My week: Neil Cleeveley

Navca's director of policy and information does the rounds at the Labour Party conference.

Neil Cleeveley
Neil Cleeveley

Sunday: Ed Miliband, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, pops up everywhere today - maybe we are just attracted to the same fringe events. It can't be the wine, which is pretty standard. I think he really does understand the vital link that community groups offer between politicians and citizens. There is plenty of talk about the value of community groups and the need to engage them in public life. I hope it's not just talk and that it gets translated into real support for community action.

Monday: Prime Minister Gordon Brown announces that dormant bank accounts will be used to fund more youth provision. I'm sure that's not a new policy, but the good bit is that young people will actually decide how the money is spent.

Elsewhere, I hear Labour delegates talking about the importance of party activists getting involved in local organisations in order to stay rooted within their communities. I think that's true for all parties, but they must recognise that it's equally important that they see it as an opportunity to hear local voices and not as a means of taking over local groups to achieve their own political ends.

Tuesday: Talking of which, I bump into Stephen Bubb, chief executive of umbrella body Acevo. He has clearly been enjoying the conference. And as a man who takes these matters seriously, he takes a dim view of a colleague who slopes off to bed early at 1.30am. Now that's what I call leading from the front.

There's lots of talk from health ministers about engaging patients and carers in care and treatment. It seems to me that there is a vital role for local community groups to make sure that the voices of the most excluded groups are heard.

Wednesday: The main hall at the Bournemouth International Centre is not usually the place to be inspired, but this morning a group of young people talk about how they changed their lives through sport. It is truly inspiring.

One young man from Tottenham, north London, tells us how he had participated in a football scheme and had gone on to volunteer himself. He now works with 60 youngsters every evening. The reason it works is that he understands the life experiences of those young people because he's grown up on the same estates.

Initiatives such as this must be rooted in local communities if they are to have any credibility with local people.

- The National Association for Voluntary and Community Action is the umbrella body for the community sector in the UK.

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