This past weekend, I attended the Welsh Labour Conference up in lovely Llandudno.
It was a great couple of days and I was pleased to speak at conference and to be part of two panels — one for Oxfam Cymru and one for Stonewall Cymru.
Both were very good sessions and the latter very much emphasised the importance of addressing the bullying of LGBT students in schools. The feeling was very much that teachers and governors should have training in how to combat homophobic bullying — school is a place where all students should feel safe.
I spoke at conference about our public services and the voluntary sector. I was pleased to acknowledge the essential work that the voluntary sector already does in providing vital services.
I had been very shocked recently when David Cameron said that one of the big opportunities of his ‘Big Society’ would be the chance for the voluntary sector to bid for contracts to run public services.
I wondered where he had been.
There are countless examples in Wales where the voluntary sector delivers essential services on behalf of the public authorities — they are part of our wider ‘Welsh Public Service’ — and they should be protected.
You only have to look at services for people at the beginning and the end of their lives to see what I mean. Before I was a politician, I worked for Barnardo’s and we organised and delivered respite care services for children with disabilities (working with the local authority) to give parents a break and to help them to cope in difficult circumstances, often when they may have been at the end of their tethers.
Now look at the hospice movement. I am Vice President of George Thomas Hospice in Cardiff and I congratulate Edwina Hart and the Welsh Assembly Government for trying to organise a fair way to provide care at the end of life.
Hospices caring for people at the end of their lives either at home or in hospices themselves have about 30% funding from the government, with 70% coming from voluntary sources. We are dependent on such organisations to give dignity and relief to people when they are dying.
I could go on about the fantastic work that the voluntary sector does — Women’s Aid, Shelter, Macmillan Cancer Support, Oxfam, Stonewall — the list is endless. They get things done and we must make sure that they are protected.
The Labour-led Welsh Assembly Government has shown its determination to minimise the damage to services and this must include essential services delivered by the third sector.
From the cradle to the grave, the voluntary sector makes all our lives better.