Home > Community Volunteering > Volunteering and the Big Society

Volunteering and the Big Society

By: Leigh Sexton - Updated: 12 Feb 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Big Society Big Society Bank David

In 2009, just before becoming Prime Minister, David Cameron stated that, “Our [Conservative] alternative to big government is the big society...we need to use the state to remake society”. Furthermore he identified three key ways in which his government intended to move power from the central state level to the local community level – those ways being decentralisation, transparency and accountability.

  • Decentralisation is intended to operate at the lowest level: where possible, power is meant to devolve down to the individual within a local community. Where that isn’t possible, it will be given to ‘neighbourhoods’ and if that is not practical, then ‘lowest possible tier of government’ will receive the power.
  • Transparency will be driven initially by publishing full details of central and local government spending – this information should give charities, community groups and small (local) businesses to see opportunities for them to provide the same services as government cheaper, better or more straightforwardly.
  • Accountability is the least developed of the three key features, with Cameron saying that. “… people and organisations acting for the state [need] to be directly accountable to the people they are supposed to serve” but with no stated mechanism for allowing accountability to operate as an arbiter of service provision.

The idea has received a cautious welcome from the bodies that represent voluntary groups, with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) stating that, “Civil society is where people come together to make a positive difference to their lives and the lives of others... It is where me becomes we.” But it adds that part of the role of a voluntary society is to be radical, “by holding government to account and by creating space for conversations about how the world is and how it could be”- an agenda for transformative and challenging voluntary action that doesn’t appear anywhere in the parliamentary note on “Big Society” nor in the manifesto pledges of the Conservative Party.

Big Society Shaken By Riots

There has been a range of media commentary on the recent rioting in British cities, linking it more or less explicitly to the Big Society concept. While The Telegraph pointed out that the Conservative response to social media use by the rioters was restrictive and the opposite of the ‘Big Society’ ideal, The Guardian highlighted, “Big Society charities, losing money and lacking accountability.”

Little positive spin has yet been put on the relationship between Big Society and urban unrest and it seems likely that intense debates at Prime Minister’s Question time will continue to explore the role of both the previous and the current government in creating the social conditions that resulted in riots. Many community activists have raised concerns about the way that terms like “feral underclass” have been used by Conservative politicians to describe the rioters, with the Acting Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, Tim Godwin, commenting that this term was not one he would have chosen to use himself and that the fear of crime that drove young people to join the gangs that took part in looting, “is a great challenge to us as a city”.

How Does The Big Society Help Volunteers

In 2009, Cameron highlighted, “… the significant percentage of the population who have no record of getting involved... we want to build up strong local institutions which are tangible … [a]National Citizens' Service will bring together sixteen year olds...to serve their community.” This is just one approach to creating voluntary opportunities that also help society. Other approaches included in manifesto pledges are:

Social entrepreneurs [with] “… capacity to run successful social programmes in communities with the greatest needs... [and] a track record of success.” This category is to be funded directly from current state budgets to deliver public services.

Community activists, who will play informal roles in their communities such as running parents’ groups and organising meetings with neighbourhood police.

What Is The Big Society Bank?

Despite claims that some of the functions of the bank would be operating by April 2011 (using money from dormant accounts to fund projects should have begun in late summer 2011), by July 2011 the rate of progress was still at the late planning stage with advisory boards being created to ensure that the claim that “big society bank [would take] £200 million from Britain's banks to put into the voluntary sector” could actually begin to happen.

The bank’s mission is to improve “the ability of the social sector to deal with social issues … by supporting the development of a social investment market which is more effective in attracting capital to achieve social impacts.”

It will do this by using funds from dormant bank and building society accounts to fund the National Citizens' Service, provide seed capital to new social entrepreneurs and to support the grassroots work of community activists.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Hi, I would like to volunteer in the halifa area please could you let me know what opportunities are available.
Acee - 27-Sep-12 @ 9:07 AM
@Scatef. There are plenty of voluntary jobs you could do with your disability, and it will probably help to boost your confidence. How about helping with reading in your local primary school? (You will need a CRB check but they might help you with that). Alternatively you could become a hospital visitor volunteer. Schools and hospitals often have easy wheelchair access which could be a bonus. Good luck
VoluntaryWorker - 2-May-12 @ 3:01 PM
I would like to volunteer but I have a disability and use a wheelchair and at the moment not very confident.I am also looking for avolunteer to accompany me to the paralympics and hopefully olympics and hopefully again some of the other events that have been scheduled.Any advice would be gratefully received.Thankyou
scatef - 30-Apr-12 @ 2:35 PM
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice...
Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Jan
    Re: Working for Citizen's Advice
    I am a 60 yr old with many life skills. I have worked for the nhs all of my working life unfortunately due to health issues I am…
    19 November 2019
  • Kazza
    Re: Becoming a Samaritan
    Hi my name is Karen I'm a 59 year old woman I am interested in your volunteer role as a Samaritan or any role that I can help people Please…
    18 November 2019
  • Reeny
    Re: Volunteering to Help Premature Babies
    Does anyone know how I can volunteer to work with babies.
    17 November 2019
  • Kira
    Re: Volunteer as a Dog Walker
    Hey I’m 14 years old and starting my bronze DofE award in January 2020. I have put down dog walking as my volunteer work so I would…
    15 November 2019
  • Ljenk
    Re: Working with the Homeless
    I am based in wakefield, my daughter who is 9 and i are wanting to help any lpcal homless shelters or soup kitchens any advice would…
    14 November 2019
  • Nads
    Re: Volunteering for a Telephone Helpline
    I want to give back to the community and there is no better way then this. I would love to help with supporting anyone…
    13 November 2019
  • Kru
    Re: Volunteering With Meals on Wheels
    I would like to volunteer for the Meals on Wheels service within the Swindon area. I would discuss the number of days I…
    11 November 2019
  • Sultana
    Re: Working with Children or Adults with Special Needs
    Hi, my name is sayda... I'm interesting for work with special needs children because I need experience.
    8 November 2019
  • Atlantis
    Re: Volunteer With Your Local Fire Service
    Is they any cadets to do with firefighting for 27 year olds or volunteering on hull
    4 November 2019
  • Joe
    Re: Working With Animals
    I am currently in year 10, starting my Duke of Edinburgh Silver award and would like to know if you have any kitten socialisation volunteer…
    3 November 2019