Towards a more civil society

DoreenLawrence4x3.jpgDoreen Lawrence on building a country that is genuinely equal and fairer for all

Later today, I will deliver my maiden speech in Parliament, on the importance and value of voluntary and community sector organisations. Before I do that however, I will be expressing the honour that I feel in joining the House of Lords. As many people will already be aware, my journey has been an extremely difficult one and there will be members present in the Lords this afternoon who have walked part of that journey with me in solidarity. Their integrity, conviction and calibre assure me I am among good company. 

I have never taken for granted my public platform as someone who should be out there speaking. I do it because I feel there is something important that needs to be conveyed, and this is what drives me. I therefore pledge myself to contribute the knowledge and understanding that I have to offer, building on many years of experience in issues relevant to both the decisions of Parliament, and the nation as a whole.

I welcome the debate taking place later today on ResPublica’s report on social action and the Church of England. But I will focus my contribution in the Chamber on the value of community based organisations in the broadest sense: mainstream, grassroots, youth led, women’s, BME and faith based.

Ensuring that every person in British society, particularly our young people, have access to the same opportunities to learn, work and succeed is the bedrock of a progressive democracy.  Local community organisations which understand the needs of their stakeholders, be they faith-based, ethnic or culturally-specific or simply the coming together of neighbourhoods, are keen to play an active role in health, youth provisions, educational and other services. 

These groups don’t seek to make profit from subcontracting, but to continue a rich democratic tradition in which civil society can ensure communities receive quality and effectively targeted services.

Importantly, over two thirds of charities and voluntary organisations working in the UK today have no connection with a religion. An example of one of these charities is Stop Hate, of which I am a Patron, which works with victims of hate crimes and encourages those them or those who witness such crimes to report them. This is absolutely essential work and it is vital that such charities continue to receive as much support as possible.

Voluntary organisations representing every section of our rich and diverse society deserve to be listened to and supported, in order to bolster their contribution to making Britain a safer, healthier and more prosperous country. Only by remaining committed to these fundamental principles can we strive towards a future which is both genuinely equal and fairer for all. 

Baroness Doreen Lawrence of Clarendon is a new member of the Labour Group in the House of Lords 

Published 21st November 2013

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