Monday, 09 December 2013 12:43

Big Society 'failing local people'

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Big Society 'failing local people'

MILLIONS of people are being left behind by the government's Big Society project, claims a report which calls for a "radical review" of the initiative.

The Big Society Audit 2013, released by think tank Civil Exchange, says charities are being shut out from the project, which aims to put more power in the hands of local communities.

Society's most vulnerable people are bearing the brunt of government cuts, suggests the report.

People with disabilities – 8% of the population – will bear 29% of the cuts, with a similar picture for people living in poverty, it says.

Only 1 in 5 people in the most deprived areas now feel they can trust others, says the audit, compared to nearly three quarters in the most affluent parts of Britain.

Funding for charities serving disadvantaged groups has been the most affected since the Coalition came to power, with many now 'running on empty' and further cuts due to fall.

The think tank also warns that many public services now lie in the hands of what it describes as a virtual monopoly of unaccountable "mega-corporations"

Just four multinationals – Atos, Capita, G4S and Serco – now control £4 billion of government public service contracts, it says.

The audit also reports a 'race to the bottom' on contracts that is leading, for example, to 15-minute home care visits for elderly and disabled people.

On a positive note, the audit says there has been significant growth in communities taking control of local amenities and the level of volunteering has also risen.

There are over 100 pubs listed as community assets, 425 community libraries open or due to open and 303 community shops.

Civil Exchange director Caroline Slocock, said: "Millions of people, especially those who might need it most, are being excluded from the Big Society."

Cuts were hitting vulnerable people hardest and trust in others – the "social glue that holds the Big Society together" – was failing 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.

"It's time for politicians to match actions to words.

"A good start would be to value the not-for-profit experts who have the know how to help them tackle complex and costly social problems and the capacity to deliver public services on a human scale."

The government said ministers were determined to ensure "as much money as possible" reached the front line and were investing around £470m to support charities and voluntary groups.

A government spokesman said: "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 the charities in reducing unemployment and rehabilitation."

The full report can be downloaded here.

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