July 17, 2010
Nick Hurd visits the St Giles Trust in Camberwell to learn firsthand about the practical ways they help break the cycle of reoffending among ex-offenders.
He met the Charity’s Chief Executive Rob Owen, caseworkers, staff and service users.
Speaking afterwards, Nick said:
“This is exactly the kind of organisation we want to create more opportunities for, because what they do works.
“And it works in a very special way by engaging offenders and ex-offenders and people at risk of offending through peer mentors who have been there and understand the issues.”
July 14, 2010
Nick Hurd answers questions from MPs and outlines the Government’s proposals for setting up the ‘Big Society Bank’ – an independent wholesale bank to develop the market for social investment.
Big Society Bank
John Glen (Salisbury) (Con): What progress he has made in establishing the Big Society bank.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Nick Hurd): The Government are committed to setting up that independent wholesale bank to develop the market for social investment. It will be funded by dormant bank accounts and I will work with ministerial colleagues to establish it by April 2011.
John Glen: When visiting the River Bourne community farm in my constituency in Salisbury and many other community groups, I found that one of their big concerns is the bureaucracy that they might face when accessing the funds from the Big Society bank, though they are encouraged by its creation. Will my hon. Friend confirm the process and the means whereby small community groups, which do not have the information, can access those much needed funds?
Mr Hurd: The intention is for the bank to be as independent and unbureaucratic as possible. It will be a wholesaler, not a retailer, so it will support intermediaries that are growing the market for social investment. If it invests in social enterprises in Salisbury, it will do so through intermediaries that have structured financial products, such as social impact or community bonds that connect private capital with the opportunity for good, and for social impact.
Mr Brian H. Donohoe (Central Ayrshire) (Lab): Has the Minister had any discussions with credit unions? The big idea of a bank is very similar to what already exists. Why reinvent the wheel?
Mr Hurd: I have had a series of discussions with several intermediaries in the marketplace that are in the business of trying to encourage and support social investment. The intention is for the bank to stand behind and support those intermediaries to allow them to do more.
Mr Mark Spencer (Sherwood) (Con): What plans he has to support the voluntary sector.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Nick Hurd): As the House has heard, we intend to reduce the bureaucratic burdens on the sector and get more resources into it, not least through the Big Society bank and a new community grants programme. We want to reform commissioning to make it easier for voluntary sector organisations to compete for public sector contracts.
Mr Spencer: Rumbles is a charity in my constituency that provides training for young people with learning difficulties. It has enjoyed a good relationship with local colleges, supplying national vocational qualifications, but recent budgetary pressures have put the whole system under threat. What will the Minister do to help support the relationship between local colleges and local charities and volunteers?
Mr Hurd: I thank my hon. Friend for giving me advance notice of his specific constituency interest. I have liaised with the Department for Education, which is very clear that the voluntary sector has an important role in ensuring that all 16 to 18-year-olds can access learning opportunities that best suit them. However, the Department pointed out that it is for colleges to decide what their learning offer should be. On a more constructive note, if Rumbles believes it has a learning offer that will fill a gap in the 16-to-18 learning market, it should discuss it with the local authority and seek to become a 16-to-18 provider in its own right.
Alun Michael (Cardiff South and Penarth) (Lab/Co-op): What recent discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on the compact between the Government and the voluntary sector.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Nick Hurd): The right hon. Gentleman has a long-standing interest in this area. The Government are fully committed to the compact, as the Prime Minister stated when he launched the big society programme at No. 10 on 18 May. That is why my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General has written to Ministers with responsibility for the big society agenda to ask them to consider the compact as decisions on in-year budgetary savings and efficiencies are taken.
Alun Michael: I welcome the Minister to his new responsibilities, and I am sure that we will look at the detail of this matter in the coming months. Departments and Government agencies are large and powerful, whereas voluntary organisations are generally small and innovative. Does he therefore agree that supporting the compact process is an important responsibility of Ministers across Departments, as is ensuring fairness in how Departments deal with the voluntary sector organisations that are vital to their work?
Mr Hurd: I totally understand the right hon. Gentleman’s point. That is why we have set up a group of Ministers with responsibility for the big society agenda. The first meeting of those Ministers will be chaired by the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General next week. The compact and our plans to strengthen the transparency and accountability of its implementation will be on the agenda.
Robert Halfon (Harlow) (Con): What plans he has for future Government support for local voluntary groups; and if he will make a statement.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Cabinet Office (Mr Nick Hurd): We want to encourage more people to set up and join local voluntary groups, and we want those groups to have much more influence over the issues that affect their communities. Our plans include the training of new community organisers, who can be fantastically effective in that context, and a new community grant programme to help put money in the hands of neighbourhood groups to implement their own neighbourhood plans.
Robert Halfon: Is the Minister aware that in Harlow the big society has been operating for some time? Will he agree to visit successful charities such as the Michael Roberts charitable trust and Rainbow Services, which are ready to pilot the big society reforms, independently of Government and at the heart of the community?
Mr Hurd: I am delighted to hear that the big society is alive and well in Harlow, and I know that my hon. Friend is a passionate advocate of the values that underlie it. I am happy to confirm to him that I will visit Harlow on 29 July and I look forward to seeing what is being done, what we can learn from and what we can build on.
Mr Nigel Dodds (Belfast North) (DUP): Does the Minister share my concern that many voluntary and community organisations that deliver public services and value for money could be targeted unfairly for cuts in the present economic environment if sufficient and proper consideration is not given to their efficiency and effectiveness?
Mr Hurd: I share that concern, and that is why I am working with colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government and our strategic partners to try to identify examples of best practice, especially where local authorities are working in a partnership with the voluntary and community sector to manage this difficult transition carefully.
Gavin Barwell (Croydon Central) (Con): I welcome what my hon. Friend said about the community grant fund, especially given the difficult financial climate that many local authorities face. Can he tell us more about the timing of that fund?
Mr Hurd: The programme is subject to approval in the comprehensive spending review, but all being well our intention is for it to be operational early next year. The focus will be on trying to provide grass-roots community grants to deprived areas that are characterised by high levels of economic deprivation and low levels of social capital.