When the coalition government came into power in May 2010 they set out their vision for building The Big Society. The Big Society is about “helping people to come together to improve their own lives. It’s about putting more power in people’s hands – a massive transfer of power from Whitehall to local communities”. The Big Society vision focuses on three key areas:
- Community empowerment: giving local councils and neighbourhoods more power to take decisions and shape their area. The governments planning reforms lead by Communities & Local Government will replace the old top-down planning system with real power for neighbourhoods to decide the future of their area.
- Opening up public services: the governments public service reforms will enable charities, social enterprises, private companies and employee-owned co-operatives to compete to offer people high quality services. The welfare to work programme, lead by the Department for Work and Pensions will enable a wide range of organisations to help get Britain off welfare and into work.
- Social action: encouraging and enabling people to play a more active part in society. National Citizen Service, Community Organisers and Community First will encourage people to get involved in their communities. This social action also includes training 5,00 new community organizers.
Social initiatives set out through the Big Society policy:
- The Big Society Bank: The Government has committed to setting up a Big Society Bank to give social enterprises, charities and voluntary organisations access to greater resources. It will be set up using money from dormant bank accounts (those untouched for 15 years or more and available for spending in England) and will encourage investment in social change. The Big Society Bank will be a good source of funding to fund capital investments in Social Enterprise.
- National Citizen Service Pilots: The National Citizen Service (NCS) scheme will bring 16 year olds from different backgrounds together over the summer to take part in residential and home-based activities such as outdoor challenges and local community projects. The Cabinet Office will run pilots for the National Citizen Service in the summer of 2011 and 2012, involving 10,000 young people.
- Community Organisers: Over the lifetime of the current parliament, the Community Organisers programme will identify, train and support 5,000 people who want to make a difference to their community. The organisers will have strong understanding of local needs and will catalyse social action.
- Community First: Community First is a new fund that will encourage social action through new and existing neighbourhood groups. The fund will empower people in areas with high levels of deprivation and enable them to take more responsibility for their communities.
Good sources of information include:
Ten Big Questions about the Big Society publication from the New Economics Foudation