Question for Short Debate
My Lords, it is 50 years ago this very month that Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov made the historic first space walk. He created a new world record of immense magnitude. Alexei’s achievement has inspired thousands upon thousands to become cosmonauts, astronauts, engineers and pilots. How did he achieve that remarkable feat? By sheer optimism, effort and the synergy of a team that pushed the boundaries of ambition, technology and physical and mental fitness.
In the memorable summer of 2012, 32 new world records in eight sports were set at the London 2012 Olympics, and an astonishing 199 Paralympic and world records were set at the Paralympic Games. For each of those athletes, achieving that record was the finale of an incredible journey. For many, it started when their talent was spotted by a teacher or a parent who encouraged them to join a local sports club and, as they say, the rest was history.
An incredible part of our sports ecosystem are the 150,000 clubs and community projects, all started by local people wanting to do their bit, helping, supporting and encouraging kids, regardless of their talent, to be the best that they can be. Our little Leos or little Lindas are inspired by clubs to get involved in community sport, and some of them go on to compete at regional and then national events. Ask any of our elite athletes, as I have, and they will tell you that grass-roots sport was a vital component in developing their full potential and broadening their ambition.
That vital component is built on the foundation of thousands upon thousands of unpaid volunteers in every town and village across the country. They are volunteers like Ken, who turns up week-in, week-out, on a wet Wednesday in Wigan to coach at the local running club. They are volunteers like Sue, who on a hot summer’s day in Slough can be found indoors teaching teenage girls synchronised swimming at the local pool. These unpaid volunteers outnumber paid staff by 20 to one, and are often more highly valued. Not forgetting my background as an accountant, to me, “value” is a good word to use, because each volunteer is investing their time to help others achieve their potential.
The Join In Trust, which I have the privilege to chair, and to which I shall return later, recently published some research into the social value of sports volunteering. The Bank of England’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, says:
“Whether seen from an economic or social perspective, volunteering is big business, with annual turnover well into three-figure billions”.
Join In’s research, entitled Hidden Diamonds, shows how huge those figures are. Each sports volunteer creates more than £16,000 of social value every year. That is the equivalent of Croatia’s GDP. Join In’s recruits add the equivalent of the GDP of the Cayman Islands.
Why, if income from drugs and prostitution is included in the GDP figures, is the social value of volunteering not? If it were, the UK would be rated fifth in the world, ahead of Japan, but, of course, that is not why volunteers do the amazing work that they do. Many do it to help their communities. Research shows that sports volunteers are four times more likely to trust others in the community and eight times more likely to feel that they have some influence over their local communities. They are a really important element of community cohesion, which is vital when so many things threaten to tear our communities apart. Many say that they volunteer to give something back because they were helped by others. A few of those volunteers may have gone on to become top-class athletes in their own right, but most feel that they benefit from improved self-esteem, physical and mental fitness or learnt team skills.
Now there is a new generation of volunteers, each creating capacity for more than eight other people to become active—one volunteer creating capacity for eight and a half people to become active. Volunteer Dean Scopes in Fareham, has done just that. Seeing Join In on the telly, Dean logged on to the Join In website and set up a profile to recruit others to help him run a kids football team. They were so successful that they set up not one but two teams. That is important because data from Public Health England show that almost a third of 10 to 11 year-olds are overweight or obese, so getting kids into sport is an effective and inexpensive way of averting the chronic health time bomb that is on the horizon for this generation. The health and emotional well-being of volunteers also benefits, as volunteers are measurably happier than non-volunteers.
We are a nation which loves our sport and whether we wish to participate or spectate, there is so much on offer here in the UK. Following the success of the Olympics and Paralympics in the UK, it is fast becoming the destination for the world’s top sporting events. But hosting these events is a bit like putting a cosmonaut into space; it requires a huge team with many skills and disciplines. For sporting events of this kind, the team will include many volunteers, without whom the event would simply not take place. Join In has helped to recruit volunteers for many events, including the Tour de France, the BBC’s “Sport Relief” and the Invictus Games. It works closely with UK Sport and hopes to continue this role to secure future gold series by building on the success of the amazing 2012 Games makers.
What value can we place on hosting these events? We know that the 2012 Games brought in excess of £14 billion in regeneration but the legacy goes way beyond that. Like many of my generation who were inspired to do incredible things by seeing Alexei Leonov take his historic first step, our young people are being inspired to take up sport by the success of British athletes in major world sporting events. They want to follow in the footsteps of Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, our most successful Olympians. They want to be as good as our great Paralympians Sarah Storey and David Weir, who each won four gold medals on British soil at the 2012 Games. It is really difficult to put a financial figure on inspiration but our generation knows, from the space race, what extraordinary benefits can flow from it.
