What do you think of the government’s ‘Big Society’ initiative?

I am speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast at Parliament next week on the subject of the government’s ‘Big Society’ initiative.  It would really help me to have your honest perspective and feel free to leave comments to unpack your views….thanks!

About Jon Kuhrt

Jon Kuhrt works with people affected by homelessness, offending and addictions at the West London Mission. He, his wife and three children are part of Streatham Baptist Church and he is a member of the Christians on the Left. He likes football...but loves cricket.
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2 Responses to What do you think of the government’s ‘Big Society’ initiative?

  1. Jeremy Sharpe says:

    In principle I think the concept of Big Society is a good one and should lead to residents becoming more involved and taking responsibility for their community life.

    However, I do have some concerns and frustrations about the way it has been developed. Firstly, because of the severe cutbacks in spending, many CVS bodies and other VCS infrastructure organisations have been significantly cut back or closed altogether as a result of local authorities prioritising ‘frontline services’ over second level support for voluntary groups. Without proper support for the voluntary sector being in place on a local level, an expectation to rely more on the sector and people’s goodwill seems to be bad timing and not well thought through.

    Secondly, there seems to have been (to some extent at least) either a lack of awareness or nervousness about using existing expertise to encourage involvement in the Big Society. The so called ‘Community Organisers’ are being newly recruited nationally and trained according to the coalition’s principles and ideas whilst apparently circumventing existing well trained and experienced Community Development Workers, Youth Workers and others already doing a great work in neighbourhoods up and down the country.

    In short, the coalition would do well to gain the support and understanding of the many community networks, forums, charities and hard working volunteers and avoid rolling out such an ambitious programme ‘over their heads’. The Big Society cannot be achieved without some element of funding and it will need more than a few Community Organisers to enable it to happen effectively and be sustainable into the future.

  2. Hi Jon
    The problem with the Big Society is that it is posited against the big responsible State which really should be the mode through which the challenging, complex and expensive way for ensuring equality of opportunity and fair provision for all in a late technological society is mediated. We are not living in a simple village – we are living in a massively complicated world intersected by the virtual, non virtual, hard infrastructure, long term social deprivation, cultural diversities and numerous separations which means that there needs to be a very dynamic and well resourced public sector to respond and ensure as much as possible that basic provisions are being looked after and justice anomalies ironed out. The Big Society whilst being run out at the same time as the massive shrinkage of the public sector, means that this comes over as an ideological piece of puff pastry to cover the real politik of what is going on underneath – and will be unable to bear the weight of the major social issues of deepening poverty and inequalities which threaten to arise.
    Big State, Big community – would be a better way forward.

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