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Volume 475: debated on Wednesday 7 May 2008

The Government will invest £117 million in youth volunteering through v from 2008-2011. The youth-led volunteering charity v has the mission to inspire 1 million more young people to volunteer. Since its establishment, it has created over 210,000 volunteering opportunities. The national programme that began in April 2008 aims to create 500,000 more volunteering opportunities for young people.

Does my hon. Friend accept that too much paperwork and red tape deters young people from volunteering, so what can he do to avoid unnecessary time-consuming checks, especially in cases where those volunteers are not involved with children and vulnerable adults?

I am unused to such a tribute from the Opposition when I rise to speak. My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Baroness Neuberger, who was appointed volunteering champion by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, identified the issue of bureaucracy and unnecessary checks on volunteers. There is anecdotal evidence of some confusion, which means that potential volunteers and, indeed, young volunteers are being checked unnecessarily, and that acts as a barrier to participation. I am therefore pleased to be able to tell the House that we will produce clearer guidance to voluntary organisations about volunteering, about when, and when not, to recheck individuals and about alternatives to checking such as seeking references, which, I hope, will reduce the barriers that my hon. Friend described.

May I commend to my hon. Friend the work of TimeBank—the largest volunteer organisation in the UK, of which I am a patron? Will he have a word across government to introduce an NVQ for volunteering, as that would have a great impact on volunteering in schools?

My hon. Friend makes a good point—it is one that he has made to me in the past—about being able to accredit and recognise, through qualifications, the contributions made by young people when they engage in volunteering. He will be glad to know that v is developing a system to bring on board the best experiences from the Duke of Edinburgh award and other schemes that give out certificates that recognise the contribution made by young people, either in their initial attempt to volunteer or if they volunteer for, say, 40 or 50 hours. We wish to find a way of building in the ability to accredit young people’s contribution to the community and recognise that through volunteering and the certificate employers and universities can see the contribution that they have made to the community in which they live.