HL Deb 22 October 1984 vol 456 cc92-125

8.32 p.m.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to ensure that the relationship between voluntary organisations and governmental and other public bodies most effectively satisfies the needs of the community at large.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am very grateful to have the opportunity to put this Motion before your Lordships this evening. I am even more grateful to those noble Lords who have stayed behind so unexpectedly long in order to make their contribution to the debate. It is a big and complex subject. I can do little more than provide the background and touch upon the role which the voluntary services play and the problems which they face and suggest some remedial action which the Government might take. I hope that from their knowledge and experience other speakers will fill in the gaps which I leave.

There can be little doubt that in today's rapidly changing society it is necessary from time to time to examine the way in which services to the community are being provided. The purpose of the debate is to ascertain that through complementing each other the correct balance is held between the voluntary welfare agencies and governmental and other public bodies. Such an analysis seems to be even more crucial at present when the services of the voluntary bodies are under ever-increasing demand while their funding is rendered insecure through the rate-capping legislation and the proposed abolition of the Greater London Council and the metropolitan councils.

First, there can be little doubt that even in those early days the midwives of the welfare state, having put into operation their giant rescue operation for Britain's needy, must have believed that the state should do what the state alone can do; namely, ensure an appropriate allocation of financial resources and, that done, leave as much as possible to the initiative and enterprise of the individual. They recognised that many people are able and willing to serve the public and that to reject that help would mean delaying social advance and inhibiting self-criticism, experiment and innovation. The old-style concept of paternalism and philanthropy was acutely defined by Lord Beveridge when he said: Philanthropy springs from social conscience: the feeling which makes men who are materially comfortable mentally uncomfortable as long as their neighbours are materially uncomfortable".

Although we live in a very different world, those basic principles surely remain true today.

Before commenting on the main theme of the Motion, may I say a few words about the volunteer in order both to remove the confusion which sometimes surrounds his precise circumstances and also to describe how his function is developing. The volunteer is a person who gives his or her services for nothing and who is active in both the voluntary and statutory sectors. The voluntary and charitable welfare organisations, on the other hand, like any other concern, employ some paid workers along with the unpaid volunteers.

There is little doubt that we in Britain are fortunate in having such a high proportion of people who give their services for nothing. The figure from the volunteer centre shows that with men and women volunteering on an equal basis, one in five of the population volunteer on a regular basis—that is, monthly. It must therefore be recognised that the old prototype "do-gooder"—the middle-class lady in her flowery hat and covered basket ministering to the needy—has been joined by a wide range of additional people: for instance, young people who have grown up with a greater sense of caring and many retired people who wish to continue to make a contribution to society. Volunteering is being increasingly rcommended to unemployed people, 10 per cent. of whom, it has been ascertained, find some solace in voluntary work. It is also recommended to those who are revovering from depression and mental illness and who find helping others to be of therapeutic value to themselves.

There is no doubt that to protect our present system of employment and so on and to make full use of the services of this greater band of unpaid workers, adjustments must be made. To mention but a few, the voluntary service unit at the Home Office has now become inadequate and its resources and manpower need to be increased. The unit, instead of playing a passive role, could be made more into a development unit sponsoring experimental programmes.

Secondly, more funds are needed for research into ways of better co-ordinating the work of volunteers. Recognition that volunteers now often come from low income group needs some form of compensation, such as travelling expenses, insurance cover, lunch, et cetera. These have all become necessary. But there is another aspect. I am sometimes astonished by the patronising and sometimes almost scornful attitude shown by some members of the community towards, as they call them, the "do-gooders", almost as if they would prefer the opposite, the evil doers. I feel most strongly that those who so generously put themselves at the service of others at least deserve the support and admiration of their fellow citizens.

What of the voluntary welfare organisations themselves? What is their true role, representing one important arm in the structure of provision as they now do? First, they can undoubtedly complement the work of the stautory bodies through themselves not being bound up in the same bureaucracy. This applies in particular to advice bureaux. It is indisputable in our complex society, with its equally complex set of rules and benefits, that consumers increasingly require expert advice and assistance on matters of individual concern. This increases the role played by advice agencies.

Secondly, not only can voluntary organisations take advantage of modern technology to spearhead new methods of helping people, but through innovation they are in the best position to experiment. Indeed, it is only the voluntary bodies who can work on the basis that, out of 10 initiatives, if seven fail then that must be seen in the light of three successes. For the state to incur such a high failure rate would provoke a public outcry—and rightly so. So this is the realm for voluntary organisations.

Thirdly, voluntary organisations, working as they do close to the ground, are far better placed to identify the true needs, and consequently they can provide a more sensitive pattern of service. Equally, they can often respond more quickly to needs than can state bodies, without cumbersome bureaucratic machinery. Finally of course voluntary organisations provide a greater choice of welfare provisions to the consumer.

I should like to give one example of the problems facing voluntary and charitable welfare organisations before I conclude by suggesting ways in which the Government might meet these problems and build that better partnership to which they appear to aspire. The example I have taken concerns problems facing the Women's National Cancer Control Campaign, of which I have just become chairman. I believe the problems are very typical. This organisation was set up 20 years ago to provide health education concerning cancer risks to women and provide screening programmes for early detection of cervical and breast cancer. The need for early detection has been proved by the fact that 98 per cent. of women who die from this form of cancer were never screened. These programmes are carried out in mobile units set up at the gates of factories or in the town or village square. It has now been proved that women—especially older, working class women, who are in fact most at risk—prefer to be screened in a mobile unit rather than by their general practitioner or at a health clinic.

The Women's National Cancer Control Campaign has now become a victim of its own success; the more women hearken to our warning, the more clients we have for our screening programmes. Consequently, our costs have escalated while our DHSS grant has remained unchanged. Like other organisations, we are forced to turn more and more to the public and grapple with the time-consuming and highly specialised task of fund-raising rather than responding to the real needs of women.

My other example concerns citizens advice bureaux, whose importance, as I have said, cannot be underrated in today's climate of rising unemployment, rising rents, and the increasingly complex web of social security and welfare benefits. The citizens advice bureaux, of which there are 900 in England and Wales, employ fewer than 10 per cent. paid staff—the rest being volunteers. In 1983–84 the bureaux estimate to have dealt with about 5 million inquiries and received £10 million cash grant aid from the local authorities.

The bureaux estimate that inquiries will increase at a rate of 500,000 a year from 1985–86 but their finances risk being severely curtailed. £6 million of the £10 million could be affected by rate limitations and £2.5 million is very likely to be directly affected by rate capping. And the 1986–87 GLC and metropolitan counties abolition Bill will affect approximately £1 million local grant aid to CABs. But of course, it will be the 600 bureaux in Greater London which will be mainly affected by both rate capping and abolition. How will these bureaux continue to offer adequate advice services? Already there is a great deal of unfulfilled demand, when one realises that only 48 per cent. of the families with two parents and dependent children who are entitled to housing benefit actually claim it.

I shall conclude by putting forward a few suggestions to the Minister. It is obvious that more money is needed by the voluntary sector to meet their increased workload—but in order not to become a target for the social services secretary, who was reported a few weeks ago to have called for, an end to these rather self-centred and totally sterile wrangles about who provides",

I suggest that the minimum acceptable standards of provision in health, housing, education, etc., should be established and that the Government accept the obligation to ensure that those standards are provided. Following this, an assessment could be made as to which of the agencies available would be the most effective providers.

Secondly, the Government have said that they do not want to see the voluntary sector impeded by rate capping and the abolition proposals—but still they have not put their words into effect. And from the point of view of the security of voluntary organisations and their forward planning, surely when organisations are shown to be making a really valuable contribution, they should be given enough assurance of long-term support to enable them to plan and build up professional staff.

For example, funding programmes should be on a three-year minimum basis, and one year nonrenewable programmes should not be introduced. Furthermore, the Government should recognise the absurd cash-flow problems caused even to quite large voluntary organisations by the Government's tradition of always paying their agents well in arrears and bureaucractic delays in negotiation and payment. These have become legendary. No business organisation would tolerate such a system for a moment, because it makes for extreme inefficiency and insecurity.

My third point is that charities must one day be relieved of the burden of VAT. This is constantly under discussion but it has never actually happened. Fourthly, surely voluntary organisations should be consulted more. They have the enormous advantage of being close to the ground and knowing what is going on. From another aspect, should not the Government consult them before introducing major policy changes which will bring severe, unforeseen disruption to their work?

Lastly, with the voluntary sector playing such an important role in the provision of services, there can be no doubt that there should be a junior Minister particularly responsible for co-ordinating its work. This would be of immeasurable value to both efficiency and morale. I believe that changes such as these could go a long way to rescuing the voluntary sector from its present dilemma and demoralised state. This condition is further aggravated by the Government sometimes managing to give the impression that they regard caring agencies as a rather soppy province of the unreliable Left wing. The changes I have suggested would also contribute to establishing the effective partnership and correct balance between voluntary bodies and the state which the Government claim they wish to see but which, in the view of many of us involved in this work, they appear to have done so little to implement.

