This Mid-Term Review document provides an update on the progress we are making in implementing our Programme for Government. For a definitive account, this document should be considered alongside the quarterly reports that are published on progress against the commitments in departmental business plans.
The Big Society and Social Action
This Government believes that the good society is one that is built from the bottom up, not the top down, and that the process of helping to build it – of putting something back in to society as well as taking something out – matters as much as the practical result. It is not the grand plans of politicians and bureaucrats that will ultimately deliver social progress and build social capital, but the ingenuity, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of the British people – the Big Society. That is why we have offered support to all those who want to improve their communities and their local services.
We have created Big Society Capital, a social investment bank capitalised with money from dormant bank accounts and investment from the four leading UK high street banks, to provide finance for neighbourhood groups, charities, social enterprises and others.
We have introduced the National Citizen Service. More than 8,400 young people took part in our first pilot in 2011 and pilots for 2012 have just completed. We will commission 90,000 places for 2014.
We have encouraged charitable giving and philanthropy through a range of measures including match funding, and innovative schemes such as ‘ATM Giving’, now available at 12,000 ATMs, which allows people to donate to charity when they withdraw money, and through delivering the Small Charitable Donations Act which will allow charities to claim a Gift Aid style payment on small cash donations for the first time.
We have supported the establishment of 13 social impact bonds which help to finance early intervention.
We have set up the Social Action Fund to support established programmes that provide opportunities for people to get involved in social action and volunteering.
We will train 500 senior community organisers and recruit 4,500 volunteer community organisers in the most deprived communities by 2015 through our Community Organisers programme.
We will further encourage charitable giving by distributing the remaining £7.5 million of the £10 million Innovation in Giving Fund; expanding the ‘ATM Giving’ scheme; providing more match funding to new charities and causes; and working to improve and expand Payroll Giving to enable more regular donations from the workplace, with a consultation to be published shortly.
We will improve the administration of Gift Aid through the introduction of online filing for claims, expected to be available from April 2013.
We will continue to support public sector workers who want to establish mutuals, and provide service commissioners with the information they need to support the creation of mutuals and co-operatives. We will continue to develop ‘Right to Provide’ policies that will enable mutual and co-operative organisations to deliver a wider range of public services.
Sir Stephen Bubb, head of the chief executives body Acevo, has written to the Prime Minister to warn him that the big society is “effectively dead”.
After acknowledging the achievements of having set up Big Society Capital, as mentioned in the mid-term review, and the set up of Gift Aid and reforms to inheritance tax, he said.
The big society is a strong concept, even if Whitehall has struggled to communicate it or implement it consistently – but now the phrase is effectively dead.
The potential for charities to transform public services remains largely untapped, with reforms in too many areas either glacially slow (as in the reform of social care funding or offender rehabilitation), or with the reality divorced from the rhetoric (as with the Work Programme, where too many charities are now struggling or withdrawing from what was first described as a ‘massive boost for the big society’).
It is hard for those charity leaders to escape the feeling that when it comes to promoting the potential of charities in this country, a government once sincerely full of ambition, vision and urgency has lost its way, and now lacks a clear narrative on the role of charities in the economy and society.
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