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V Organisation

Volume 456: debated on Wednesday 31 January 2007

1. What assessment she has made of the performance of the organisation v in helping young people volunteer. (112460)

V has made good progress since its launch in May last year, creating 42,000 volunteering opportunities for young people this year alone. It has attracted pledges of more than £17 million in match funding from the private sector, and in addition up to £100 million is available from the Government. I look forward to it making further progress.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. I am sure that he agrees that for good volunteering opportunities, we need access to good funding. Unfortunately, Tory-controlled Dudley metropolitan borough council has just cut grants to 40 voluntary organisations in my constituency. Will my hon. Friend visit my constituency and meet my young volunteers and co-ordinators, with a view to their accessing v funding?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. I certainly will come to her constituency to see the good work being done there. She raises the important point that the work done by organisations such as v is significant. It is important that v should be independent from Government and sector-led, and that it hears the voice of young people, but it is also important to ensure that the proper resources are put in, so that we ensure the high-quality volunteering opportunities that young people need. The experience that my hon. Friend mentions gives us a preview of what would happen if the Opposition came to power.

We do not need to wait for that to happen, glorious though that possibility is. The Minister’s own Government promised £3.7 million to Community Service Volunteers last year, but they failed to pay it. CSV approached the Minister, who said that he was anxious to help. That did not come to any good, so CSV approached the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, but apparently nothing happened. It was not until lawyers got involved that the Government finally paid up, and as a result CSV lost £90,000 in interest. Will Ministers reimburse that lost interest, or will the epitaph for this temporary team be “We were anxious to help, but nothing happened”?

The hon. Gentleman raises the case of CSV, and it is a bad case. He is correct to say that the money should have been paid earlier by the Department of Health, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and I both got involved to expedite the process. On the question of the interest, I think that his suggestion should be looked at sympathetically. I know that the Department of Health and the Treasury are both in discussions with CSV, and I hope that there is a productive outcome.

Last Friday night, I presented certificates of achievement to 100 millennium volunteers aged 16 to 24. That demonstrates that the desire to volunteer is strong among young people in Hartlepool, but what additional incentives will my hon. Friend consider to encourage greater take-up of volunteering among young people? For example, will he consider waiving tuition fees for young people who volunteer?

My hon. Friend has raised an important point. In the pre-Budget report, the Chancellor suggested looking into whether the issue of tuition fees could be considered in relation to volunteering opportunities. The young volunteers to whom I talk say that they get a huge amount out of volunteering for themselves and their future career, and also get satisfaction from it. Part of the job of v and other organisations is to spread that message more widely, including through young people themselves.