Thomas Bridge 09 December 2013

‘Faltering’ Big Society leaving disadvantaged behind, report claims

Big society is missing disadvantaged communities and failing to stem the dominance of ‘mega-corporations’ in public service ownership, a report claims.

Government bias towards the private sector is ‘killing’ the Big Society as charities serving disadvantaged groups are shut out from support and bear the brunt of funding cuts, according to think tank Civil Exchange.

While there has been significant growth in community control of local amenities, the Big Society Audit 2013 claims a ‘virtual monopoly’ of ‘unaccountable mega-corporations’ now control £4bn of government public service contracts. This is despite a Big Society commitment to diversify and make services more accountable.

A radical review of Big Society thinking is required, with disabled people – 8% of the population – bearing 29% of government cuts and half a million people now being dependent on food aid.

Civil Exchange found only one in five people in the most deprived areas feel they can trust others, in comparison to almost three quarters in the most affluent parts of Britain.

Director of Civil Exchange and principal author of the report, Caroline Slocock, said: ‘Millions of people, especially those who might need it most, are being excluded from the Big Society, as cuts hits them hardest and trust in others – the social glue that holds the Big Society together – fails to bind disadvantaged communities.

‘It is government’s bias towards the private sector that is killing the idea of the Big Society, while the charities to which people in need turn are left out in the cold.’

Among a range of recommendations, the think tank said volunteers should be incorporated more heavily into services while Big Society thinking is also turned to businesses operating in the public sector.

Responding to the report, a government spokesperson said: ‘We are determined to ensure as much money as possible goes to the front line and are investing around £470m over the Spending Review period to directly support charities and voluntary groups.

‘We are at the start of ambitious reforms to open up more public sector opportunities to charities with new legislation, financial solutions, and programmes to involve charities in reducing unemployment and rehabilitation.’

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