Last week was National Volunteers Week and I took the opportunity to meet several members of the Midland Rover Owners’ Club operating as part of the national organisation 4×4 Response UK. They are volunteers who use their own 4×4 vehicles to help out in severe weather, including heavy snow or flooding, and in civil emergencies, working with local authorities like Warwickshire County Council and the emergency services.
I met them at their training ground to hear about the work they do and to thank them for the contribution they make, with volunteer drivers on call at all times. They have assisted during the pandemic period too, of course, including by getting medical staff to work. They are a few of the very many people across this constituency and across the country who provide huge added value to the public services and work closely with them. Covid-19 has exemplified the benefits of this approach – we have seen for example many volunteer deliverers of food and medicine alongside the service offered by the NHS and local authorities. There is sometimes a sense in this country, not found elsewhere in the world, that the use of volunteers somehow implies an inadequacy or insufficiency in taxpayer-funded public services, but I don’t see it that way. We have experienced a time in which the value we place on institutions like the NHS has, rightly, never been higher, but the work of volunteers has never been more necessary, complimentary or valued too. This is not an argument about government funding, but about different parts of our society working together at times of need. Volunteer 4×4 drivers are not part of the public services and they are not asking to be, nor do they, or should they, replace the police, the fire service or the ambulance service, but they add significantly to the response to emergencies, appreciated by the people they help and the state-funded emergency services alike. We thank them all for what they do. If you are interested in becoming one of the 4×4 Response volunteer drivers yourself, then you can find out more at www.mroc4x4response.co.uk.