Finally, I said that I would say a little more about Join In, which started as a project during the 2012 Games. With help and financial support from the Cabinet Office, BT and Intersport, it later became an independent charity. Join In finds and inspires more than 100,000 volunteers per year by running incredible public campaigns. Those volunteers create the social value that I have described today, and without them the nation would be a much worse place. Although around £1.2 billion is invested in sport each year, little of that goes into investing to inspire, recruit and retain volunteers—something that I am proud to say Join In has done so successfully. I hope that the Minister will recognise in his remarks the social value of volunteering and its role in tackling inactivity and obesity. Perhaps he may even be able to pledge greater investment in sports volunteering.
My Lords, we find ourselves when we lose ourselves in the service of others. The words of the greatness that was Mahatma Gandhi would seem particularly appropriate to the essence of what we are discussing today. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Allen, for instigating this incredibly significant debate. I had the great pleasure of working alongside him in the planning and delivery of London 2012. What he achieved there was nothing short of stunning, not least in creating and chairing the nations and regions group which took the Games out to all four corners of our country to enable individuals, businesses and public and private organisations to connect with the opportunity that was the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games.
A key element of that was obviously the opportunity for individuals to volunteer to be at the beating heart of London 2012. They were more than volunteers; they were Games makers, the individuals who quite simply made the Games happen. Rightly feted and praised post-Games, their royal purple T-shirts will live for ever in the memories of all who participated, all who viewed and all who had anything to do with that sensational summer of sport. That is really what we are about today: volunteers at the heart of British sport. Usain Bolt’s world records, Super Saturday, three British gold medals in 46 minutes in the Olympic Stadium, Sarah Storey’s, Jonnie Peacock’s and Ellie Simmonds’s Paralympic golds and all the gold, silver and bronze medals won at the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games could not have happened were it not for the Games makers.
I could not have even begun my own sporting career without a whole series of volunteers, not least at Kidderminster swimming club, where my journey began—Bob Chapman, Alan Babb and George Knowles, to name just three—and then when I qualified for my first international sporting event, the European Championships in Moscow, with Roy Smith as team manager and Kimiyo Rickett as assistant team manager. They were all volunteers, putting their time, energy, effort and, crucially, their passion into sports. None of the medals that I was lucky enough to win could even have begun without volunteers being part of every stage of my sporting journey. A piece of every gold, silver and bronze medal that I have is owned by all the volunteers who helped me to train, to get to the trials, to qualify, to get to the starting blocks and to touch those omega time pads first. None of it would have been possible without hundreds and hundreds of people giving their time.
So to some of the evidence, the evidence that tells us that this is not just about sport—it is about the social, economic, real, significant, measurable, tangible and positive impact on our nation. Consider the chief executives of national governing bodies’ 2015 State of Play report, which says that 1.9 million people are engaged in volunteering with the national governing bodies, contributing an estimated £4.9 billion to the UK economy. That number swells even more if we go wider across the whole sporting family. Just consider one professional sport, the sport of racing: 6,000 hours of volunteering were committed to racing across Britain just last year.
The Sport and Recreation Alliance is a key player in this area. It is the umbrella organisation for all the governing bodies of sport. It has lined up with Step Up To Serve to get under the skin of what is required to deliver more volunteers into sport. That is critical because sport and recreation could not exist in this country were it not for volunteers. A 2013 Sports and Recreation Alliance survey of sports clubs showed that the average number of volunteers in any club in 2011 was 21 people. That is 21 people volunteering in their local sports club, nine of whom would be qualified coaches—people giving their own time not just to come down to the club and be part of it but to do a recognised qualification in coaching in order to give to the youngsters in their local community. As a result of London 2012, the number of volunteers in those clubs increased on average by 25% in just a year. That is sensational, but many clubs also reported no increase in volunteering and a desperate need for volunteers. So I say to anyone out there, if you are thinking about volunteering in sport, do not think about it, do not consider it, just do it. Join in.
That takes us to an organisation born out of London 2012 which has already been eloquently set out by the noble Lord, Lord Allen. It is worth underscoring, although in a debate on sport underscoring might not be quite the right phrase. Join In was born out of London 2012 to drive the volunteering legacy from the Games. There has been fantastic support from the private sector and the Cabinet Office to deliver more volunteers in more sports than at any time in our history. To underline the economics, for every volunteer, 8.5 people participate in that sport who would not be able to were it not for that one volunteer. We are talking much wider than coaches. We are talking about the people who wash the team kit, the people who open the changing rooms, the people who make the sandwiches and the people who drive the team to away fixtures. All these people are volunteers and are vital to enable sport to happen.
