask him to look at the question of VAT once again. I know it is a hideously complicated matter, and that the problems of charities have been continuing for two years. But it is defeatist to leave problems of this sort in that large file on the Whitehall shelf marked "Too difficult". Of course the Government can say, "This was looked into two years ago and we could not find a way of distinguishing between very small charities and public schools and the large voluntary organisations in the main stream ". But I hope the noble Lord, Lord Harris, will be willing to give an undertaking to look at the matter once again, without committing himself, to see if VAT is one additional field in which there is room for some future concession. If so, we should all be in his debt.

My Lords, it only remains for me to thank all the speakers in this debate. I do so fervently. We have had many interesting speeches and in particular two memorable maiden speeches from the noble Lord, Lord Wolfenden, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pike. Both more than lived up to the high expectations we had. The debate was also distinguished by the contribution from the Prince of Wales. It was entirely appropriate that he should speak from his own experience, mainly about the needs of young people, and impressive that he did so in such a thoughtful and persuasive way.

In the last hour, I have been conscious of a figure sitting quietly over the other side of the Chamber, the noble Lord, Lord Soper, who has been waiting for the debate which is to follow on his Unstarred Question. I am extremely sorry he had to wait so long, together with other noble Lords who are down to speak. I must delay him no longer, and so beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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