On Friday I was delighted to be invited to attend the charter meeting for the first Rotary Interact club in Horsham, which has been set up by an enterprising group of girls at Millais School.
The Rotarians’ motto ‘Service before Self’ is pure Big Society stuff, and there is no doubt that society is bigger and stronger when more people do more things with each other and for each other, in and for their own communities. I have written before about the National Citizen’s Service - NCS - which brings young people from different backgrounds together in designing and delivering a social action project for their community.
It’s been my privilege as a Minister to oversee its introduction, so I often talk to students aged 16 and 17 who have completed the programme. It’s gone from strength to strength, and almost without exception the participants report that they wouldn’t have missed it for anything. They develop their self-confidence, practical problem-solving skills and understanding of the lives of others, which set them apart when it comes to the all-important CV.
Charity and voluntary service is not just about giving money. It’s also about giving your time, effort and ideas to help others. Starting this habit as a teenager almost always leads to a lifetime of service, and my experience of our young people is that they are not all workshy and glued to flickering screens – far from it.
If anything they’re more likely to get involved than my generation was. If that leads to public service in any form, standing for office or starting their own social ventures, then we should all be confident in the future.
So my congratulations to the Millais girls and their Rotarian sponsors. I look forward to hearing of their successes.
Hot off the press and too late for last week’s column is a message from UK Power Networks, asking me to recommend their ‘Power of Giving’ programme. They look for innovative projects designed to help local communities in a number of areas such as reducing fuel poverty, enhancing energy efficiency and promoting low carbon economy.
Organisations are now being urged to apply for their chance of a grant of up to £10,000, and the deadline is 27 October. You can find more details at http://bit.ly/1lh82OR.
Finally I had a career first in Tuesday. I won an award - a ‘Guido’ - given by the Guido Fawkes political blog at its first awards dinner. My Guido was for cutting the number of civil servants on the public payroll who are full time trade union officials.
My determination to root out this abuse was fortified by the discovery that a number of these officials had received civil service promotions and pay rises - one of them twice! - while doing no civil service work at all. Extraordinary. And now ended.