Charities call for national holiday for community action

Four leading voluntary organisations are calling for a new bank holiday in October to celebrate community involvement. The NCVO, CSV, Volunteering England and Navca have joined forces with the TUC to pen a letter to Prime Minister-in-waiting Gordon Brown.

The letter, sent today, marks the anniversary today of the passing of the first bank holidays bill in 1871.

The charities suggest the day could be used to provide opportunities for voluntary and community groups to have days of action, and for communities to hold gala days to celebrate community spirit.

The letter reads: “Where voluntary community activity is the norm, people and their communities play a full part in civil society and wealth, health and well-being are more likely to flourish.”

The organisations also argue that the increased social cohesion, improved skills and greater health and well-being that would result from the day would more than offset its costs. They point out that the Home Office's citizenship survey puts the annual worth of volunteering at £40bn in England alone, while CSV research shows two-thirds of first-time volunteers go on to volunteer again.

They also note that Britain has three fewer days of public holidays than the EU average, adding that a new bank holiday at the end of October would coincide with half-term and cut in two the large gap between the summer bank holiday and Christmas.

CSV executive director Dame Elisabeth Hoodless said: "Research shows that 11 million people would volunteer if asked. A community day is an excellent way to involve them to reduce crime, boost health, protect the environment and help young people to read and write."

Navca chief executive Kevin Curley added: "We might not be able to change the world but we can all do something to change our neighbourhood."

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