What does the Minister believe should be done to increase the recognition of the role of volunteers in enabling participation in sport in our country? Going wider than just sport into recreation and the well-being agenda and so much wider than just DCMS, can he assure noble Lords that every government department that has a role in this area will grip that role and recognise what volunteers do and what they contribute socially and economically to our nation? What are the Government doing in general to secure the volunteering legacy from that sensational summer of sport in London in 2012?
Sport without volunteers is not sport as we know it in this nation. Sport relies on volunteers. Volunteers enable the brightness, the brilliance, the beauty of sport to shine through. To the Games makers of London 2012, the Clyde-siders of Glasgow 2014, the millions of volunteers in clubs, community projects and events up and down our country, I say thank you. Thank you for everything you do. You make a difference, you change people’s lives, you make Britain better.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Allen, has drawn our attention to a very important facet of our society. Initially when thinking about the economic and social value, a little part of me said, “Economic value? You cannot put an economic value on this”. Well, you can because you are doing something that would not otherwise be done, and that makes our society a better place to live in. You are saying, “Get involved. Do something. Get something you are involved in. Interact with people”. When it comes to the economic value of small clubs, there is something that nobody else has mentioned: every small club that I have ever seen is actually a labour exchange as well. It is a recruitment base. I am not sure that the taxman approves of mates’ rates all the time, but things happen there. It is a place where you have a social connection.
What allows that to happen? It is the volunteers. Let me make a plea for a group of volunteers who we have not named yet. We talk about the coaches and the organisers, and we have even heard about the person who makes the sandwiches. Let us say something about the treasurers and the secretaries, the people who take on the legally required work that would not happen without them. What do we do to support them? Not much. This is where the worlds of sport and politics can talk to each other, because we are all dependent upon the person who looks up the rules and keeps the budget—all these functions. Indeed, the world of politics at the moment is totally dependent, as are our party machines, on people who do this work. The people who are involved in sport do it for even purer motives: that is, to go out and have interaction that helps you. Are their motives any purer than those of the person who runs the local choral or am-dram society? Probably not, but you are still doing something that will make your life and the lives of those around you slightly better.
What do we do to help these people? As I said, not that much. The governing bodies in sport invest some time, training and organisation, but not enough. What is required is for the political class to get its act together and support the people who take on these—let us face it—fairly boring but essential jobs. You do those jobs to allow yourself and other people to become involved in those activities. We have never really taken them on and supported them properly.
It would be very helpful if local authorities had a combined strategy to make sure that more people are encouraged to get qualified and do those jobs better. The mistakes that occur in those voluntary organisations —and they do occur—could be minimised: everything from fraud to simply filling out the wrong form. Cricket—I always remember the correct terminology in cricket—provided me with a little list of things you have to do: business rates, community and amateur sports clubs, tax relief, corporation tax, grants and loans. These people deal with that lot, and I have not exhausted the list, which goes on and on: recruiting new members, making sure that you have money in the right place to pay a groundsman, or to pay the fees so that you have a pitch to play on or a hall to train in. That is all required from them, and we are not addressing and supporting these people in any way sufficiently.
Coaches often get praise, but they cannot function without that background. The players who go out there and provide the base, the interaction, cannot function without that going on. Can my noble friend therefore just start to give us a little hint of what we are doing to encourage and support these groups of volunteers, which are dominant in all forms of social activity? I will kick my own party in the shins, and say to the Opposition Benches, “Hey, let’s join in. Let’s make sure that we encourage everybody here to get involved”. If we leave this group alone, we start to leave the real foundation alone.
We then turn around and say, “The state should organise when you play your sport, what you should do, and what goes on”, or we go to somebody who does it for economic profit. Okay, fair enough, it would still happen, but not in the same way. More money would be siphoned off, and it probably would not happen as often. You suddenly start having to say, “Who are our target?”. In the same way, when the state says that it wants to develop certain athletes, is it interested in the older person it is helping just to stay healthy? Not to the same extent. All these other activities are going on, but that social interaction is not going on. If there is another way, it is probably not as good. That comes back to the initial concept mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Allen: the idea of value. How are we supporting and building up those groups?