There is no doubt in my mind that the spur for many of those in the voluntary services who work so hard to bring assistance to Britain's least fortunate citizens is a sense of social justice and compassion. The Government have still to prove through their actions that they are governed by the same compulsion.

8.48 p.m.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, we must all be grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, for raising this subject in our debate today. It is a timely debate, in as much as the voluntary sector feels under threat. It is this threat that is of deep concern not only to the voluntary sector but also to the statutory sector.

In Hansard for 30th April 1984, my noble friend Lord Bellwin is quoted as saying in a debate on the Rates Bill: May I say at the outset that the Government need no strictures at all on their role in connection with, or support for voluntary organisations. The Government's record over the last five years stands so far ahead of anything done previously for voluntary organisations—I make that statement categoricaly".—[Official Report, 30/4/84; col. 381.] In some areas I have much cause to be particularly grateful for the partnership between the statutory and the voluntary sectors. I quote but two examples. As a member of the Dr. Barnardo Council I would point out that we are in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Security in making arrangements for the mentally handicapped children being brought up in mental hospitals to come into the community. This partnership has been most effective with the financial help and encouragement of the Department of Health and Social Security. In addition, I am also a governor of two schools for maladjusted children. In both cases the Department of Education and the Department of Health have worked in partnership with the schools in providing better facilites for such children. Those are examples of two organisations only. It is easy to have a partnership between one authority and another authority.

However, the position with regard to voluntary organisations now, with the pending debate on the abolition of the Greater London Council and the metropolitan county councils, presents a very real problem for the voluntary sector, as the noble Baroness said in her speech. I have read with care the yellow document The Abolition of the Greater London Council and the Metropolitan County Councils issued by the Department of the Environment. I suggest that we should consider the way in which we discussed the paving Bill some months ago. Her Majesty's Government felt impelled to bring in a paving Bill before actually passing the Bills in connection with the abolition of the metropolitan counties and the Greater London Council. By the same token the voluntary sector thinks—rightly so—that at the moment it should be preparing for this change should it come about. This is where we run into trouble.

There are very real difficulties. First, is there to be the money for the transition stage? Secondly—and the noble Baroness has already referred to this—who is to have the overall responsibility for both facilitating and maintaining grants and support to the voluntary organisations? The noble Baroness suggested that there should be a junior Minister who would be responsible. In the debate that we have just had on the EC report of Lord Seebohm, regarding the employment of young people, the Minister replied that he was setting up a committee of four ministries in order to get the four ministries working together. If it can be done in one area, it should be possible for it to be done in another.

The real difficulty for the voluntary sector with the proposed legislation, which I admit had not yet come in, is the number of people involved and how one is to get them all to face in the same direction. That involves the support of the voluntary sector, which Her Majesty's Government so much recommends. For example the Citizens' Advice Bureau, to which the noble Baroness referred, receives a grant for the central running of its office from the Department of Trade and Industry. The local offices get their grants, or it is expected they will get their grants, from the local authorities in whose areas their local offices are located. Let us suppose that the local authority—not necessarily a rate-capped authority, because there will be only 17 rate-capped authorities—has not had experience of the extraordinarily good and splendid work of the citizens' advice bureaux and decides that it has the capacity to deal with the inquiries itself. What then becomes of the citizens' advice bureau?

There are other voluntary organisations which have already fallen because they are not supported by their local authority. I can quote two examples. One is in a local authority area where there was a foster parent agency which found foster parents for children in care. In another local authority, really difficult families were helped. This body's work was not understood by the local authority and the grant was withdrawn.

Do the Government not feel that a very strong lead is required from them? If a local authority has an ideological attitude not to support the voluntary sector—and I have to say that there are some such authorities—where do the Government stand from the point of view of supporting the voluntary sector? There is great deal of division. How is this to be woven together to support the voluntary sector?

The noble Baroness referred to the numbers, and I shall refer to them again. The citizens' advice bureaux have 12,000 volunteers, with only 1,000 paid staff. That figure can be multiplied through all the different voluntary organisations. Therefore, I suggest that a very strong lead, of a very positive nature, is required from Her Majesty's Government if they want to support the voluntary sector. I support the noble Baroness in saying that there needs to be a structure, which does not exist at the moment, with one person, one Minister in one place, who is responsible for sponsoring the voluntary movement.

The noble Baroness has referred to the Home Office volunteer service unit. She referred to other ministries. Add to that the local authorites throughout the country and the local authority associations, and I agree with her and support her wholeheartedly in saying that there should be one person responsible for supporting and encouraging the voluntary sector and encouraging those who should be employing the voluntary sector.

8.58 p.m.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, the Question of the noble Baroness refers to the relationship between voluntary welfare organisations and governmental and other public bodies. Before concentrating on that I think it is worth drawing attention to the very important and developing role of voluntary bodies in local economic development and job creation.

A report issued only recently by a joint working party of the three local authority associations and the NCVO, sponsored by the National Westminster Bank, gives some very interesting instances of these developments, and I recommend it to your Lordships. It can be obtained from the NCVO. Incidentally, I went to the launch of this document, which received all-party support from this House. The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, was there for the Liberals, the noble Lords, Lord Sandford and Lord Boardman, for the Conservatives and myself for the Social Democrats. There were Labour speakers, too. That, of course, is not really the subject of this debate. I just wanted to give a plug for this document, which is rather good.

We are extremely fortunate in having in this country an active and growing voluntary sector. It is deeply rooted in our traditions. It not only operates in the chinks and crevices of the social structure where statutory bodies neither can nor should penetrate, but is also playing an increasingly important role in joint action with the statutory services and as agents for them.

At a time of terrific pressure on public resources it can never be stressed too strongly—the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, seldom misses an opportunity to make this point, but she did not make it today and so I shall make it for her—that voluntary bodies are extraordinarily cost-effective. This seems to be almost a self-evident truth, as much of their input is free. Yet we should not think of voluntary organisations only as associations of amiable and-worthy amateurs depending entirely on charitable trusts and donations. Many are now highly professional. The voluntary movement as a whole employs something like 160,000 paid employees who provide the professional framework for the delivery of the service. So funding from a variety of sources is essential if standards are to be maintained and new needs are to be met.

I have here another useful publication by the Charities Aid Foundation of charity statistics 1983–84, which tells us a great deal about the sources of funding for voluntary bodies. In 1983–84 the top 200 grant-making trusts provided £208 million to the voluntary sector. The top 200 corporate donors, headed by Barclays Bank with £ 1,724,000, provided a total of £34 million. This source appears to be slightly on the increase again after the slump in 1981–82, but still only represents 0.21 per cent. of profits in 1983–84. I understand that there is a movement aimed at securing 1 per cent. of corporate profits, but of course this still has a very long way to go.

The total central Government grants in the last year for which figures are available, that is 1982–83, amounted to nearly £151 million. This figure has been increasing quite sharply, mainly due to the urban programme, but it will be recalled that 75 per cent. of that vitally important programme is local authority funded. Unsuccessful attempts were made in this House during the passing of the Rates Bill (now an Act) to protect their contribution from rate-capping. There is thus a real effect to some of the very valuable schemes being run by charities under this programme.

It should also be remembered that central Government contributions have risen, both in real terms and as a percentage of grants from official bodies. Local authority contributions have declined from something like four times those of central Government to only about twice those of central Government. So the ratio is changing dramatically.

I am not entirely sure that that is a desirable trend. One must always remember that charities working in the welfare and social security field depend overwhelmingly on local government contributions. The big national charities will of course always survive, but there are myriads of small local charities which may well go to the wall.

This brings me specifically to the local authority input to the voluntary sector. Much of this is channelled through the social services department in the form of grants and fees. Actually, fees are four times the amount of grants. The total payment by social security authorities to voluntary bodies in 1981–82 amounted to £173 million. Extracting the shire counties alone, this sum amounted to £61 million in 1982–83, representing approximately three-quarters of their payments to voluntary bodies for all purposes, and indicating beyond doubt the reliance that they place on the voluntary sector in carrying out their welfare programmes.

Most of the authorities to be rate-capped fall outside the shire counties. So there must be a fear that the grants and fees amounting to some £112 million made by social security departments, other than those of the shire counties, will be specially at risk under the Rates Act.

The statistics do not go down to borough and district level. However, if—I say if, because it has not happened yet—the metropolitan counties and the GLC are abolished, there must be serious doubts whether the smaller authorities will be able or willing to fund even a small proportion of the contributions previously made by the strategic authorities.

