Charities crucial to fight against poverty, say Tories

The charity sector is crucial if Britain is to win the 'war on poverty', according to Iain Duncan Smith's Social Justice Policy Group.

The group, which was set up Conservative leader David Cameron in 2005, is publishing its findings tomorrow after 20 months of research.

The report is expected to play up the role of charities, particularly grass roots organisations, in tackling poverty in Britain. It is also expected to call on the Government to cut red tape for charities, and allow them to get on with the important work of combating inequality.

"The war on poverty will only be won by liberating the third sector from the incessant pressure to do the Government's work in the Government's way," the report will say. "Innovative social entrepreneurs and grassroots projects need to be trusted and equipped to find new solutions to these intractable problems."

Volunteering will also have a heavy presence in the proposals, which the Conservative Party has already stressed will inform Conservative policy, but not dictate it.

In particular, Duncan Smith's group will recommend that disaffected youths receive benefits such as cinema vouchers in exchange for doing charity work. It will similarly recommend that primary school children each be given £5 of taxpayer's money to spend on anti-poverty projects in order to encourage charitable giving from an early age.

Volunteering England cautioned against undermining the unpaid and freely undertaken nature of volunteering. Policy and Campaigns strategist Andy Forster said: "Incentivising volunteering with something that could be perceived as having a financial value could confuse the status of volunteers. Volunteers in receipt of benefits are entitled to receive out of pocket expenses only and any further reward may result in changes to their benefits and employment status."

However, CSV's executive director, Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, welcomed the Conservatives' idea, pointing out that people are motivated to volunteer by a range of different factors.

She said: "There is a social inclusion issue. The families of many young people cannot afford to volunteer unless support is available. CSV believes everyone should have the chance to volunteer. Without reimbursement volunteering would be limited to the rich."

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