You could say a number of things. It is a good idea to support and recognise these people through local and national honours, but there are not enough of those to go round. We can turn around and say to everybody else—to other groups—“You have a duty to go in and encourage people to take those roles on”, but unless the sports themselves develop that, it will not happen. They will not be able to do that properly without the structure and some form of government support. It may not have to be big financial support, but it will have to be something that encourages and builds. It will go on almost for ever—as could I on this subject, but I will not. It is great, but please can we pay attention to the basis and foundation of what is going on? If we do not, we are in danger of saying, “Go and join in and get on with it”, without having anywhere to channel that energy.
That energy needs to be channelled—and wonderful as the Olympic Games makers were, we discovered afterwards that we did not know what to do with all that energy. Sometimes people said, “That was fun, but I’m going back to the rest of my life”. It is about giving them something else that they can go to, and the fact that we give them a structure to go to is very important. We cannot provide for great big one-off issues such as the Olympics to happen all the time; we have to make it easier and more attractive to put down those foundations. We have a group of people who will pay a membership fee to fill out forms to allow other people to take part in a social activity that benefits the whole of society. If we do not support that, we are definitely looking a gift horse in the mouth and trying to pull its teeth out at the same time.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Allen, for tabling this debate tonight. In doing so, I declare a number of interests listed in the register, the most pertinent being that as of this morning I am now a trustee of Join In. I very much look forward to continuing that work and channelling the positive energy of volunteers. I am also a trustee of the Duke of Edinburgh awards and president of Sports Leaders UK, which are in different ways involved in volunteering.
I am well aware of the impact that volunteers had on my own career. Like the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, without volunteers I would not have been able to be a Paralympian. It is a huge thank you for what they did—from Roy Anthony at Bridgend Athletics Club to Dave Williams at Cardiff Athletics Club to my long-suffering husband, who was my longest-serving coach in my career. My husband coaches a number of athletes and just recently he suggested that we might like to spend a day together next week, which is quite unusual because of the work that I do in London. He offered to take me on a first aid course, which is quite important for his coaching in triathlon.
I have been interested in volunteering for a number of years, not just from a selfish point of view but from some of the very early Sport England research to the Russell Commission on youth volunteering, out of which came vInspired in 2006. I sat on that board for a number of years. I am very interested in how volunteering is developing and growing, because it gives back such a huge amount of financial support. Whether it is the Join In data that show that it is £1.6 billion, or the Sport and Recreation Alliance, which shows that the contribution is more than £2 billion, it is a significant amount of money. The Taking Part quarterly report from the DCMS showed an increase of up to 21.9% over the past year in the number of volunteers who had some connection with sport—so sport is something that we are very passionate about in this country.
The 2012 Games—both the Olympics and the Paralympics—were incredible, and huge praise is due to the Games makers. One thing that they did very well, apart from making volunteering quite cool, was to be realistic in showing the reality of volunteering. A lot of the adverts said, “You are unlikely to get the men’s 100 metres final”. That is really important, because the Commonwealth Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games are amazing things to be part of, but the reality is that it is day-in, day-out, week-in and week-out. The Games makers all talked about the cultural exchange and being an indirect part of the national team. I was tweeted by somebody today who said that they had been a volunteer at six Commonwealth Games, among other things. So volunteering is very important to us.
For 2012, I sat on the diversity and inclusion board. It was important for us to make sure that a diverse group of people volunteered. I think that it is fair to say that in British sport the average age of volunteers is probably rising. I know that it is the case with athletics officials, because I knew officials who officiated at my very first event when I was 12 who were still officiating, although they had retired from their ordinary job, when I retired at 36. That is fantastic, but we have to find new ways of bringing younger people in.
LOCOG and the Games makers did a lot to show the diversity in volunteering. Games makers still proudly wear their distinct grey and red trainers. If you ask them what they did during the Games, they will talk for 20 minutes about how much being a Games maker changed their life. It is important to remember that.
We may not have expected to see the emergence of mini knitted Games makers—the “knitteds”. That was a huge fad. I have one sitting on my desk. Another thing that emerged was the Games maker choir. People came together and got involved in a really interesting way; volunteering made a difference.
As I say, the reality is that volunteering can be hard and frustrating. Most of my experience of it involves being cold. But you get a huge amount from it. When I was sitting in the Matlock control room—when I say “control room”, I mean “tent”—of a division two kayak slalom two weeks ago, helping to operate a “tutty” start and finish machine, I did not think that it was terribly glamorous. However, none of the children or participants, including my daughter, could kayak unless parents like me got involved. The oldest paddler that I have seen is 73 and she could not take part in these events unless there were volunteers who were willing to act as judges. Sports such as canoeing are very keen to encourage young people to come through and be of part of the volunteering and judging process, which I think is fantastic.
