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Advice and Advocacy Services

Volume 504: debated on Wednesday 27 January 2010

10. If she will take steps to ensure that third sector organisations have sufficient resources to provide advice and advocacy services for people employed by companies that do not recognise trade unions. (313361)

Because of the third sector’s value to the community, public funding increased to £12 billion in the last financial year, which amounts to more than £3.5 billion extra over the past seven years. During the recession, we have provided additional funding to advice centres and to the communities they help. That includes an extra £13 million for legal aid, an extra £10 million for additional hours of service by citizens advice bureaux, and more than £6 million for information, advice and guidance services and hardship funds. These services are open to those in every community irrespective of their employment status.

The national minimum wage protects the earnings of vulnerable workers, but during the recession bad employers have sacked low-paid staff or unfairly changed their working conditions, especially in non-unionised workplaces. What have the Government done to support vulnerable workers to ensure that they get good advice and representation about their rights at work?

I would urge every member of the public in employment to be a member of a trade union that protects their rights. However, the Government provide additional support to ACAS, to the pay and work rights helpline, and to the Directgov website. We also have a campaign to ensure that workers are aware of their rights at work so they cannot be discriminated against and treated as my hon. Friend describes.