MPs call for more recognition of volunteers through the honours system

The Public Administration Select Committee says there is 'discomfort' with the name of the revived British Empire Medal

British Empire Medal

Community volunteers should be given greater recognition through the honours system, according to a cross-party group of MPs.

The Honours System, published today by the Public Administration Select Committee, says more people should receive honours for voluntary work in their communities.

It says the move would help to improve the public perception of the honours system because many people feel there is a lack of transparency with nominations and that honours are the preserve of celebrities or long-serving civil servants.

"We believe that no one should be honoured for simply ‘doing the day job’, no matter what that job is," it says. "Honours should be awarded only for exceptional service above and beyond the call of duty.

"This would result in a far higher proportion of honours being awarded to people who devote their time to the local community, instead of to politicians, civil servants and celebrities."

The committee, which based its report on feedback from 41 lords lieutenant and three evidence sessions, calls for an end to party political influence on the nominations process and the establishment of an independent honours commission.

The report does not advocate any changes to the recently revived British Empire Medal, despite acknowledging there is "discomfort" over the name of the award.

The medal, which had been phased out in 1993, was reintroduced by David Cameron last year in order to  reflect better the work of community volunteers. The first batch of 293 recipients of the revived award were announced as part of the Queen’s birthday honours in June.

Dan Sumners, senior policy and communications officer at Volunteering England, backed the report’s findings. He said that increased recognition for the work of volunteers was always welcome, particularly if it inspired others to emulate such efforts.

A spokesman for the Cabinet Office said the committee’s recommendations would be carefully considered, but denied that volunteers were not being adequately rewarded through the honours system.

"Honours are awarded on merit to those who make outstanding contributions and not for simply doing the day job," he said. "Far from being the preserve of politicians, civil servants and celebrities, the vast majority go to the unsung heroes who do remarkable work in their communities.

"In the last list, just over 1,200 people received awards of which 72 per cent were actively engaged in charitable or voluntary work. Awards are recommended by committees with independent chairs and a majority of independent members."

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