My other experience of volunteering is helping to run water stations in the Great North Run. Last year, 390,016 bottles of water were available for runners taking part in the Great North Run. At the water station where I work, which is located on John Reid Road at the eight-mile mark, we have 45,000 bottles of water. As an athlete who pushed past that water station for 17 years, I did not have a clue what went on with being a volunteer. I did not realise that the volunteers have to take the lid off every single bottle of water that they give out so that people cannot choke. It is an amazing experience to be part of that but it is also a privilege to watch the race go past in a very different way.
One of my interests concerns how disabled people volunteer. It is certainly not easy to gather data on disabled people’s experiences of volunteering. Indeed, many might have a hidden impairment which they may not declare. I would like to explore that aspect a little more in my ongoing work. Although it is slightly off-topic, I should say that volunteering is one way of enabling people to work eventually for sports governing bodies and in local authority sports development. I would be interested to know how many disabled people work for national governing bodies or have an opportunity to use their volunteering as a basis for obtaining paid work in sport. Sport England is doing some fantastic work on measuring disabled people’s participation in this regard. I commend what it is doing but it is also time that we looked at the wider implications of this issue. Whether it is Sport England, UK Sport or other organisations, what influence can the Minister exert to encourage them to push volunteering for disabled people? That is something that I hope to do in my work with Join In.
Looking at other areas where I work, for example the Duke of Edinburgh award, sports leadership is the third most popular volunteering activity after helping children and working in a charity shop. The Duke of Edinburgh organising body leverages thousands of volunteer hours from assessors and supervisors who support young people during their physical section. The reason I got involved with Sports Leaders was because I recognised that not everybody wanted to play sport but they wanted to be involved in sport. That body’s learners have completed 100,000 qualifications and awards in sports leadership in the past year and have completed 420,000 mandatory hours of volunteering. The words “mandatory” and “volunteering” do not always fit well together but it is important to get the qualification to enable them to volunteer in other areas. The body runs 20,000 courses a year and 20% are delivered in centres located in the top most deprived areas of the UK and 47% of the learners are female. That is good because there are lots of issues around women getting involved in volunteering and some sport structures. We can also measure the increase in self-esteem, likelihood to further volunteer, health and well-being, and happiness—all the things that we would want from young people, which is important for me.
In closing, I should like to provide noble Lords with two quotes. One is from a fellow trustee of Join In, Lucy de Groot, who this morning came up with a brilliant way of explaining volunteering. She said that volunteering is a,
“gift of free time, not a free gift”.
We have to look at how we manage, support and promote our volunteers, because we need to keep those people involved not just in sport but in volunteering in the widest possible context. My final quote is from Nelson Mandela who, at the 2000 Laureus World Sports Awards—I am a trustee of its Sport for Good Foundation—said:
“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair”.
This is true, whether it be in sports participation or volunteering in sport.
My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Allen, for tabling the Question and for giving so much of his time—and for the experience he has gained over the years in business—to this endeavour. I suppose that he is the epitome of the volunteer.
It has been interesting listening to the facts and figures that have been used freely this evening. It is worth reminding ourselves that this is quite a new thing to be able to do. It is ground-breaking and innovative to be able to put some sort of financial value on these matters. We have not been able to do that before. Join In and the people who work with it should be commended.
In 2011, the EU Select Committee of this House carried out an inquiry into whether the new competence in sports matters that came out of the Lisbon treaty could be used to assist grass-roots sports. One of the key recommendations of the report was for better data collection and analysis, and I therefore encourage the Minister to ensure that these data and methodologies are spread across Europe, where there is a real need for a greater understanding. It is a good time to look at grass-roots sport and the role that volunteering plays in its growth and development, but before doing so I declare an interest as chair of the National Volunteering Forum, which under the auspices of the NCVO brings together volunteering organisations from across the country.
One of the many delights of 2012 was the volunteers, who were truly magnificent. We should confess that, for fairly obvious reasons, at the time we did not give enough thought to what was going to happen afterwards. I quickly realised that it would have been a crying shame to have lost not just the enthusiasm but the skills and all the training given to the Games makers in the run-up to the Games. I was really pleased that in my home county of Suffolk we got hold of that opportunity very early. A consortium of organisations, with some funding from the local councils, began a series of legacy projects. We started with a big event to pay tribute to all the Games makers who came from across the county; they individually received recognition for what they had done. The Suffolk Records Office came along and created an archive of oral and written history to keep in perpetuity the recollections of people who had been involved. It was a great evening and there was a lot of buzz. Crucially, the event provided a continuity of contact, and a database was formed of skilled trained volunteers who since then have been called upon to help in major events in the county—some sporting and some cultural. The Suffolk Show, for example, attracts more than 100,000 visitors when it meets in May. Those volunteers are now involved in helping.