This brings me to the question which I was going to put to the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, of which I have given him prior notice. Your Lordships may recall that during the passage of the Rates Bill (which is now the Rates Act) through your Lordships' House, the risk to local authority grants to charities was widely recognised on all sides of the House. Various attempts were made to secure exemptions from rate-capping for such grants. The discussions were to my mind somewhat sidetracked by the prominence given to the GLC's payments to certain bodies felt not to be proper recipients of public funds. But they were a tiny minority of all recipients, and I think most sensible people recognise the value and cost effectiveness of most of the voluntary sector projects receiving support.

A compromise was eventually reached, promoted by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. I hope she does not think I am poaching on her ground here, but it was supported by myself, by, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Seebohm, and the noble Lord, Lord Ennals. That compromise now appears as Section 3(9) of the Rates Act. In fact, it was mentioned, with some rather high hopes I think, by the Charities Aid Foundation in the introduction to their book of statistics. I quote this: The Government has apparently accepted Lady Faithfull's amendment to the Rate Capping Bill in the House of Lords to allow the creation of special appeal procedures where cuts lead to the withdrawal of grants from a local authority to the voluntary sector". I do not know whether it is the recollection of the noble Baroness but it is certainly my recollection that in the debate the Government undertook to issue guidelines on how this subsection is supposed to operate. I am not aware of any having appeared yet. I understand, or I have been told, that the Secretary of State has written to the councils about this, although I have been unable to obtain a copy of the letter, if it exists. The only thing that I have been able to obtain from the Department of the Environment is a press notice and a memorandum on the proposed transitional arrangements, to which I think the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, was referring, on abolition of the strategic authorities, in which they propose collection funding between the boroughs, which will be triggered off by a two-third majority of the boroughs agreeing or wanting to fund a particular charity. And there is going to be a limit of £10 million in respect of Greater London and £3 million in respect of all the metropolitan counties together—I cannot quite believe that. This may be of interest to the noble Baroness. I shall be very happy to pass her a copy of it or to let her see this one.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, would the noble Lord give way? May I just say that I did go into all this. I am very grateful that the noble Lord has brought up this matter. What I think the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, the Minister at that time on the Rates Bill, said was that he would consider issuing guidelines. Then when I went to him at a later stage he said that there were going to be other arrangements and therefore guidelines would not be issued. The document to which the noble Lord now refers relates to the arrangements for discussion with the voluntary organisations.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that intervention. What I am saying, I think, is that this is something that we shall have occasion to discuss in the future. I understand that legislation will be required to bring these transistional arrangements into effect. I also want to say that, so far as I can see, this does not help us on the specific point I am making about the noble Baroness's amendment. All that is clear to me is that the procedure provided for in Section 3(9) can only operate if an authority applies for redetermination under subsection (4), in which case charities can write to the Secretary of State in support of their case. However, it appears that not a single rate-capped authority—I have checked this today—has applied for redetermination for the coming year. So where does that leave charities which find their grant reduced or eliminated?

The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, whom we miss because he really tried to meet us on this, said at column 76 on 18th June that they could: make an independent case if the authority was proposing to reduce their support". But what, I want to ask the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, is the situation if their authority has not applied for derogation either on their behalf or for any other reason? I suppose that there is nothing to stop them writing to the Secretary of State, but he presumably has no right to oblige a local authority to apply for re-determination to maintain its grant expenditure. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, referred to possible ideological objections by some authorities against doing this. Is it not therefore possible and perhaps even likely that this subsection may be much less effective than its promoters imagined or the Government intended? I may be wrong. I hope that I am. But it is important to get this clear. That is why I am asking for enlightenment. I know that this is not the noble Lord's department. I hope, however, that he has been able to seek advice from his colleagues in Marsham Street.

Finally, why is this matter important? Why are these matters that we are discussing this evening important? The noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, provided the answer on 18th June at column 75 when he said: Because grants are often small and short term they may seem easy to cut; but to the organisations which rely on them, and whose scope for savings may be very limited, they can be far more damaging than cuts in larger services". There is also the larger consideration which the Government simply must take on board. If the policy or, if you like, the ethos of care in the community is to be effective, it must rely to a considerale extent on the voluntary sector. It has been estimated that the charitable sector accounts for 25 per cent. of all expenditure on social welfare. If that is reduced and even the public sector funding stays level, there will be a net loss of welfare at a time of increasing demographic pressure. All the signs are that both sectors face a reduction. If that happens, you might as well scrap the concept of community care, the closing of all those gloomy Victorian hospitals and all the other things that the Government say that they want to do. We are fortunate to have an active and deeply-rooted voluntary sector in this country. Goodness knows what we should do without it! Let us make sure, at a time of growing needs, that it can operate with maximum effectiveness.

9.12 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Chichester

My Lords, at this hour I shall try to be brief. I should like to begin by recalling that the voluntary societies and organisations have a long history in our country. Back to the time when I was Dean of Worcester. I was ex officio master of almshouses founded by Saint Oswald in the 10th century. It is in that area that the Church has particularly contributed throughout the history of our land. I suppose that since the middle of the 19th century we have seen a great expansion of this work, with the starting of Dr. Barnardo's Homes in 1867 and other work for children; Waifs and Strays, now the Church of England Children's Society, and so forth; and, more recently, organisations for the provision of housing and shelter for the mentally and physically handicapped. At the same time, while this has been going on there has been a growing dependence on public funds as people in general have become less able to make substantial financial contributions from private sources. That is an important element to be recognised.

I hope that I can speak from a rather less controversial area of the country. The GLC does not extend into Sussex. Nor do we have any metropolitan authorities there. All the local authorities in Sussex, I think, are Conservative-controlled. We have a very valuable partnership with all the local authorities in Sussex. I think particularly of the main centre of population in Brighton and Hove, of St. Gabriel's family centre in Brighton, founded by the Church of England Children's Society and run by joint funding between that society and the Brighton borough, which also houses the Portage project where parents are helped to teach handicapped children basic skills.

I think also of the St. John's day centre in Hove where part of a large church has been set aside, in co-operation with the borough and the county, as a day centre for the elderly; plans we have for something similar at St. Patrick's Church in Hove; the Brighton Housing Trust which has a special concern for the housing of the single homeless, those who have been released from mental hospitals, the elderly—and we have many elderly people living often in deplorable conditions. All of this is run by a splendid partnership in funding and co-operation between mainly the borough council but also the county councils and the voluntary organisations.

But now there is a very great anxiety—an anxiety which results from financial uncertainty. The voluntary bodies ought to be able to do forward planning. They ought to be able to employ their staff responsibly. They ought not to have to divert the energies of skilled people into fund raising when they could be so much better employed in using the skills that they have for the help of those in need. There is a need constantly to be able to respond to changing conditions and the perception of fresh needs.

That part of the funding which depends on voluntary giving is always bound to have a large element of uncertainty about it. It becomes all the more necessary that the Government and local authority funding should provide the essential element of stability in the work. It is that which is now feared to be in question, partly through the cuts but particularly at present, as has been said already, through the rate-capping and the fear of what will happen as a result of the abolition of the metropolitan authorities in other areas.

Our own local authorities in Sussex—county and borough—are very careful spenders. They are more usually criticised for under-spending than for overspending. They want to be supportive but they fear that they run the risk of being penalised if they are. There have been a number of occasions in the course of this year when I have been in discussion with one or other authority about various projects which they would be only too delighted to support because they can see the need for them and the importance of them; but every time there has to be this caution, "Well, we've got to look at our expenditure as a whole and we fear that if we go in on this we shall be penalised".

I hope very much, therefore, that the Secretary of State for the Environment, who one understands is now conducting an internal Government inquiry into local authority finance, will take this problem into that inquiry and give the closest and most serious attention to this problem of funding and giving support to the voluntary organisations on whom so much of our provision for the welfare of those in need depends.

9.19 p.m.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, it is a real pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate. As someone who lives in East Sussex I know that he is exceptionally well qualified to speak on these matters. I heartily congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, my friend and colleague, not only on promoting this subject but on the way she has made us all think about it afresh. My trouble is that I spoke on this subject better in 1949 than I am ever likely to speak about it again. If I say I spoke at that time for the Government in the first main debate on voluntary action after the war, and if I say that I spoke for 46 minutes, your Lordships will realise that in those days the House was more tolerant and long suffering than it is today.

However, at that time it was quite important that a clear speech should be made on behalf of the Attlee Government, the first Labour government after the war, in favour of voluntary action. There were many doubts, not least among Labour supporters and also elsewhere, as to whether the principle of the welfare state was compatible with the principle of voluntary action. I hope that those doubts were somewhat allayed after I had spoken. I have always been interested in voluntary action, like most other noble Lords; but if it had been just a personal effort it would have been of no significance. In fact, Herbert Morrison, then Deputy Prime Minister, took an enormous personal interest in the subject. He was determined that the Labour Party should be fully committed to the whole principle of voluntary action. He supplied me with what were probably the best phrases in that speech. When it was over he circulated it to all Labour Ministers and made sure that from then on it was Labour Party policy to support voluntary action along with the welfare state which was then being built up.

