A fair society for all?

A fair society for all?

Last month the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Office for Civil Society and Tracey Crouch MP outlined the Government’s vision to empower and invest in society by announcing the first Civil Society Strategy in 15 years.

Civil society refers to organisations and individuals working to create social value, enriching lives and building a fairer society for all.

The Government says that this new strategy proposes significant reforms across the public and private sectors to build a fairer society and will allow people, communities and charitable organisations to get more involved with the provision of public services, including social care and libraries.

Communities at the centre

Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sport and Civil Society, unveiled the new vision that places communities at the centre of decision-making and focuses on strengthening five key foundations of social value: people, places and the public, private and social sectors. The work follows the Government’s Industrial Strategy published last year and looks to complement plans to grow Britain’s economy and boost productivity by building a more connected society, where everyone can play their part in a fairer, healthier and more prosperous country.

The Government sees this as a way to create more opportunities for people to actively take part in community decisions.

The Civil Society Strategy states that; “Government alone cannot solve the complex challenges facing society, such as loneliness, rough sleeping, healthy ageing or online safety. Government can help to bring together the resources, policies and people who, between them, can do so,”

Included are plans to:

  • Use £20 million from inactive charitable trusts (those which spend less than 30% of their annual income) to support community organisations over the next two years.
  • Establish an independent organisation that will distribute £90 million from dormant bank accounts to get disadvantaged young people into employment.
  • Create an independent organisation to use £55 million from dormant bank accounts to tackle financial exclusion and the problem of access to affordable credit.
  • Support charities to make their voices heard on issues that matter to them and ensuring that charitable trustees reflect the diversity of the society they serve.
  • Use digital technology for good to improve the work charities can provide to support healthy ageing, bolster online safety and better connect people in an effort to tackle loneliness.
  • Launch an ‘Innovation in Democracy’ pilot scheme in six regions across the country to trial creative ways for people to take a more direct role in decisions that affect their local area.
  • Use digital technology positively to improve the work charities can provide to support healthy ageing, bolster online safety and better connect people in an effort to tackle loneliness.

Societal challenges

In the forward to the strategy document, the culture secretary, Jeremy Wright, and the civil society minister, Tracey Crouch, state: “Big societal challenges, including the future of social care, community integration, and housing, are being tackled through solutions that bring together public services, businesses, and communities. New providers are taking responsibility for youth services, domestic abuse services, addiction services, and offender rehabilitation services. New models are developing for funding and running libraries as well as children’s services.”

Tracey Crouch, Minister for Sport and Civil Society, added: ‘Civil society is the bedrock of our communities. It is made up of the volunteers, youth workers, charities and innovative businesses that work to improve lives and make areas better for all. Our strategy builds on this spirit of common good to help create a country that works for everyone. I want people, organisations and businesses to feel inspired to get involved and make a difference’.

Have we heard this before?

Sound familiar? Whilst many see the Civil Society Strategy as a positive move by the Government, offering huge potential to improve services and communities for all, to some it looks much like a revisiting of the Big Society campaign launched by David Cameron in 2010, which was disparaged by many. Whilst the focus on close cross-government working on policy is widely welcomed, some fear it lacks a long-term commitment.

We will have to wait and see how this strategy will manifest itself and no doubt we will hear more details over the coming months.

Watch this space.