It is an obvious but often forgotten point that volunteering generally has to be given in opportunities that come in a wide range of forms, because that is how people live their lives. Not everyone can commit to the same time every week, or even to any regular commitment. The voluntary sector is getting much better at recognising this but there is still a long way to go in creating a breadth of opportunities that are relevant to a much broader range of people.
In a similar vein, we also need to accept that there need to be varied routes into volunteering. There have been some really interesting online schemes, such as Do-It, that are very good at matching volunteers to opportunities, particularly good at working in volume and especially good at young people, who, as far as I can tell, are now surgically attached to their smartphones. Join In has used the technology in a pretty smart way too. What I particularly like about Join In is that it uses celebrity, television, the power of the media, and the private sector to create a strategic buzz, if you can have such a thing.
Then there are organisations such as the volunteer centres, which provide a much more low-key but tailored approach, which is really important for groups of people who are traditionally underrepresented in volunteering. They are very good at finding volunteers for small charities and for areas that are actually not very exciting. The evidence shows that this more bespoke approach is more effective at creating lasting matches between volunteers and organisations.
The conclusion is that there is no magic bullet: we need all sorts of approaches to increase volunteering. What they have in common is that they all have to be resourced. I hope that the incoming Government will consider reintroducing the access to volunteering fund, with the aim of getting more people with disabilities into volunteering roles. With role models such as the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, I am sure that the will is there, but a little extra help is required.
Coming back to the Suffolk sports and volunteering project, I am pleased to say that, two years on, it is still running and has funding for the next two years. It is increasing the number of volunteering opportunities in sport in Suffolk, making them accessible to a wider group of people. On my noble friend Lord Addington’s point, the project is working to encourage best practice in recruitment and management of volunteers, and in project-based work. One of the other new pieces of work it is doing focuses on local businesses to encourage them to give employees time off. Corporate volunteering has been one of the great success stories of the last few years. An increasing number of companies realises that this is not just good for their corporate social responsibility reporting: it makes them more attractive as employers and it can develop new skills in their employees that they might not otherwise have had.
Becoming even more parochial for a moment, I want to mention my local football team. Needham Market Football Club is now secure in the play-off zone for promotion to the Ryman League premier division. It is playing on a par against towns many times its size. It is a remarkable achievement for a little town of 5,000 people. I mention this not just to big up the Marketmen, but because I want to reflect that behind the first team there are reserve teams and youth teams, with even a full-time academy for young players. To keep it all going there is an army of volunteers: match day helpers, people doing the training, ground staff, people running the club house, fundraisers, and, of course, the IT and finance people mentioned by my noble friend Lord Addington. Strong support from local businesses helps to keep the club going through advertising and sponsorship, but of course requires constant work. The point is that almost everyone in Needham Market knows someone involved in the running of the football club. Its contribution to building a sense of community is immense.
One of the most powerful pieces of evidence heard by the 2011 Select Committee, to which I referred, came from Northern Ireland. It described sporting projects that had brought communities together. Other witnesses from inner cities described how sports projects such as StreetGames had a marked effect on reoffending rates when aimed at young, troubled men. Sports volunteering has a double hit: all the well known benefits of active lifestyles with all those of voluntary community action. I have been delighted by the recent emphasis from my party on mental health. I hope that some of the extra funding, when it comes, can be used imaginatively to encourage patients into sport and volunteering activities, which can assist their recovery and continued well-being.
I again thank the noble Lord, Lord Allen, for raising this topic. All sides of the House have raised some really important points in this late stage of the Parliament, but these issues will still be here when we are all back later on.
My Lords, first, I congratulate my noble friend on initiating this debate on a subject which makes us all feel proud. We on these Benches are also very proud that my noble friend Lord Allen is one of our own.
The tradition of volunteering is of course deeply ingrained in our society, and I think that often people do not realise that they are volunteering. Quite often, they get involved in the local running, football, netball or tennis club with youngsters because they have children—that is how they begin—and then they find themselves running a junior league. As the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, behind those who do the coaching is often a large and unsung, and often unrecognised, band of heroes who do all the administration, the driving, the laundry, the making of sandwiches and so on.
I was reflecting on that when thinking about this subject and I remembered that I learnt to be a canoeing instructor when I was 18 years old. At the same time, I got certificates in life saving so that I was able to take my local woodcraft group, of which I was one of the leaders, on the river and canal in Bradford. When you go round and round in a canoe, you do it very quickly when on the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. I also learnt first aid and mountain rescue, which meant that we could take the same group camping in the hills around Bradford, Haworth and so on. Indeed, when I was about 19 I did a fireman’s lift down a hill with a young lady who had a badly sprained ankle. At the time, I did not know that I was a volunteer but clearly I was, and a very good time I had too.