The debate on that occasion was initiated by the Liberals, by Lord Samuel and Lord Beveridge, who were already addicted to those principles. So in that sense it was an important occasion. I shall quote only a few sentences, but they are better than I can deliver now. If the noble Lord can say something better at the conclusion of this debate, then good luck to him. I have every reason to hope that he may be able to do so. What I said on 22nd June 1949, at col. 119, when speaking for the Government was: We consider that the voluntary spirit is the very lifeblood of democracy"— I remember that coming from Herbert Morrison— We consider that the individual volunteer, the man who is proud to serve the community for nothing, is he whose personal sense of mission inspires and elevates the whole democratic process of official Government effort. We are convinced that voluntary associations have rendered, are rendering, and must be encouraged to continue to render, great and indispensable service to the community". As I have said, I hope that the noble Lord will be able to improve on those words, but I think that he might find it quite difficult. At any rate that has been the official attitude of the Labour Party ever since that time. The Liberal Party were already committed and I shall have a word to say about the Conservatives later.

Let us come to the present day. I hope that there could be some general agreement about voluntary action in principle. But voluntary bodies today are full of alarm. I and others said a good deal about this during the debates on the GLC and the abolition of the other metropolitan bodies. Those fears which the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, and others have brought out have not been allayed at all since that time. I hope that by the end of this debate some anxieties will be reduced, but I do not know whether or not that will turn out to be the case.

As regards the Government's general policy, they really must not be surprised if there is much nervousness in the circles of the voluntary bodies. The Government cannot have it both ways. I understand that they take pride in the fact that they are attempting to cut public expenditure. They are not cutting defence, and I am not personally suggesting that they should cut defence. But if they are not cutting defence it means, in practice, reducing the social services; it means at any rate reducing them below what they would be if the Government policy were not being pursued, although with the greater number of old people and unemployed it is difficult to know whether the total amount spent would go up or down. But the Government are engaged in a policy of reducing public expenditure. If I am mistaken the noble Lord will put me right. If that is so, it must mean that the total of welfare provision will be less under their auspices, and that more will be left to the individual and the principle of self-help than would be the case under some different philosophy. So much for the welfare state. We are not dealing with statutory bodies; we are not arguing about them now; we argue about them often enough.

However, tonight we are discussing the voluntary bodies, the third arm if you like, taking the state bodies and the local bodies as the other two. Here I venture to think that in principle there might be more agreement. The philosophy of the noble Lord's party, particularly under the present dispensation—it might not be so under some wetter form of Conservatism—is that the present Government want individuals to stand more on their own feet and to have less done for them by the state. That is the philosophy on which they have been elected twice, and if they like they can take pride in the fact that up till now the public seem ready to swallow that.

However, that does not affect the question of the voluntary bodies because there the Conservatives ought surely to be as sympathetic as Socialists and Liberals. The principle of charity—and I am not at all ashamed of using that word; I think that it is very creditable to anyone who is charitable either in the technical sense or in any other—and the principle of mutual self-help are surely principles which we can all applaud irrespective of party. So in this area there is no ideological difference as there is or must be when it comes to deciding how much the state will do in providing welfare. Here I would hope that there was at any rate a starting point of agreement. Therefore, I have some hopes that the noble Lord will say something encouraging tonight.

I conclude by making a comment on one remark that fell from the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, and also from the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull—the suggestion that there should be some sort of Minister who will play some useful part in connection with voluntary bodies. If I say that that is not a new suggestion, no-one will think that I am disparaging it, but in 1949 that was a suggestion put forward from the Liberal Benches by Lord Beveridge, supported by Lord Samuel. They put forward the idea of a Minister guardian (he was not exactly a full Minister) for the voluntary bodies. Up till now that idea has never been adopted.

Of course, there are obvious objections to such an idea. The noble Lord who is to reply is an accomplished debater, and he will not find it difficult to point to some objections, so perhaps I could point out one or two of them in advance, and that will spoil his speech! I admit that there are objections. I favour the idea, but I believe that it needs careful working out for this reason. We have all mentioned bodies with which we are particularly connected. I shall take as an example a youth centre which I helped to found and of which I am the chairman. One way or another we take the hat round to four or five Government departments. I am just trying to think how this Minister guardian, or whatever he would be called, would help us. I suppose that he would be a sort of ally at headquarters; but when it came to going to the particular departments we would hardly go through him. Therefore, it is a little hard to see how he would help us, but there he would be. I should like to think that he had all of his time to devote to this matter.

I raise those points only because I am sure that the noble Lord the Minister will mention them if I do not. There are fairly obvious difficulties and no doubt they have prevented the establishment of any such Minister from 1949 until the present day. It is a tremendous subject. I think that my noble friend Lady Ewart-Biggs has done extraordinarily well to raise it and I hope and pray that the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, will be able to say something encouraging.

9.29 p.m.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, I wholeheartedly thank the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, for giving us this opportunity to debate what I consider to be a most important subject. Perhaps I should declare a personal interest as I am associated with several voluntary welfare organisations and also serve on some public bodies. I am very well aware that good co-operation between the voluntary and statutory organisations must be of benefit to the people in the community who need assistance. Voluntary organisations very often act as a safety net for those people who fall through gaps in the statutory services. They also supplement the statutory services. They also sometimes provide a choice. If people have a choice they often tend to be more satisfied with the service provided. The problem so often is that there are so many demands on our welfare services, be they voluntary or statutory bodies, that they may be hard-pressed to fulfil their aims of helping those they are there to serve.

It is wrong if voluntary organisations are considered cheap options for statutory bodies which have a commitment to provide a service, but many voluntary organisations do an efficient job and are covering some aspects of welfare work where there is no Government provision. Many of these services cover the most difficult and demanding welfare work such as alcoholism and drug addiction. I must here pay a tribute to the Salvation Army whose members often work with people and in places which others fear to cover.

Many voluntary welfare organisations are most grateful to the Government for the grants they receive. Many of these bodies would find it difficult to pay their staff and run their offices if it were not for these grants. I was one of the founders of such an organisation. Ten years ago we founded the Spinal Injuries Association. Before that time some of the most severely disabled people in society did not have a voluntary body to support them, and the lack of this was very evident. Our full members are those people who have had damage to their spinal cord and have remained paralysed. Associate members are relatives and friends and interested professional people.

Our service gives support, information, advice, and our welfare service provides a care agency for severely paralysed people who need a specially-trained person to go into the home and take the place of the carer in an emergency. No such provision existed, and the anxiety among some of our high-lesion tetraplegics—these are people who have broken their necks and have remained paralysed from the neck down—was very great indeed.

We also have some specialised holiday facilities such as two adapted narrow boats so that a family can go on holiday with the disabled member who can steer the boat. The Spinal Injuries Association helps families to piece together their world. It acts as a bridge between paraplegic problems and interested bodies such as hospitals. Government departments, employers and local authorities. It seeks to break down the barriers that some people find when trying to get on with life. We run a quarterly newsletter, organise scientific research, and we have a legal department. We try to encourage statutory and voluntary improvements in access, mobility, housing and employment.

This year Her Royal Highness Princess Anne has become our patron. This gave our members and our hardworking staff a great boost. Her Royal Highness works exceedingly hard and we are particularly pleased to have her taking an interest in our work. As this debate covers "other public bodies", I thought that the Royal Family deserved a mention for their immense patronage and the help they give to voluntary associations.

We are also pleased to have interested medical personnel from the DHSS whom we hope are interested in our work. We are pleased when they come to our meetings, and delighted when they give us advice. I was recently told that the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, had visited the spinal unit at Southport during the Summer Recess. I should like him to know that his visit was welcomed and that it boosted their morale.

My Lords, this summer I submitted a Question for Written Answer asking how many people this year had broken their necks and remained paralysed from diving accidents. There have been far too many, and these are all young people. Our association is also interested in accident prevention. The Answer came back that no such information was held centrally.

We try to satisfy the needs of the community. We try to look into current anxieties. Perhaps it would be easier to promote accident prevention if the Government departments co-ordinated more relevant information, for I believe that this would help the needs of the community. If we could devise an accident prevention drive to help young people become aware of some of the dangers, it might alleviate these problems.

Fund raising takes a great deal of time and energy for most voluntary organisations. We are lucky in this country that we have such generous people who support all sorts of fund raising activities. I should like to pay a special tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, who has helped most generously with the Smiths Charity Trust.

