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1996 - Mr Major’s Speech to the Prince’s Trust Volunteers’ Event

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech to the Prince’s Trust Volunteers’ Event held at St James’s Palace by Tuesday 4th June 1996.


PRIME MINISTER:

Your Royal Highness, President Robinson.

I think we have all been impressed by that we have seen and heard here this afternoon. From all those who have benefited in different ways from the Prince’s Trust Volunteers Programme.

The motto of the Prince of Wales is “Ich Dien” - I serve - and at the heart of all volunteering is the concept of service. It is not what any of us takes out of society that counts, it’s what we put back into it.

Voluntary work is vital for any healthy society, and young people are the cornerstone of volunteering. Prince’s Trust Volunteers do much for their community, as we heard just a moment ago. There are many examples right around the country of volunteers helping with day care centres, working on local environmental projects, assisting disabled people. Making a real difference.

But the volunteers also do something for themselves. Most volunteers who were unemployed go on to jobs or full-time training. Those who already had jobs come back with new skills and a better understanding of the views of others in their community.

The Prince’s Trust Volunteers play a special role by bringing together a mix of unemployed people and those with jobs, for a full-time programme. People of different backgrounds and different abilities, who benefit from working together as a team.

That requires a substantial commitment from employers, who need to release staff for the programme. Companies like Marks and Spencer, British Telecom, Natwest, Sainsbury’s and Kwik-Fit have shown the way. They know the benefits their staff get out of the scheme. I hope others will follow.

The Government will certainly be continuing its backing. I have asked Roger Freeman to give a push to Departments to provide more volunteers from our younger employees. The Benefits Agency, the Inland Revenue and the Employment Service are already substantial suppliers of volunteers. And many other Government departments have now committed themselves to sending volunteers on the programme - and more will do so in future.

We will do so to maintain and strengthen our partnership with the Prince’s Trust, and to do what we can to help meet the target of 25,000 volunteers a year by the year 2000. I hope that the companies represented here - and others - will do likewise.

This is by no means the only action the Government is taking in this area. Two years ago I launched the “Make a Difference” programme to promote volunteering more generally. We will be spending several million pounds on new projects to provide local information points for volunteers throughout Britain. The new agencies will work closely with the Prince’s Trust, and with others, to help identify suitable candidates and suitable opportunities - and literature about the Prince’s Trust Volunteers is now also on display in job-centres.

I would like to give every young person between the ages of 16 and 25 the opportunity to take part in voluntary work. The presentations we have seen today make clear why we want to do that. Volunteering really does make a difference, to local communities and to the volunteers themselves. Programmes like the Prince’s Trust Volunteers make people believe in themselves, and in what they can achieve.

The first 10,000 Prince’s Trust Volunteers know that they made a difference. So will all those who follow in their footsteps. We are all grateful for your efforts, and for bringing us together today to see some of the results.