Today, I met members of the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation. I am very interested in the work that they do in getting more Muslim women involved in sports and in competing at an elite level. The foundation provides opportunities for participation and training, and it works with similar sports organisations across the UK. I was interested in the work that it does from the point of view of both the DCMS brief and the equalities brief. However, until I had the discussion with the foundation, I had not realised that it receives no public subsidy. It does coaching across the country and it is all done through fundraising and through volunteers. Its work is of social value to our community cohesion, which is a very important part of this debate.
Our own shadow Sports Minister, Clive Efford, has an FA coaching certificate and he has done his own bit of volunteering along the way. People’s love and enjoyment of sport makes it an important issue for public policy because it helps to make us healthy, it brings our communities together, it contributes to the economy and it brings our country together when we back our sports men and women.
Camden, my council in London, runs a huge programme of volunteering in sports, although I do not know how typical that is of other local authorities. It has cycle champions and Zumba champions; it has swimming volunteers for older people who want to go swimming; it has table tennis ambassadors to deliver coaching sessions for children and adults; it runs a volunteer walk leaders scheme and a gymnastics club; and there are many opportunities for training and bursaries to help people to become volunteers in our borough. That must be good value for my council tax and it must add to the value of our community in Camden.
I would like to make a point about the coalition Government and sport. It was a tragedy for those who worked hard in schools to deliver the incredible expansion of sports activities that my Government brought forward through the successful School Sport Partnerships Programme that right at the beginning of this Government it was swept away with no consultation and nothing to replace it. That is why, in terms of sports policy on this side of the House, we are determined to engage as many people as possible at every level in sports and physical activity with the development of grass-roots programmes and sports in our schools.
There is little I can add in praising the effectiveness of the Join In programme. I would like to know whether an assessment is being done about its impact in our most difficult and deprived communities. I agree with the issues raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, on how the programme is developing diversity among our volunteers, particularly among disabled people.
There is no doubt in my mind that sports volunteering has a huge economic and social value. My noble friend has brought to the House an important point: sports volunteering is a huge investment in our community.
My Lords, this has been an excellent debate about sport moving forward and volunteering generally. I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Allen, and I am pleased to answer this Question for Short Debate. I am delighted that he has brought forward this question about the social and economic value of sport volunteering. The debate went wider, into volunteering in general, and I shall pick up on that at the end of what I shall say. There are some very important lessons that we can learn across the piece and not only about sports volunteering. However, I shall concentrate, first, on the sports aspect.
Grass-roots sport in this country relies on volunteers. Without people prepared to invest their time in local clubs and activities—to coach youngsters, run the line, paint the clubhouse, keep the books, make the tea and perform myriad other duties—grass-roots sport would simply not survive, a point made forcefully by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, and my noble friend Lord Addington in particular. This applies both to traditional club-based sport and recent innovations such as parkrun.
The noble Lord, Lord Allen, has a wealth of experience in this area. He knows the value of volunteers in running major events, from his role as chairman of the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and as a board member of LOCOG, the organising committee for the London 2012 Games.
The 2012 Games helped change the perception of sports volunteering in this country, a point referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Allen, the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and my noble friends Lord Holmes and Lady Scott. People here and abroad, visitors to the Games and television viewers were bowled over by the sight of smiling Games makers, Team London ambassadors and other Games-related volunteers. We all have our own personal memories of those great Games. I visited events in London and Cardiff and I will never forget the warmth of the welcome, the “can do” attitude of the volunteers and the sense of togetherness and national unity that the Games provoked.
Those volunteers showed how volunteering could be valuable, valued and fun. Games maker-style volunteers have since become a fixture at major sporting events in this country, including the Rugby League World Cup in 2013, the Tour de France Grand Depart in Leeds in 2014 and, later this year, the Rugby Union World Cup.
I am delighted that Join In, the independent charity chaired so ably by the noble Lord, has helped to bring some of that Games maker spirit to the world of community sport volunteering, where historically volunteers have not always felt valued—volunteers such as Dean Scopes from Fareham, Ken from Wigan and Sue from Slough, mentioned by the noble Lord. Join In grew out of the London 2012 Games and the Join In team have built up expertise and knowledge, including a formidable database of volunteers and clubs. I agree with my noble friend Lady Scott that we must ensure the database is widely used.
