On Monday afternoon, David Cameron asked me to be the new Shadow Minister for Charities and the Voluntary Sector.
I was thrilled because I know how important the voluntary sector already is to our society and the potential for it to do even more. As an MP, whether I am visiting a prison, school or hospital, I am struck by how much we rely on the voluntary sector to reach the parts that Government can’t reach.
Just think what Mount Vernon would be without the Michael Sobell Hospice, the Lynda Jackson, Macmillan and the Paul Strickland scanner centres.
In Hillingdon we are well served by a wonderful range of charities that rely on people giving up time and money to help others and make a difference.
In an age when we place such a ridiculously high value on footballers, pop stars and minor celebrities, I think that these people are the true heroes of society. And, of course, we will now need the voluntary sector more.
As the banking sector implodes as a result of its own greed, we head for recession and tough times. More of us will need help. The Government will have less money to respond, not least because it, too, has binged on irresponsible borrowing and wasteful spending.
Communities will have to pull together and the most vulnerable will be relying more on the public-organised expression of society: the charities, social enterprises, co-operatives and community groups that make up the voluntary sector. They, in turn, will find it harder to raise funds and attract people. So these are very challenging times, but I look forward to playing my part in supporting the energy and initiative of the voluntary sector in Hillingdon and the country.