I have the honour to be president of the North Yorkshire branch of the British Red Cross Society. Since 1870 the British Red Cross has been helping to relieve suffering in health and welfare. The Red Cross flag is known throughout the world as a symbol of hope and trust. The Red Cross helps in many different ways in the welfare field. It runs hospital libraries and picture libraries, trolley shops, meals on wheels, stroke clubs, escort duties and so on. But one of its most important functions is to train people in first aid and home nursing. In the aftermath of the horrific Brighton bomb outrage, first aid should be one of our priorities. The correct first aid procedure cannot only save life, it can help to prevent long-lasting injury.

With so many people staying a shorter time in hospital, home nursing is as important now as it ever has been. So many people are discharged from hospital on a Friday. What could be more dreary than returning alone to a cold, empty house with no food? We need more committed volunteer workers to bridge the gap between hospital and getting well in one's own home. Most convalescent homes have closed down. In rural areas district nurses often do not work after 6 p.m. When the hospitals were small and more community-based, it seemed easier to get the Red Cross nurses and voluntary aids trained in hospitals. Since the loss of the matron and medical superintendent and the depersonalisation of hospitals, this has made matters much more difficult. We have some splendid doctors and nurses who instruct and train, but sometimes we are short of instructors to train. We provide first aid courses for industry and many other groups.

I hope that the Government will look into the need to provide adequate places for volunteers to be trained when Government institutions are needed to provide their facilities. I admit that there are problems such as our volunteers being more generally free in the evenings and at weekends, and hospitals being sometimes very technical with a quick turnover. But if care in the community for a large section of the population is to be possible then I hope that the hospitals will be more willing to help give basic training to those who need it. Training could also be given by district nurses and health visitors. It is so often at the GP and district nursing primary care level that volunteers are needed to supplement the service. In Leicester the Red Cross run a medical loan service so efficiently that it does the job administering the statutory provisions. It also runs a bureau for information which is greatly used by the community at large.

In a developing and changing world new and different needs continue to emerge. The Red Cross keeps looking at its training programmes and hoping to have modules attached to the advanced certificate such as mountain rescue, mental health, first aid, and so on. Health care is so important that I feel it should be taught to all children at every school. There has been an experiment in Seattle in the United States of America in cardiopulmonary resuscitation; CPR. The basic training for this mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and cardiac compression takes about five hours. It is said that it can be done in three hours. About 20,000 people have already been trained in Brighton. It is said that this could cover all of England by 1986 because the public want it.

There seems to be a great deal to do. In my branch in one village a volunteer Red Cross physiotherapy service is run using a paid trained physiotherapist. This gives a choice to people who just cannot face a long journey to a big hospital. I visited it a few weeks ago and every patient was more than grateful for the service received, including the cup of coffee, homemade biscuits and a friendly reception. The patients are all referred by their general practitioners. They pay what they can afford. Some are covered by insurance. It is a service and not a profit-making project. It takes place in a village hall near their homes.

A high proportion of statutory services developed from voluntary initiatives because it was recognised that the certainty and continuation of provision were essential for the welfare of the country; and the statutory services developed and took on many of these functions, such as the probation service. In some instances, such as child abuse, they provide a partnership with statutory services fulfilling statutory obligations. The NSPCC seem to be working in close co-operation with local authorities far more than they did in the past. This must be to the good of the community at large.

There can often be confusion over voluntary agencies and volunteer groups. The volunteer groups give valuable support and assistance but are additional to the basic provision, and many of these are counselling services and self-help groups. Voluntary organisations with paid staff are very professional in their work, and match to some degree the pay and conditions of the statutory services. Their staff are often more committed and do without some of the benefits that the statutory organisations have. Many voluntary organisations do use volunteers. Where the organisations are good, they will carefully select and train these volunteers.

There is great variation among voluntary welfare organisations. So often the voluntary sector helps to identify needs and pioneers new methods. There is a growing problem of glue sniffing and drug and alcohol abuse among young people. There is a great concern in the community over this. Voluntary support groups and organisations are growing like mushrooms. I was pleased that the Government had asked health and social service authorities to report by Christmas on the problems of their districts. The picture that they receive may not be a very full one. It sometimes takes a considerable time before addiction presents itself to an authority. There is a vital need for voluntary and statutory organisations to pool their knowledge and efforts to combat the cause and treat the conditions of the individual. Educational programmes for all who need and want them should be available. No effort should be spared as our youth of today are our backbone for tomorrow.

Most of the residential rehabilitation facilities are provided by voluntary organisations, as is much of the day care and counselling in the drug scene. There is concern that grants will be lost for some of these vital welfare services when the metropolitan counties and the GLC go. Could the Minister give some assurance tonight that they will be safeguarded? Are the Government going to review their proposals for the funding of voluntary organisations?

I should like to pay a tribute to many of the boys from youth custody establishments who work so well helping in residential, voluntary homes for handicapped people. These boys provide a very necessary service, and the co-operation between the Home Office establishments and the voluntary homes must be congenial. Last week, I was told of a boy from a youth custody establishment who had worked so well at a home to which he went out by the day that the director had offered him a job when he left. He is now in full employment doing an excellent and useful job. There is no doubt in my mind that good co-operation between voluntary welfare organisations and other bodies, putting aside professional pride, most effectively satisfies the needs of the community at large.

9.45 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, my noble friend's Question refers to the community at large. I hope she will forgive me if I refer in what I have to say to the community "at small" and to the needs of small communities and the relationship between those small communities and local authorities. I know that it is only part of the problem with which this very valuable Question is concerned but I believe it is an important part.

The history of local authorities' involvement with the voluntary sector goes back as long as the history of local government. I do not propose to take the House that far back, but I should simply wish to observe two or three of the most important trends that have taken place in the last 20 years. The first was the introduction in two stages, first for London and then for the rest of the country, of much larger local authorities than had existed heretofore. Those larger local authorities found it difficult at the outset to maintain the local contact which their predecessors, the urban district councils, the rural district councils and so on, had succeeded in keeping with local communities. Some of them were very well aware of the difficulties they had in keeping contact with local community needs. I served on a London borough council at that time and it was the constant preoccupation of our larger committees, for the larger areas to retain the contact which our predecessor authorities had had.

Recently there have been a number of initiatives in local government which have contributed to its ability to meet local community needs. They are not always well publicised—in fact some of them are not publicised at all—but I think it is worth making some reference to them. First, there has been a movement in some local authorities, particularly urban local authorities, to decentralise their welfare, housing and other personal social services. Boroughs such as Walsall have set up area offices which cover a very large part of the contact between the authority and local communities. They provide a much more convenient access to local services than used to be provided by travelling all the way to the town hall—or the civic centre, as they are grandly called nowadays. There is no doubt that this kind of decentralisation has led to an increased awareness of local needs by the council and also to an increased demand for welfare services, because the two go very much together.

Secondly, there has been a move in a number of local authorities towards new styles of governing. I shall not pick out particular examples of that, but there is a tendency towards having special committees alongside the operational committees to deal with the needs of women or the needs of ethnic minorities, and so on. I know that these bodies are very often laughed at and sometimes the grants they give are laughed at, but they perform a function of providing within local authorities a critique of the traditional ways in which local authorities, with their large budgets, have gone about their business. Also they provide another opportunity for local communities and those in need in local communities to make their views known to the local authority.

The third type of change that is taking place was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock; that is, economic initiatives. I know that it is not the subject of the Question tonight, but many of the job creation activities of local authorities are not simply a matter of providing subsidies to private industry; they actively involve the voluntary sector. I think particularly of the City of Leeds, whose Estates and Industry Committee is providing a considerable amount of training for and with the voluntary sector—training and financial encouragement for job creation activities by the voluntary sector.

All these seem to me to be evidence that local authorities are aware of their limitations, of the problems they have by being really too large for community action, and of the possibilities that are open to them to make a real contribution together with the voluntary sector.

Unfortunately, we come now onto the policy of the present Government towards local authorities. A number of noble Lords have referred to rate capping. If it were only that—as the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, said, it applies in the first instance only to 17 authorities—that would not be too serious. But the history of the last five years has been the history of a series of attacks not just on local authority expenditure, but particularly on the ability of those local authorities who have the most of their population in need of both public and voluntary help to meet that need.

The first series of attacks, soon after the 1979 election, was the fulfilment of an election pledge to transfer the resources of Government grant from the cities, and particularly from the inner city areas, to the shire counties. It was a conscious and explicit policy, but the result was that the resources of the local authorities in the areas of greatest need were that much less. Then, long before rate capping, we had the system of penalties being imposed; not just the withdrawal of grants, but actually penalising those local authorities which exceeded the Government's views of what should be spent. That may not seem on the face of it to be particularly aimed at the welfare services and the collaboration between the welfare services and the voluntary sector. But if we consider the proportion of local authority expenditure which is either tied down in the form of meeting debt charges and that part of local authority expenditure which is in fulfilment of statutory obligations laid on local authorities by Government, it can be seen that the welfare services which do not fall in either of those two categories are particularly at risk when there are penalties being imposed.