I am pleased to hear that while the funding for Join In has come from the Cabinet Office, with sponsorship from BT and Intersport, it is able to support clubs and volunteers across the United Kingdom. It also receives funding from Sport Wales to provide specific services in Wales. Join In’s work complements that of other agencies, including Sport England and the county sports partnerships, which promote local sport and sport volunteering opportunities. Sport England has recently launched Club Matters. This initiative, built around a new website, provides free guidance, support and learning for volunteers on all aspects of running a club. Through Sport England’s £4 million Sport Makers legacy programme, 48,000 volunteers were trained and delivered 10 or more hours of sport for people in their local community. Since the end of the Sport Makers programme, Sport England has awarded £1 million to county sports partnerships across England to keep sport makers engaged as active volunteers in community sport at very much the local level.
Sport England’s insight has found that to get the best out of volunteers and to encourage people to take up sport, the right volunteers with the right skills are needed in the right places. Volunteers need to receive a valuable and enjoyable volunteering experience that matches their values and reasons for volunteering. Those reasons are overwhelmingly altruistic, a point graphically made by my noble friend Lord Addington, although of course gaining skills, socialising and contributing to the local community are all powerful drivers, and rightly so. Join In’s research leading to its booklet, Hidden Diamonds, which I have had the benefit of reading, uncovers the true value of sport volunteers in a helpful contribution to the debate on the value of sport volunteering. It helps to demonstrate and quantify the massive value of sport volunteers to the volunteers themselves, the sport participants and the wider community. Its estimate of the annual value of sport volunteering specifically is £53 billion, which is a truly staggering figure, although volunteering more broadly, as the noble Lord, Lord Allen, mentioned in his speech, is well into the three-figure billions. I shall come back to the wider issues on volunteering generally.
I agree that the legacy for local communities is a fundamental part of the social legacy of the 2012 Games. According to the Community Life Survey, volunteering increased in 2012 from 65% to 72% of the population after a period of decline, and the increase has been maintained since. We can all take pride in that. The Hidden Diamonds report helps to demonstrate the value of that volunteering in the sports sector. Of course, as the noble Lord said, many people chase the dreams set by our great Olympians, including Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Mo Farah and many others, along with our great Paralympians, including Sarah Storey and David Weir.
Volunteers are key to increasing participation in sport and physical activity. The Government and the Mayor of London have committed through the Moving More, Living More initiative to working across departments to increase physical activity as part of the legacy of the 2012 Games. I am pleased that Join In’s chief executive, Rebecca Birkbeck, recently gave a presentation to the cross-government officials’ group responsible for driving forward that initiative to promote the important role of volunteers. I agree that any future report published by the Government to promote the legacy benefits of the 2012 Games should include a strong section on the social and volunteering legacy, certainly including the work of Join In.
Perhaps I may turn to some of the specific points made during the course of the debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, mentioned the percentage of disabled people who are volunteering. We have no separate figures for sports, but on volunteering in general a survey shows that 38% of disabled people volunteer as opposed to 46% of the population at large, although that percentage includes disabled people as well. As I say, while we do not have separate figures for sports volunteering, and without being complacent because it is clear that we need to do more, I have to admit that it is a slightly higher figure than I would have anticipated.
I understand that my noble friend Lady Scott got involved in volunteering, and that is what has brought her to the debate. We should be grateful for that and for her contribution outlining the importance of local volunteering in the context of Needham Market. Those points were well made. It is good to hear from people with broad experience of participating in sport. We heard the stories from my noble friend Lord Holmes and the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, of how they would not have got involved if there had not been volunteers. This shows the true importance of volunteering, which has a read-across to other sectors.
This debate has been important for two reasons. First, in a sense, it is the worst of times and the best of times for it. It is the worst of times because it is at the end of this Government, but more importantly it will be fresh and will be there for whichever Government come in. We will make sure that it is there for any incoming Government to look at.
That is also true more widely. I would like to ensure that this debate goes to all government departments with a covering letter to talk about the importance of volunteering more generally. While we have been concentrating today on volunteering in sport, there is a very important read-across into volunteering more generally. I undertake that that will happen. Hopefully incoming Ministers of whatever political persuasion will find that on their desks and will be persuaded of what a good thing this is—and it is a good thing, economically and socially. We will all remember the 2012 Games and know that the pride that we took in them, the national unity and the sense of togetherness had little or nothing to do with money and everything to do with capturing and harnessing the importance of volunteering, and making sure that it was effective. We must make sure that that happens not just in relation to sport but more generally.
I end as I began, by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Allen, for bringing this really important topic to us today and for what has been an excellent debate.