Building a Stronger Civil Society

19 Oct 2010 by Karl Hallam

The government has published a document called  Building a Stronger Civil Society. It has 3 main bits: 1) explains what it sees as the opportunities for the third sector 2) explains what support they might offer the sector to help make the best of them 3) it initiates a consultation on the issues.

The 3 areas across the Big Society agenda where is identifies opportunties are (direct extracts):

1. Empowering communities: giving local councils and neighbourhoods more power to take decisions and shape their area.
2. Opening up public services: the Government's public service reforms will enable charities, social enterprises, private companies and employee-owned co-operatives to compete to offer people high quality services;
3. Promoting social action: encouraging and enabling people from all walks of life to play a more active part in society, and promoting more volunteering and philanthropy. 

What it says about the wider context of cuts is interesting too:

The sector cannot be immune from reductions in public expenditure because the scale of the challenge to reduce the national deficit is so great. Restoring confidence in the economy is in the interest of the whole country, including the voluntary and community sector. However the government recognises that this is a particularly challenging time for charities; social enterprises and other voluntary organisations. Demand for services has risen through the recession and the funding environment has got even harder. Badly handled public sector cuts could significantly alter the ability of the sector to nurture social capital and support some of the most vulnerable people in society just at a time when we want to build that social capital and encourage those local support networks.

Someone suggested to me that at one level they are just trying to do many of the things Labour did (and failed at a lot), but without throwing money at it. That is probably wrong in a number of ways, but aside of the practical problems associated with having less cash, there is the moral issue. Will people keep giving their time if they feel it is not worth it as the support is going? 

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