Voluntary groups 'have class bias'

Mathew Little

The voluntary sector may favour middle-class communities over the poorest and ethnic minority groups, according to an influential committee of MPs.

The Public Accounts Committee report on government funding of the voluntary sector criticised the Home Office last week for its record on contracting with the sector, but also had cautionary words for charities.

Helen Goodman, a member of the committee and a former head of strategy with the Children's Society, said: "Voluntary organisations are often in places where there are lots of volunteers, and middle-class women, having more time on their hands, volunteer more. It's not because they care more about the middle classes, but the volunteers are not living in the most dispossessed areas. There's bias in that."

The report suggested that government departments should adjust their funding programmes because volunteers were more commonly found in better-off areas. Funding should reflect need, it said.

- See Hot Issue, page 23.

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