BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 March, 2004, 11:40 GMT
MPs' lobby: promoting volunteering
Photo of Julian Brazier MP
Julian Brazier thinks volunteering should be promoted - do you?
Volunteering made the headlines recently when a leading teaching union advised its members not to participate in school trips.

The shadow trade and international development minister Julian Brazier - the MP for Canterbury and Whitstable - hopes to make volunteering easier with his Private Members' Bill.

Volunteering takes many forms - from sport to scouting - and is estimated to involve 22 million people a year, but several organisations believe it is under threat from an increasingly litigoius culture and an excess of red tape.

Do you think volunteering should be encouraged? Are you put off volunteering for fear of being sued if something goes wrong? How would you improve circumstances for volunteers?

What the Promotion of Volunteering Bill will do
Help to protect volunteers from unreasonable litigation
Reduce the cost of insurance for volunteers
Cut the burden of bureaucracy on voluntary organisations
Provide a register of employers who encourage volunteering

This is your chance to participate in making a law. We've put your questions to Julian Brazier and you can watch his responses by clicking the link below. You can also watch the interview on BBC Parliament on Thursday 4 March at 2245 GMT before he takes his bill to the House of Commons for a second reading on Friday 5.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received:
Our laws of today seem to punish those who are only trying to help
Chris, Chelmsford

Our laws of today seem to punish those who are only trying to help, when things go wrong. What we can do as a society to reduce the threat of possible litigation is to ensure that any trainee lawyer carries out at least a year of voluntary work. Maybe then they will be less reluctant to prosecute cases that are clearly a genuine accident and not simply try to generate large pay days for themselves.
Chris Sayers, Chelmsford

I think volunteering is a brilliant idea. The idea of unpaid volunteers, helping others out in this country, is a truly remarkable and wonderful idea. Whilst we're at it, why not make being a Member of Parliament voluntary? Oh, I'm sorry, it already is, but with one slight difference - MPs are paid for their non-attendance, their disinterest and their conceitedness. Darn it! Back to the drawing board!
Marc Ashley-Wood, Kent

Recently an Oldham Council official stopped 13-year-old volunteers from doing what many children would love to do. The girls regularly visited their local riding stables to work with the horses. They mucked out, fed and groomed the horses. Sometimes they would have lessons, sometimes a ride. In its wisdom the council have stopped this on the grounds of "exploitation of unpaid labour." The girls are devastated as they just wanted the opportunity to be with the horses. How can your bill or even the present law be squared to avoid this interpretation of what is a volunteer and what is exploitation?
Barry Ulyatt, Saddleworth

In my last job I was responsible for coordinating volunteers. Over time what used to be simple, fun, useful volunteering has become harder for the volunteer and the organiser, to the detriment of good causes. I don't think the Labour Party has done this deliberately, it's a combination of badly thought out employment legislation and knee jerk responses to rare incidents. This has the effect of creating a negative public perception of volunteers (volunteering with children makes you a paedophile, volunteering with old people makes you a conman etc.) The result, sadly, is that volunteers are increasingly hard to recruit, particularly men and young people. That combined with the bureaucracy which is involved before a volunteer can even start and the fall in charity donations spells disaster in the future for essential services provided by voluntary and charitable groups.
Ian Bruce, Glasgow

It will be ineffective in stopping the rot
KJ Dickens, Rugby
Laws are drafted by persons from the legal profession which would profit greatly from our litigious culture. While the intentions of this Bill are honourable I suspect it has either zero chance of becoming law or that it will be ineffective in stopping the rot. In a nation where we expect to blame others and receive financial compensation for any mishap that befalls us we can only expect that many of the institutions we now find familiar (clubs, parades, country shows, exhibitions etc) will simply disappear due to crippling insurance and training costs. Nice try but it's too late.
KJ Dickens, Rugby

It makes no sense to deny people from volunteering to help another person, but I'm not sure that's the argument here. Unfortunately we're getting to a stage where children can't go on field trips for fear of something going wrong, which is insane. Life is tough, but children are becoming over-protected so they find problems coping independently in the real world. What next - do we ban people going outside because there is a chance of getting pneumonia?
Ben Storey, Durham

As a student who has every interest in volunteering and offering my time, I find the process to be disheartening and it discourages volunteering. This is detrimental to such a vital aspect of our society.
Sumeet Vermani, Loughborough

An old university friend wanted to volunteer with the army cadets. Twenty odd years ago he was coming home late at night, a little the worse for drink and relieved himself in an alley (no one anywhere in sight). A passing police car spotted him and he ended up being charged rather than warned. Twenty years on he has to have an enhanced check to come within a hundred yards of a child because he has a conviction for "indecent exposure", a serious sexual offence which will stay on his record for 100 years. This guy is about as honest as you could imagine and has two kids of his own. Is there anything the MP can do about this nonsense?
John, England

Volunteering provides... meaningful activity
Tim, Wales
I work for Depression Alliance Cymru, a user-led mental health charity. A number of our volunteers are currently in receipt of Incapacity Benefit because of their depression. Volunteering provides them with meaningful activity that can aid their recovery. However, they run the risk that the Department for Work and Pensions will interpret their volunteering as "proof" that they are fit to work. Is it possible to allow for "therapeutic volunteering" in the same way as we now allow disabled people to have therapeutic earnings?
Tim Watkins, Wales

Public bills in Parliament 2003/2004 session
07 Jan 04  |  BBC Parliament
03 Dec 03  |  Politics

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific