Cameron’s Big Society fiddling while volunteering burns

Matching his rhetoric to the reality - Left Foot Forward's Dominic Brown looks at how the real legacy of David Cameron's big society is shaping up.

David Cameron made another attempt to re-launch his Big Society project this morning. This is his fourth try according to those who have been counting.

The prime minister said:

“The problem today is that a culture of responsibility is too often absent in our country. And we need to restore it. Of course, this has to come from people. But government has a vital role to play – and we’re playing it.

To begin with, government has to send out the right signals. First and foremost that means making sure that reward is linked to effort…

“Already there are great examples of businesses backing volunteering.”

But there are few examples of this government backing volunteering. In fact the signal Cameron’s government has sent out to the voluntary sector is that it doesn’t support volunteering at all, even if they have praised your organisation specifically for your work in supporting the Big Society, let alone your incredible efforts in their own right.

Cameron even went on to say:

“And there’s something else we’re doing to make giving more of a social norm. And when I say we – I mean literally we – the Cabinet. We’re all giving at least a day a year volunteering. And we’re encouraging all our civil servants to do the same.”

Apart from the fact quite a few volunteer groups ask for a minimum commitment of a bit more than that, (as was pointed out on the big society twitter-feed) one might ask Cameron which volunteer group he will be supporting. Here’s a few that need his help because of… You guessed it, the cuts.

Just to take the most recent cases in this list of nearly 500 volunteer groups having suffered funding cuts, we have: the Leeds Bereavement Forum which has had half its funding cut making it “barely viable”, and the Speke Advice Service, who write:

“We have had a 10% cut from our local authority and they are now proposing a 17/6% tapered cut for next year and the following years, which in about four years will leave us with nothing.”

There is also the case of St Anthony’s Centre whose funding from the Skills Funding Agency was cut by more than 80% which means it will have to start “considering redundancies for the first time in our 30 year history”.

David Cameron says he wants the Big Society to be his legacy, currently that will amount to nothing more than the gutting and hobbling of the voluntary sector. With friends like these eh?

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