The Labour Manifesto – what does it mean for volunteering

With the dEd+Miliband+Speech+Scottish+Labour+Party+Conference+XyWH-NPlU5ilust starting to settle and people having time to digest all the promises we look at some of the key areas of the Labour manifesto and what it might mean for Volunteers.

A Labour plan to bring back guaranteed childcare from 8am to 6pm in all primary schools has made it into the party’s manifesto.  First mooted in September 2013 the policy had since been sidelined as the party focused on criticising unqualified teachers and opposing the government’s free schools programme.  But “wraparound childcare” is back on the agenda. A single sentence in Labour’s education manifesto, released last week, has become an entire paragraph in the party’s main manifesto, launched today in Manchester.

“We will help families by expanding free childcare from 15 to 25 hours per week for working parents of three and four-year-olds, paid for with an increase in the bank levy. We will also introduce a legal guarantee for parents of primary school children to access wraparound childcare from 8am to 6pm through their local primary school. As well as helping parents, this will provide children with before and after-school clubs and activities, helping to raise their aspirations and attainment. This will be underpinned by a new National Primary Childcare Service, a not for profit organisation to promote the voluntary and charitable delivery of quality extracurricular activities.”

Most interesting is the final point which refers to this provision being provided by the voluntary and charitable sector, although detail is thin on the ground right now it would appear that Labour are keen to see the existing 3rd sector providers meet this demand but it does not explain how this will be funded.  With many schools already offering extensive activities and providing some type of service it is unclear how the National Primary Childcare Service will actually operate.

Asheem Singh, Director of Public Policy at the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, the UK’s largest trade body for charity and social enterprise leaders said:

“Charities and social enterprises will be most excited by the Labour promise to repeal the lobbying act. When politicians voted to restrict the amount grass roots campaign groups could spend on campaigns in this election year while voting at the same time to raise the amount that politicians could spend on their own campaigns, a basic principle of decency and democracy was violated. At ACEVO we are pleased that our sector’s persistence and the argument of our manifesto ‘Free Society’ has been accepted. We look forward to this injustice being rectified, ideally in the first hundred days of the new parliament, whoever wins the election.”

The Lobbying Act reduces the amount grass roots campaigners can spend in an election year by 60%. Earlier this year politicians voted themselves a 23% rise in the amount they could spend during the campaign.

Labour’s commitment to early intervention and preventative, community care is welcome and it is only through proper partnership with state and community providers that we can make a difference on a community basis. Labour have committed to pooled budgets that bring health and care together; but more detail is needed to see how this might be delivered on a community by community basis and what this might mean for the voluntary sector providers.

Labour’s proposals to localise public services and get funding to organisations that deliver social value through regional banks are welcome news to the sector but will require more detail. Localism has three dimensions – economic, constitutional and public service based evidence suggests that detailed policy is needed on all three if  excellent services with a plurality of providers can be delivered.

What is really becoming clear is that both parties see a growing role for the voluntary sector in the next parliament which is sure to see a continuation of budget cuts and austerity which ever party wins.  Both main parties have recognised the importance of an active voluntary sector to protect some of those public services.  Volunteers and volunteer organisations must wake up to the new politics of the 21st century where they play and ever more important role.




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