Lords discusses charities role in strengthening society

06 October 2010

Seven new Members gave their maiden speeches in the House of Lords on Tuesday 5 October in a debate on the charitable sector and its role in strengthening civil society

They were Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top (Labour), Lord Wills (Labour), Baroness Sherlock (Labour), Baroness Benjamin (Liberal Democrat -- pictured), Baroness Wheeler (Labour), Baroness Ritchie of Brompton (Conservative), Lord Beecham (Labour).

Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top

Baroness Armstrong’s maiden speech began by acknowledging that the House of Lords has many Members with a history of contributing to the voluntary and community sector. She said the sector is a very important part of how civil society works and was, for centuries, the main means by which education and healthcare were offered to many people in the UK. The challenge she sees today is for politicians to encourage and develop the partnership between the state and the charitable sector.

The Labour peer is the trustee on the international board of Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and former Minister for the Cabinet Office and Social Exclusion.

Baroness Sherlock

Baroness Sherlock focused on the role that charities play in speaking out and ‘enabling the voices of those who are not often heard to be heard by Parliament and by the nation’. The distinctive role of charities, she felt, was sometimes to ‘speak out, to be critical, to help those who have power to see and hear the things they may not wish to see and hear’ and that they should be encouraged to maintain that role as well as simply serving others.

Baroness Sherlock was a member of the Carnegie Commission of Inquiry, which looked at the future of civil society.

The Labour peer is a member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and board member of the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Baroness Ritchie of Brompton

Baroness Ritchie saw ‘great potential for the national citizen service’ to give young people a part to play in civil society and outlined some of the practical measures that government could take to enable the charitable sector to release the full potential of children and young people.

The Conservative peer is a member of the Commission on Social Workers, Conservative Party, and Chair of the Children and Young People Board, and Local Government Association and Board Member, Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service).

Lord Beecham

Lord Beecham said that voluntary and community groups played ‘a significant part in the local economy’ not only delivering services but providing employment.  With financial support often an issue, and many groups dependent on external funding, he called for a synergy between the third sector and public sector ‘bringing together civil society and civic society in the interests of the community and good governance.’

The Labour peer is Vice President for the Community Foundation, Newcastle upon Tyne and the Newcastle Council for Voluntary Service.

Further information

Image: Parliamentary copyright

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