Then we come to rate capping and it is not just 17 authorities with which we are concerned, but there is in the Rates Act the threat of general rate-capping powers to follow and I assume that the Government did not put those powers in lightly. I assume that they really meant to use them if they decided that, by whatever standards they applied, expenditure in other authorities was going to be excessive. That is a very severe threat, as some noble Lords have said, not just to expenditure on welfare services in collaboration with the voluntary sector, but on the security which the voluntary sector needs over a period of more than one year in order to make decisions about staffing and the obligations it takes on. The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, made this point very effectively, and I believe it is critical to the harmonious working of the relationship between local authorities and the voluntary sector. So the rate capping is much more serious in potential than for the 17 authorities who are likely to be affected in the first instance.

Finally, we have the Bill which is to come before Parliament in the next Session for the abolition of the Greater London Council and the metropolitan authorities. This Bill itself is not intended to be an attack on the voluntary sector and is not intended to be an attack on the welfare services, but it is a fact that both the Greater London Council and a number of the metropolitan councils have made it part of their policy over the past years to extend the possibilities of grant to local communities and to contribute very substantially to the work of the voluntary sector through their grants policies. The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, referred to a figure—of which I was not aware and I am grateful to him for it—of £173 million in grants from local authorities to the voluntary sector. That is a very large sum in relation to the amount of money which can be raised from charitable and other sources. It would be a very severe blow to the voluntary sector if the continuation of the Government's policies towards local authorities were to put that sum at risk.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Glenarthur, is personally sympathetic towards the welfare services and the voluntary sector. I hope that in his reply he will be able to show the House that in supporting those services he is not swimming vainly against the more powerful tide of the Government's continuing attack upon local authorities and local authority expenditure.

9.56 p.m.

Lord Shackleton

My Lords, I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for intervening in the debate at this late hour. However, I have been very moved by the debate and wish to congratulate my noble friend Lady Ewart-Biggs for initiating it. May I also congratulate my noble friend and all those whose services to voluntary work are so great.

My reason for intervening is partly because of the reference made by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, in his interesting speech, to the amount of money provided by industry. I should like to speak from that standpoint. Almost on a weekly basis I have to decide how much money to give to what charity. I have also been stimulated to take part in the debate because of having seen today A Guide to Company Giving, published by the Directory of Social Change. It is made clear in that guide—and it is important for people to realise it—that the published figures are very incomplete.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who is to speak next in the debate, serves on one of the trusts which has been set up by my company. Excluding trusts, we give away between £300,000 and £400,000 a year. This does not include overseas gifts. This is an important figure but it is quite inadequate for the needs of the voluntary services today. We are flooded with requests. I am bound to say to the Government, who are apt to regard the public as thinking of the Government as a milch cow, that industry is also regarded as a milch cow but that it does not have the resources to provide what is needed.

May I give an example. The consequences of Government policy with regard to the universities and their research budgets have been serious shortfalls. There are now constant applications not just from bodies like the Salvation Army, which one regularly supports, but from other good causes. The very large number of applications which we have to turn down simply because we do not have the resources is terrifying. It is therefore important for the Government to realise that there is no substitute for the role of both Government and local authority in support of voluntary and charitable causes. Many of us in industry give a great deal of thought to it because we are worried about it. We have carried out investigations, and there are those who argue that industry should not be giving away shareholders' money—that this money is not theirs to give.

I was glad to hear my noble friend Lord Longford quote the views of my old boss Herbert Morrison on charity. I believe that corporate activities should act as good citizens. It is in the interests of both our employees in industry and of our shareholders that causes such as the Salvation Army should be supported. But industry provides only a fraction of the money that is needed. Much more is provided by sponsorship schemes, a great many of which are not included in any published figures.

May I add that the company with which I was previously involved, the John Lewis Partnership, never sought publicity or any return for its altruism. It simply took the view that it was in our best interests as citizens that we should live in a good society. But it is no good expecting industry or the private individual to replace the role which the Government and local authorities should play in this field.

10 p.m.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, at this late hour the House will be looking first and foremost for brevity. But may I say, in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, for launching this debate, that she has in fact raised a vast question. It has been raised in the form of an Unstarred Question but it is an issue which needs a great deal of thorough investigation; indeed, some kind of Select Committee would not be inappropriate for examining the implications of the matters which have been raised tonight.

The fact is that we are in the midst of a major change in social policy. In the years immediately following the Beveridge Report and the reforms of the Attlee Government, the welfare state was taking on vast responsibilities. Voluntary bodies then were seen as entirely marginal to the main work of maintaining the wellbeing of the individual. There has been a change for a variety of reasons, which I am certainly not going into at this time of night. But I believe it is widely accepted that what we now need is a partnership between the statutory and the voluntary bodies. We are not going back to the purely welfare state approach but are moving on to what Beveridge always said he wanted: not a welfare state but a welfare society. As I see it, that means collaboration between the statutory and the voluntary agencies, with a great deal of local and neighbourhood initiative support for the services which people require.

If that is true, it is no use tinkering with the kind of way in which the voluntary bodies have been financed in the past. All those of us who are involved in voluntary bodies know that they are extremely hard up. I serve on a number of various committees and seem to spend all my time trying to find ways to raise money. It seems to me that the committees never do very much of the work they are meant to do because they are forever devoting their time to chasing money. Personally, I dare not sign any more letters to either trusts or companies asking for money because I have done so much of that in the past. I am sure that goes for everybody in your Lordships' House.

We need to take a fundamental look at the financial implications and the tax implications of the collaboration between government and voluntary bodies. The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, raised the question of VAT on charities; that is just one part of it. There is also the whole question of encouragement for giving by both individuals and public bodies of one kind or another. We need to explore in a much more fundamental way the financial implications of the kind of partnership about which we all talk so glibly.

The only other thing I want to do tonight is to cheat somewhat by raising an issue which might have been more appropriate for the previous debate. It concerns the voluntary bodies in relation to employment and job creation. Much of this flows over. There is no hard and fast line between the job creation activities of voluntary bodies and many of their other activities. Many of the community projects for job creation also involve the provision of services of the kind which could well have been provided in the past by statutory bodies. So there is not a sharp distinction between what the voluntary bodies do in the area of welfare services and what the voluntary bodies do in connection with job creation. The two flow into one another and should be seen as a whole.

This involves people of a quite different kind and in a very different economic position from the people who in the past were associated with voluntary bodies. As we all know, there is a vast number of unemployed people. Those of us who have been connected with the voluntary project programme of the MSC know that it uses unemployed people and creates opportunities for unemployed people to contribute work of value to the community. That is a fine idea, but it does not pay their expenses. It is not very much good telling unemployed people that they can be of use to the community if they are going to be out of pocket in the process. Therefore, there are a number of ways in which we need to re-think how we are using people who are now available for voluntary service.

I know that we need to keep the voluntary element, but these schemes would be so much more effective if it were possible to offer some kind of greater financial assistance to the people who take part in them. This need not be a wage, but at least out-of-pocket expenses of a reasonably generous kind.

The other point I want to make on collaboration between statutory and voluntary in the community project area is that if these schemes are to be successful—and some of them have been very imaginative and creative—they must be allowed to have some security and some continuity. The way in which in the past the MSC has agreed to help for only one year is making it almost impossible to run these schemes in a sensible way. One cannot expect people of any competence to run these schemes which provide job creation and services in the community if they have the expectation of working for only a year. Nor, in my opinion, is it sensible to take people from unemployment knowing one has to get rid of them at the end of the year.

The fact is that the people running the schemes, naturally, as they get towards the end of the first year and probably about halfway through a scheme, are busily looking around for something else to do. That is no way to run effective schemes of this sort. I want to see—and I fly this idea as a kite this evening—community projects very carefully and professionally vetted, before they are accepted and financed, by people who know about the particular kind of work that is to be done. They should then be told that unless something goes disastrously wrong they will be financed for, say, 10 years—some people may say that that is a little too long—but that the money given to them will be gradually reduced over that 10-year period. They will then know that there is to be continuity.

If we really want community schemes to work, then in the interests of people with very little financial resources who can now contribute in the same way as people who did voluntary work previously but who did not need that kind of assistance, there must be financial resources and continuity. There must be the certainty that if they are making a success of a project the assistance will continue for a reasonable period of time.

I am trying briefly to say that we are feeling our way towards a new kind of relationship and a new kind of work to be done by collaboration between the voluntary and statutory sectors. We shall not find the answers just by making a small change here and a small change there. We need to take a fundamental look at the sort of relationship we want to see and at all the financial and tax implications of developing that relationship properly.

10.8 p.m.

