Tuesday, 29 June 2010


Here's a fascinating example of how the coalition's much touted 'big society' could look. It is a membership scheme in Southwark which encourages volunteering and allows older people to link up with neighbours and get help with a whole range of tasks. The scheme is predicted to break even in its third year, which is not something you can say of many public services.

A key aspect of this model is that it encourages participation by anyone interested and it removes the need for people with needs to jump through hoops to qualify for help, thus perhaps encouraging them to exaggerate any conditions which cause them to need care or support. The article also quotes Sir William Beveridge's concerns that the welfare state would stifle volunteering and innovation.

Perhaps the crucial point of the article is its acknowledgement that the approach of the Labour government was almost entirely top-down. People are children to be handed sweets produced in the state sweet factory and no alternatives are needed. I wonder what the Labour leadership candidates would say to that. No doubt much but in the end nothing. Labour - and British politics - desperately need a leader of imagination but the current candidates are so singularly lacking that it would be hard to imagine five less worthy people.

Anyway, I have mangled the article and I would recommend you read it if you are interested in society, cuts or the welfare state. This is the first pointer I have seen to a slightly more optimistic reading of where we currently are. We don't have to be passive victims in this supposed crisis, we can make things happen.

Whoops, apologies for the 'Obama-esque' call to arms there. I will ensure I am more English in my posts in future (i.e. not linking them up, not finishing them, not showing any flair, underachieving generally - oh, how it still hurts...).

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