Written evidence submitted by Altogether
Better (BS 69)|
1. A definition of what the "Big Society"
is or should be
Big Society should be an outcome for a country whose
communities are mobilised and engaged in all aspects of shaping
and delivering a cohesive, healthy and happy society!
2. The impact and consequences of reductions
in public expenditure on the Government's ambitions to deliver
its vision for the Big Society
Without effective support and infrastructure, the
policies designed to achieve "Big Society" will lead
to further inequalities which is detrimental to all (as explored
in publications and investigations such as the Spirit Level and
the Marmot Review). The results of the public expenditure cuts
at the coalface are significant loss of capacity, skills and experience
across both public and voluntary and community sector. Many smaller
voluntary and community supporting organisations are no longer
sustainable leading which will mean many communities will be less
able to respond to opportunities such as community rights. This
is compounded by the fact that networks which used to bring individuals
and organisations together to share resources and knowledge and
spark off ideas and solutions are disappearing.
3. The role of and capacity for the voluntary
and community sector to deliver local public services including
the appropriateness of using charitable income or volunteer labour
to subsidise costs
Co-production across the public and voluntary and
community sector in terms of shaping and delivering has huge potential
to more effectively and efficiently reach disadvantaged communities.
Barriers such as size, capacity, commissioning approaches and
speed of change all need to be addressed in order to unlock this
The likelihood is that the opportunity to deliver
public services will be secured by large private sector businesses
which will not achieve Big Society as we have defined it above.
There is a risk that communities will become further disengaged
and disenfranchised if the quality and equality aspects of public
services fall when delivered by large national companies without
social and ethical objectives.
Altogether Better Community Health Champions is a
proven co-production approach with huge potential for the public,
private and voluntary and community sector to shape and deliver
a more effective health system. See www.altogetherbetter.org.uk
for further information including evidence reviews and evaluation
summary undertaken by Leeds Metropolitan University.
4. Possible problems and challenges from increased
commissioning of public service provision from the voluntary and
community sector as envisaged by the Government
There needs to be supporting infrastructure to enable
the voluntary and community sector to work together to achieve
economies of scale and quality of service deliver around aspects
such as HR, business planning and innovation and development.
8. The place of local authorities in the transfer
of power from Whitehall to communities and the role democratically
elected local councillors should play
Local elected councillors and officers will need
training and development support to learn how to effectively plan
and commission the voluntary and community sector to deliver services.
9. Potential conflicts with other aspects
of public service delivery, such as individual focus of personalised
public services or universal provision and uniform standards of
public services (ie avoiding postcode lotteries)
There is an inherent conflict in Big Society policy
if it is trying to achieve uniformity in standards and empower
communities to shape and deliver services around their own needs,
aspirations and resources. This could become controversial and
dangerous in aspects of service deliver such as health and well-being
and education. Two key aspects need to be incorporated into this
policy - enhanced supporting infrastructure where communities
are less able to mobilise and manage public services and secondly
effectively responsive systems for commissioning of services.