Baroness Scott of Needham Market (Liberal Democrat)
My Lords, perhaps oddly in a debate on business, I am going to focus on the topic of volunteering. I am going to do so because the good news is that more and more people of working age are volunteering, but they are able to do so through the good offices of the businesses and people who employ them and give them time off to do so. Many organisations are going further than this, and are participating in bespoke schemes which enable their staff at all levels to become involved with volunteering. This is perhaps with chosen charities through team activities, fundraising or joining in the work of the charity, or in other cases, giving professional advice such as legal, IT or financial.
The Westminster Volunteer Centre has a very good track record of working with large organisations and corporations to enable this to happen. I recently met a lady called Nikki King. She is the managing director of Isuzu Trucks, and she decided to tackle the lack of aspiration that she sees so often in young people by giving them mentors from the world of business and industry. She started just doing this by herself, but she now works with the Freight Transport Association, DHL, Asda, William Hill and many others to provide mentoring to 14 to 18 year-olds. In my own area, AXA insurance and Willis have both worked with local volunteer organisations.
Academic studies from around the world have shown that creating an employer supported volunteering scheme is a cost-efficient way for business to increase staff job satisfaction, build internal and external networks, contribute to high-quality personnel recruitment, teach new skills to their employees, improve customer relationships and increase shareholder value.
What do we, as parliamentarians, need to do to encourage this trend? First, we need to keep our house in order. I think that it is rather a pity that, as one of the largest employers in Westminster, we do not have a corporate volunteering scheme here. I have raised this with the House, and perhaps other noble Lords will support me in this endeavour.
Secondly, the Civil Service has a very good track record of volunteering and I hope that the Government will remain committed to it. Finally, the Government need to take a look at the funding for volunteer centres. Volunteering does not come free; there is no substitute for the face-to-face expertise and bespoke service provided by good volunteer centres.