Chancellor outlines his vision of a society rooted in volunteering

Helen Warrell

Gordon Brown has challenged the British public to create a society in which every person donates some of their income to a charitable cause and every employer has a volunteering scheme for their workers.

Describing the population as "a goodwill mountain waiting to be tapped", the Chancellor also said that he would like to see every young person volunteering while they were in education and every retired person using their skills to benefit others.

Brown's optimistic vision was set out in a speech to HM Revenue & Customs' CSR Summit on corporate social responsibility, held at the Treasury last week.

The Chancellor said only a quarter of UK firms offered volunteering schemes for their employees, and added that the time had come to "scale up our activities, raise our ambition higher and make even more of a difference".

In an attempt to unite business leaders around his ideal of a "good society", Brown added that the tide of voluntary activity would be supported by a Government in touch with volunteers, community groups and responsible businesses keen to make a social impact.

Responding to the Chancellor's speech, Cathy McBain, project leader of Volunteering England's employee-supported volunteering programme, said there were benefits for all when companies played an active role in the community.

When asked if there were enough volunteering posts to accommodate all those who were being urged to contribute, McBain was positive. "Not everyone is going to volunteer overnight," she said. "There are hundreds of volunteering opportunities across the country just waiting for somebody to participate in."

Simon Bottery, director of communications at Citizens Advice, emphasised that volunteering is of benefit to the individual as well as the wider community.

"Volunteering is a two-way street," he said.

FACT FILE

Gordon Brown spoke at an HM Revenue & Customs summit on corporate social responsibility, which was held at the Treasury last week

The Chancellor said he wanted to see everyone, young and old, taking part in volunteering.

The event featured exhibitions of the best private and public sector partnerships with voluntary groups. Acting HMRC chairman Paul Gray hosted the summit.

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