A future Labour government would ask people who used public services to "give something back in return", shadow Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell has told the Labour Party conference.
In her speech to party members yesterday, Jowell said: "People need to take more responsibility for themselves, their families, their communities. When they contribute, we all get more in return."
She said a Labour government would "ask more people who use public services to give something back in return". She gave the example of a community hospital in Philadelphia in the US that asks former patients to volunteer to help others discharged from hospital by visiting them, making sure their heating is on and they have food in the fridge.
Third Sector understands that as part of Labour’s policy review on civil society, it will also consider a "community dividend" as a reward for people who do voluntary work and will look at the role of time banking, in which people are given credits for voluntary work and can use them to claim help from others in the community.
Jowell told the conference that a Labour government would also "make sure that those who contribute are the most rewarded in return". She said Labour-controlled Lambeth Council had started giving residents council tax credits and discounts for council services if they gave their time to help the community, and Labour should ask whether it could extend this across the country.
She also said Labour would "look at the case for expanding the role of personal budgets". This could involve introducing personal budgets in education and welfare services, she said.
Jowell said 40 per cent of young people who signed up to the government’s flagship National Citizen Service volunteering scheme this summer dropped out of the programme.
She criticised the government’s big society agenda, saying spending cuts had put "centres of local life under threat". She accused the government of having "a small-state obsession that gives us a small society in practice".