VOLUNTEERS AND the voluntary sector as a whole have always been at the heart of our community. Volunteering has strong historical roots in the UK, and voluntary organisations play an essential part in providing vital services. Volunteering is also one of the most important aspects of citizenship. In fact, people coming together on a voluntary basis to achieve common aims is a key feature of a dynamic democracy.
Of course, there is a wide range of contributions people can make to strengthen their communities and the broader society, but volunteering is one of the most important contributions of all - from personnel giving in a informal setting to more organised and trained support, the gap is filled by the time and energy of those with something to offer. Special constables, volunteers in prisons and the youth justice system are some examples of people helping me to deliver the Home Office objective of a "safe, just and tolerant society".
Volunteering empowers people. It is rewarding for individuals. It cuts across divides of age, race and gender which isolate and alienate people. It strengthens the bonds between individuals which are the bedrock of a strong civil society. And in doing so it helps create a sense of citizenship that is often missing from so many of our communities today.
That kind of active citizenship is essential for the continued health of our democracy. Those who have a stake in the community around them respond entirely differently in their behaviour to the rest of the community than those who do not.
This is because "having a stake" is not simply a question of physical or financial assets - although those are very important. It is also about social capital - the opportunity to draw on the strength of, and contribute back into, a vibrant community. Commitment to others offers hope and provides the building blocks of mutuality and of …