The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) said donations had dropped by 31 per cent in real terms since 1993 to pounds 4.5bn, despite the fact that a huge majority of people believe it is important to support charities.
Research carried out for the NCVO found that nine out of ten people said it was important to give time and money to charity, but fewer than half had donated cash in the last month. Just 8 per cent had given any time. Nearly half of people in social classes A and B said they would give more if the tax system added to their donation and one-third of 35- to 44-year-olds who do not give would be encouraged to do so by a tax incentive.
Stuart Etherington, the NCVO's chief executive, pleaded with the public to turn good intentions into positive action to avert a crisis in the voluntary sector. He was backed by the Prime Minister who called for "an explosion in giving" - in time as well as money.
Speaking at the NCVO's annual conference in east London yesterday, Tony Blair pledged pounds 73m of government money to encourage and expand volunteering schemes. He further announced the creation of a m "active community unit" to work across government departments, raising the profile of the voluntary sector.
Mr Etherington said the British public had long supported the voluntary sector, but that support had reached a crossroads. "While the vast majority of the population believes it is extremely important to support charities and the work they do, this is not always translated into donations either of time or money," he said.
He said the Government's help was needed and that the volunteering initiatives should foster more involvement by the public but they should be supported by tax breaks. A review of charity tax has been promised for nearly two years.
The Government yesterday awarded pounds 48m to the Millennium Volunteers scheme, which was piloted by the Community Service Volunteers to encourage the involvement of a new generation. A further pounds 25m will encourage volunteer schemes involving older people and the black community.
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