Baroness Jeger

My Lords, my noble friend Lady Ewart-Biggs has put the House in her debt tonight by raising this very important subject. I am sure that the House appreciated the wisdom and experience of all who have spoken. My noble friend Lady Ewart-Biggs, we all know, gives very unselfishly of her time, as do many other Members of your Lordships' House, and so they are speaking from practical knowledge.

The subject raised by my noble friend goes far beyond the limitations of tonight's debate and I will not weary the House by trying to deal with all aspects of this complicated subject. I am sure that the Minister will be relieved to hear that. I support what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said about a Select Committee, or some other machinery for further investigation, being set up so that we can go beyond tonight's debate into what should be a very serious study which reflects all the fundamental social changes in our society.

When some of us were young, good works were rather the prerogative of what used to be called the gentry. They used to be married ladies who did not go out to work in the sense of paid work. Now the whole pattern of life has changed. We have to involve all ranks of society in activities which need to be nearer to good neighbourliness and good social understanding, rather than in any kind of patronising, charitable work in which so many of these organisations originated in the last century. Everybody recognises that those days are over.

However, if we are to put that recognition into effect, we must take some steps towards fundamental changes in the allocation of responsibility, in taxation and in matters such as VAT, to which the noble Baroness referred. We must try to find this very difficult balance between statutory duties of the Government and voluntary work which individuals can do. I think it is very important to try to work out where the emphasis must be. In my experience it is very important to start off with some pump-priming, so that an organisation is helped to start.

Then we have to ask the Minister what is happening about the Voluntary Services Unit at the Home Office and what view they can take of longer-term help. Other speakers have referred to the fact that it is really difficult when an organisation or an individual knows that there is only to be one year's help and then it is to be reviewed. That is no way to encourage people to give of their time and ability. It is no way to run an efficient organisation. I do not think anyone who is experienced in business would try to run a chip shop on that basis.

Who is to have the future responsibility? The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, whose knowledge we all respect, raised this as a very important point. There is no doubt—and we have all been speaking away from party politics tonight—that there is the gravest anxiety among the voluntary organisations about the results of the Government's policies on rate capping, and the changes which are to be made in local authority responsibilities. It is no use Ministers thinking that those who express these anxieties are taking a purely party point of view, because I have had representations, as I am sure have all Members of this House, from people of all political views, and those of no political views at all, who are deeply anxious about the future of the work that they are trying to do.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, was absolutely right to stress that there is a very real nervousness among the voluntary bodies who see a reduction in social spending which is going to make their work more difficult. I am sure we were all impressed with the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, who herself does so much work in this sphere. I absolutely agree with her that the voluntary agencies must not be regarded as a cheap option for statutory services which are trying to make economies. That is most dispiriting to people who are prepared to give their time and ability.

It does not do much good for a bright-eyed young boy or girl who is prepared to help in some way in the community to begin by having a collecting box thrust in his or her hand and being told that he or she has to organise a coffee morning or run a jumble sale. That is not going to get these schemes off the ground. The voluntary organisations depend on people who give of their time, ability and kindliness. They should not have to be diverted to such a large extent into raising funds which are necessary. That causes a loss of spirit among the people involved and does not make for their full potential being used in the way that is most useful. So much of the work does not show, and it is often very difficult for organisations to present themselves in a way most favourable to those who are more concerned with the financial aspect of things. There are, for instance, many societies which cross local authority boundaries. They are particularly worried about what is to happen if one local authority continues sympathetic to their work while the one next door is capricious and takes a different view. This is a point that needs to be taken on board.

I know that there are many examples which all of us could quote. I shall just mention one. We have in London a very enterprising voluntary organisation called dial-a-ride. This is inventive and new. It is largely run by young people, partly, I think, because young people like driving. It is a scheme by which people who are house-bound can telephone and ask for transport. It has enabled hundreds of them to visit a theatre, attend a concert or just to go for a ride for the sake of getting out of the house. It is the sort of organisation which must be a growing point. It involves young people. It contributes so much by way of its money's worth in the return that the people who benefit from it enjoy.

I hope the Minister will be able to answer some of the questions. I do not envy him his job tonight. I hope, however, that he will be able to put many anxieties at rest. Where there are detailed questions that cannot be answered tonight, I know that he will study them further. I hope, in particular, he will stress to his ministerial colleagues the views of many in this House that a Select Committee or some other way of earning forward tonight's necessarily short debate can be established.

10.17 p.m.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I certainly echo the views of all those who have expressed gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, for raising this important matter this evening. I do so because the Government have always recognised that the contribution of the voluntary sector is an essential complement and supplement to the work of the statutory services. I would be the first to agree with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chichester about their long history in this field. A significant feature of the Government's policy has been to encourage greater co-operation between the statutory and voluntary sectors. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services said when addressing the social services conference at Buxton recently, the increasing pressures which we face in the health and personal social services make it essential for us to seek the most effective use of all the resources that can be brought to bear on them. It is a matter of common sense, therefore, to stimulate and support the efforts of the voluntary sector, as nearly all those who have spoken tonight have advocated, to extend the services provided to patients and clients as well as to the unseen army of carers who carry the burden of looking after elderly or handicapped relatives, friends and neighbours.

I must first mention, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, indicated—and it is a matter to which other speakers have also referred—that the Home Office's voluntary services unit is the body with overall responsibility for co-ordinating the Government's interest in the field of voluntary services. My noble friend Lady Faithfull, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, suggested that an individual Minister should be responsible. Indeed, the noble Earl, Lord Longford, anticipated some of the difficulties of actually attaching a handle nominally to any particular Minister who might have this responsibility. I think that all those who have spoken would perhaps like to know that the Minister with responsibility in this area is my honourable friend Mr. Waddington. He is the Minister with particular responsibility there.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, in practice, how does that work out? If one is trying, as many bodies do try, to obtain help from a number of different departments, where does the Home Office Minister come in?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, if I can just continue with what I was going to say, I hope that might be clear to the noble Earl in a moment. While not superseding the close links which individual voluntary organisations have with the Government departments with which they deal, the Voluntary Services Unit is the core funding body for organisations whose activities cover the interests of several departments, for example, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Volunteer Centre. Organisations like these provide the essential networks for Government initiatives in the voluntary sector. These bodies, such as the NCVO and the Volunteer Centre, do liaise with all departments as my noble friend Lady Faithfull would like them to do.

Of course, my department and the Department of the Environment also liaise directly with the Home Office, which is what I think the noble Earl is asking me to confirm. My department has, of course, the major interest in organisations active in the health and personal social services field. Our commitment to such organisations is demonstrated by the fact that we have increased our financial aid to these organisations from £10 million in 1979–80 to about £34 million this year.

The largest single element is our general scheme of grants under Section 64 of the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968. Section 64 grants are usually made to help meet the central costs of national voluntary organisations, but they can also be made to help fund local innovatory projects which have potential national application. This year we have made £11.5 million available for grants under this scheme compared with £10.2 million last year and we are helping 220 organisations. It has been suggested that three-year grants make much more sense across the board than one-year grants. I quite agree with that view, and indeed more and more Section 64 grants are now given on a three-year basis.

In addition to our general support under Section 64, we have launched a number of initiatives and programmes in areas of particular social need. It might be helpful if I describe some of these, or at least some of the more important ones. Time will not permit me to go into them all, nor will time allow me to comment on the many schemes such as the Red Cross, which was referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham; although I should certainly like to pay tribute to her and all those others in your Lordships' House and elsewhere who have such a high reputation and do so much work in the voluntary sector.

To start with the youngest, we have made £6 million available to 1986–87 for an under-fives initiative, to help stimulate voluntary sector provision for disadvantaged families with pre-school children. Fifteen major voluntary child care organisations are involved in managing some 110 projects with support from initiative funds all over England.

Also in the field of child care, the National Council of Voluntary Child Care Organisations has, with grant-aid and help from the DHSS, mounted a series of regional seminars. The theme of these seminars, and the purpose in setting them up, is to consider local authority child care needs and the way voluntary organisations and local authorities can work together to provide these in a more cost-effective way.

In the field of mental handicap, too, voluntary bodies play a prominent part in helping to provide for the needs of mentally handicapped people and their families and for exploring new ways of helping to help them in the community. My department helps many of these voluntary bodies through our scheme of Section 64 grants, ranging from large ones like MENCAP to smaller ones like "Contact a Family". As part of the children's initiative, which aims to get all mentally handicapped children out of long-stay hospitals, we have made available £1 million on a £1-for-£1 basis to voluntary bodies to help with the capital and setting-up costs of providing care in the community. Seven projects have been funded in this way.

I should like to refer briefly to the intermediate treatment initiative which was announced in January 1983 and designed to promote close relationships between the voluntary and statutory sectors. The Government have provided substantial resources—some £15 million over three years—for setting up new intensive intermediate treatment facilities for use by courts as alternatives to custody or residential care for juvenile offenders. Local authorities were asked to designate voluntary bodies which could provide such facilities for them in their areas. The voluntary organisations—some national, some local and some newly-created locally—run the facilities under inter-agency management committees.

