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Employers can help build civil society


Employers have a major role to play in building civil society, according to Home Secretary David Blunkett, speaking at the AGM of the Confederation of British Industry. Mr Blunkett urged employers to work with Government on effective ways of developing volunteering and using the transition from work to retirement to encourage the Experience corps.

Recognising the importance to business of fighting crime, the Home Secretary said it was particularly important to see more employees become ‘Specials.’

Mr Blunkett said: “Building a safer society based on strong communities is in the interests of business as well as Government. That’s why I would like employers to consider releasing their employees more often and giving them paid leave to work, for example, as a special constable. We don’t expect business to do this without our support. Later this year the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I will publish a joint discussion paper on fiscal and other changes we can make to promote community service. I would like the CBI and employers to work closely with government, the police and others on ensuring we get this right. At the same time, Government itself needs to do more to encourage its employees to be active citizens – we sometimes need to lead by example, not just preach.

“Business can also gain from the skills its employees can develop by participating actively in civic life, such as serving as a magistrate, a school governor, or a special. These roles help employees develop self- confidence, management, problem-solving and self-motivation skills – all of which will benefit their employer. Equally, business can help the community when employees are approaching retirement and looking for opportunities to contribute. I want to listen to the best way government and business can work together to ensure the community can benefit from the experience of people aged 50+ who are looking at different ways they can play a part.”

Mr Blunkett also outlined the commitment of the Home Office to contribute to the nation’s economic prosperity. He said that it was important to create a climate in which businesses can thrive by :
– Reducing crime against business and the cost of crime to business;
– Creating safe and confident communities which demand goods and services;
– Integrating ex-offenders;
– Tackling discrimination;
– Contributing to the supply of a skilled workforce through well-managed immigration;
– Tackling the menace of organised international crime and trafficking of people, drugs and weapons

He said : “We are intent on building strong communities that are attractive to investors, when coupled with the skills of a competitive workforce. Communities in which both businesses and individuals have a stake, are places where people will play their part in crime prevention. Crime is bad for business and bad for the economy. High crime figures are a turn off for both investors and tourists. The cost of crime to business runs into billions. We have made it clear that tackling the crime that affects business is a priority. We have already outlined measures such as the first Government survey of manufacturing and retail crime, which will help us develop effective ways to help you combat those issues.

“By working with their local Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships, many businesses are already building crime prevention into their risk management strategies and products, and working with us to reduce problems like credit card and ID fraud.”

Mr Blunkett also stressed the importance of addressing skills shortages and said managed migration can reduce illegal working and stimulate economic growth and job creation.

“We are already making a difference in the specialist health, medical and computer services, which were experiencing recruitment difficulties. By working with the professional stakeholders in other industries, we hope to fill more places and see more growth, which will ultimately benefit us all. This includes areas where there are labour market shortages such as in the construction and catering industries.” He added that a major element of the drive to cut crime and rebuild civil society is to get re-offenders into work. The evidence shows that employment reduces the likelihood of re-offending by between one third and a half.

“31% of men have a criminal record by the age of 40. Excluding them all makes no economic sense, does nothing for the drive to stop re-offending, nor does it help address the problem of skills shortages in a country where the pensioner population is growing, and the working age population is shrinking. Home Office programmes like ‘Custody to Work’, however, are equipping ex-offenders with the basic skills they need to start making a positive contribution.”

Time was when economists would insist that the business of business is purely business, but things change. How much should businesses take on, and encourage employees to take on, social responsibilities? Post your comments now.

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