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Voluntary Sector Organisations

Volume 519: debated on Wednesday 24 November 2010

4. What assessment he has made of the likely effects of the outcomes of the comprehensive spending review on voluntary sector organisations over the spending review period. (25852)

Our programme of structural reform is opening up huge new opportunities for all sorts of voluntary and community sector organisations to take part in the delivery of public services. In the hon. Lady’s constituency, City Health Care Partnerships—which, I understand, is an employee-led spin-out from the health service—is providing health visitors, district nurses, pain clinics and a range of other services. That is an admirable example of what can be done, and we hope that it will be replicated in other parts of the country.

What message would the Minister send to the Hull Families Project, which is based in Orchard Park, given that £160 million of regeneration funds were stripped from that community on Monday, and to the Hull Churches Home from Hospital Service, which fears that the local authority and the NHS will cut its budget? What message does that send about the coalition Government’s real approach to disadvantaged communities?

The hon. Lady knows that the coalition Government have protected the NHS budget, for the very reason that we regard it as a priority. She may also know that the public health White Paper, which is on the way, will announce our proposals—already well foreshadowed—on the health premium. The health premium will specifically benefit those who are improving public health locally, and will organise funding so that it most benefits the most disadvantaged parts of the country, thus dealing with the precise points that the hon. Lady raises.

There are increasing pressures on independent citizens advice bureaux throughout the country. Debt management issues are an ever-present feature of their work. What assurances can the Minister give that expertise and resources will be available to CABs locally so that they can undertake their invaluable work?

The coalition Government certainly agree that citizens advice bureaux form a fantastically important part of the fabric of the big society and support for people locally, and I believe that Members throughout the House recognise the value of their services. We will support them in every possible way, and I should be delighted to talk to the hon. Gentleman about any specific issues in his constituency.

I believe that strengthening civil society is a common cause between us. Labour is certainly very proud that the sector doubled when we were in government. Now, however, charities are saying that they face cuts of a little over £3 billion during the next couple of years. How many jobs does the Minister expect to be lost in charities that do not have Conservative advisers at their helms or on their boards? To the untrained eye it seems that, worryingly, some charities are now more equal than others.

The right hon. Gentleman is well aware that more than three quarters of charities receive no Government money, and therefore will not be affected. He ignores the opportunities presented by the new public service reforms. The Work programme, for example, is creating huge opportunities for the voluntary and community sector, and there will be increased funds from that source. There will be more funds for drug prevention, rehabilitation and recovery, and for the rehabilitation of prisoners. Payment-by-results contracts will be available for a huge range of new voluntary and community sector operators. I expect the right hon. Gentleman to see an expansion, not a reduction, in the sector and its activities.