By Max Clarke

All prospective MPs should do a year of service to their communities according to Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, Executive Director of UK volunteering charity Community Service Volunteers (CSV). The challenge will be spelt out as part of Dame Elisabeth’s retirement speech following 48 years of leadership in the sector. The speech will be delivered at Speaker’s House in the House of Commons this evening (Monday 7th February).

In the wide-ranging speech, Dame Elisabeth will also call for:

• 10% of the person-power of public service to be made up of volunteers, reflecting successful models in the USA

• The true value of the £7 billion contribution of volunteers to be recognised in the nation’s GDP

• An end to the ban in England on using volunteer-time to attract match funding from Europe (European Social Fund), unlike in Wales where the principle is allowed.

• national youth service for all 18 year olds

Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, Executive Director of the UK’s leading volunteering charity, CSV will say: “The government should send a delegation to the United States, it would find that in many public services there such as the police in Redding California, 10% of their person power has to come from volunteers if they want an increase in support- why not here in our schools, the health and fire services, parks and social care.

“Critical to progress are the professionals, teachers, doctors, nurses, social workers and emergency services. They should all learn in their basic training about how to involve willing citizens. And why not make a year of service a pre-requisite for all would-be MPs? It would help them understand how their would-be electors actually live and what needs fixing.

“The exclusion of the value of volunteers’ work in the Gross Domestic Product is long overdue for correction. It is independently valued at £7 billion.

“Similarly we should be able to use volunteer time as match funding for European funding bids. If it’s acceptable in Wales, Italy, France and Bavaria, why not in England?

“We have yet to persuade a government to launch a national community service programme for a year for 18-21 year olds. What sense does it make, in a time of cut backs in health, education and social care to consign millions of our young people to have no reason to get up in the morning? 86% would participate so long as their friends could and as a youth court magistrate, I have seen the damage joblessness creates. The devil is quick to find work for idle hands. Finland, France, Germany, Italy and the USA have all started programmes. How much longer must our young people
and service users wait, as provision shrinks? “

Dame Elisabeth’s speech will be delivered at Speaker’s House to invited guests on Monday 7th February, 6.30pm to 8pm.