The noble Baroness, Lady Masham. referred to drug misuse—a subject about which we all feel strongly, and rightly so. In response to this growing problem we have made available £7 million over three years to encourage health and local authorities and voluntary organisations to bring forward more quickly than might otherwise have been possible projects for the provision or improvement of services for drug misusers.

Voluntary organisations have traditionally played an important role in providing services for this particular group, which is not always a popular one, and over £2 million has already been approved for 39 projects submitted by voluntary bodies. Under the initiative, the department needs to be satisfied that proposals from voluntary organisations have been discussed with relevant health and social services authorities and that these authorities will in appropriate cases give consideration to future funding. The guidelines on the initiative remind the statutory authorities that they have powers to make grants and second staff to voluntary bodies.

We have also asked health authorities to assess the prevalence of drug misuse in their areas in consultation with local authorities, voluntary organisations and others, and to report by the end of the year on their plans for urgent action to tackle this problem. As your Lordships will know, my right honourable friend the Minister for Health announced on 10th October a proposal to commit £5 million more to expand our efforts in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation.

The voluntary sector also has a central part to play in the development of additional community care facilities. Under the joint finance scheme health authorities can support personal social services, provision of education for disabled people and housing. As part of the Care in the Community initiative we have given health authorities greater freedom to transfer their funds with a view to getting out of hospital long-stay patients who would be more appropriately cared for in the community. We look to health authorities to develop a partnership with voluntary organisations and to carry out an enabling role—mobilising the total resources of the community, including formal and informal voluntary service.

As a concrete move towards involving voluntary organisations in the planning and operation of health and community services, and to demonstrate the Government's resolve, we changed the law to give voluntary organisations representation as of right on joint consultative committees of health and local authorities. Arrangments should be completed by 1st January. The choice of representatives is to be made entirely by the voluntary organisations themselves, and we hope that this will lead to fuller participation by voluntary organisations at all levels.

As part of the Care in the Community initiative, we are providing additional finance for a programme of pilot projects designed to show how Care in the Community can be made a reality. Almost all of the 13 projects selected for the first round involve some form of voluntary effort, including housing associations. We shall be watching these projects closely to see how, among other things, collaboration with voluntary organisations develops, and what lessons can be learned for future projects.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, raised the problems of employment and job creation, and their connection with the voluntary sector. Through our successful Opportunities for Volunteering Scheme we are channelling £5 million a year through national voluntary organisations to local voluntary projects. The projects, of which over 1,000 have been supported since the scheme was launched in 1982, cover the whole range of local health and social services activities and look like enabling 40,000 volunteers, mostly unemployed people, to make a contribution to the health and welfare of their fellow citizens. I hope that this might go some way towards replying to the remarks which the noble Baroness made about job creation and employment, but I should like to study the remarks that she made and write to her.

Under our new helping the community to care programme, which I do not think has been mentioned tonight and which was announced in July, we are making available £10.5 million over the next three years primarily to assist the voluntary sector. I shall not repeat what my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Services has already said, but this programme is aimed at enabling volunteers, families, neighbours and others to provide informal care more effectively and with greater confidence. Part of the money will be earmarked for the preparation of information and training materials for carers and to provide training courses for voluntary workers in specific fields; and part will be directed to the mounting of a number of demonstration projects. Some of the schemes will be focused on particular problems—for example, training for participants in "home from hospital" schemes for elderly people: training for those providing care in the community for mentally handicapped people: and the development of models for co-ordinating after-care for schizophrenic patients.

Baroness Masham of Ilton

My Lords, I should like to ask the Minister who will be the trainers of the carers for these schemes? In the Red Cross that is what we are interested in. We are short of trainers.

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I note the point which the noble Baroness makes. I am not quite sure what the answer is, but perhaps I can let her know.

Other schemes in this particular field are of a more general nature. Each of the schemes is being carried out at present with voluntary organisations who will be managing different parts of the programme. We will announce details of the various schemes as they are settled.

The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, raised the matter of the urban programme. For the urban programme as a whole about £50 million went to the voluntary sector in 1982–83 and for 1983–84 more than £62 million was allocated. Three-quarters of all local authority spending on approved urban programme projects is paid for by central Government grants. Quite understandably, much of this debate has focused on the concern felt by those who fear the Government's proposals to abolish the GLC and the MCCs—and indeed the effect of rate-capping—and I should now like to make a few points on that.

It is the Government's firm desire that worthwhile voluntary activity should not be harmed by abolition. The recent consultation paper contained proposals for helping local authorities in the abolition areas take on the increased financial responsibility for supporting the voluntary sector. These include providing a statutory basis for collective grant-giving where a voluntary body serves an area wider than one local authority; where, although the organisation is essentially a local one, it has previously been funded wholly or partly by the GLC or a metropolitan county council, the Government are proposing to provide transitional support of £5 million a year for four years to meet up to 75 per cent. of the cost of a grant made by an individual borough or metropolitan district council.

On the question of rate-capping, I can of course understand the concern which was expressed—perhaps particularly by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, and the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock—that local authority funding for voluntary bodies might be cut back as a result of rate-capping. My noble friend Lady Faithfull referred to this as well. It was for that very reason that provision was made in the Rates Act for a local authority to apply for its funding for charities to be considered as a ground for redetermining its expenditure level. The fact remains that so far no such application has been made.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. Will he agree that the proposal that he has just described is a good deal less effective and comprehensive than the exemption of expenditure on charitable bodies, which was carried by this House and then overturned by the Government at a later stage?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I do not think that I could usefully follow the noble Lord down the road which he seeks to take me at the moment on this theme. Perhaps I may say that the Rates Act makes ample provision for any authority which considers that it cannot live within the expenditure level determined for it to apply for such a redetermination. If, however, an authority chooses not to apply for a redetermination, we can only assume that it does not do so because it considers that it can live within the external limit determined for it, and then the Secretary of State is denied that opportunity to have regard to contributions to charities in reaching a decision as to the authority's expenditure level.

It would be wrong for the Secretary of State to be able to dictate the detailed destination of local authority funds or the amount local authorities should donate to funding charitable organisations. That is a matter for local decision. My noble friend Lord Bellwin said on 18th June at column 76: where an authority was considering cutting its support to charities because of the pressures of the expenditure level, the charities concerned would be in a strong position to press the council to apply for a redetermination simply because of this amendment". I am sure that it is the right course for them to take in present circumstances. The selected authorities' failure to apply arises, I believe, largely from political motives, regardless of whether they think they have found a sound financial case.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, when this point was discussed under the Rates Bill several of us—the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, being one—asked whether local voluntary organisations could be informed that they could apply to the Secretary of State if they were cut and whether he would consider the financial position of the local authority. The Minister later said that he could not send out letters such as that to the voluntary organisations. Therefore it is not surprising that nothing has been received because the voluntary organisations know nothing of this.

Secondly, when the Minister says that Mr. Waddington has overall responsibility, has Mr. Waddington responsibility over local authorities which have refused voluntary organisations their grants?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, regarding the first question, for obvious reasons I have not in front of me the relevant quotations for all the debates which took place in your Lordships' House. I shall study my noble friend's points and let her know the answer, and I shall read the remarks to see what was said on those occasions. As she indicated, the debate goes far wider than just the DHSS, the Home Office, or indeed the Department of the Environment.

My noble friend went on to ask whether or not my honourable friend Mr. Waddington would be in a position to negotiate with local authorities in the way that she wants. The Home Office would liaise with the Department of the Environment in this case. Exactly what the mechanism is I cannot tell my noble friend, but I shall look into it and communicate with her.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, will the noble Lord also write to me about the specific question I asked him on the precise mechanism of the operation of Section 3(9)?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I certainly shall.

I have described a number of particular programmes and initiatives in some detail because it is important to emphasise the relationship between the statutory and voluntary sectors and the role of central Government in stimulating and improving that relationship. We shall continue to explore new ways of strengthening these relationships. It seems to me from what has been said this evening that there is a general wish that these relationships should be strengthened—and strengthened to the benefit of the community at large.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State gave an indication of the way we hope the social services departments will develop their role of enabling, seeking the most effective use of all the resources of the community to help those who need support. He said this in his speech last month at the social services conference at Buxton.

My right honourable friend is now considering the form of a consultative document to promote a wider debate and I hope that that, at least, will give comfort to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who raised a point not dissimilar from it.

There is a need for more work to be done before it can be truly said that the needs of the community are fully or most effectively being met, but I am confident that we are moving in the right direction in seeking new ways of mobilising the vast resources which have been referred to tonight which are represented by the voluntary sector in the community.

House adjourned at nineteen minutes before eleven o'clock.