The Big Society is set to bring benefits to many communities across the country, but others will lose out. The losers are in the areas with limited community wealth such as volunteering.
The New Local Government Network has identified areas that will be high or low beneficiaries from the Government’s Big Society agenda. The report, ‘Realising Community Wealth’ describes the absence of a strong link between a community’s economic wealth and its ‘Big Society’ resources. Research showed that some economically deprived areas are comparatively rich in community wealth. A poll of local authorities suggested that even in areas facing the steepest budget reductions, ingredients of the Big Society are often strong.
The problem arises when an area is economically deprived and low in community wealth. The maps produced by the Network show that Barking & Dagenham and Harlow councils are least well placed to benefit from the Big Society, with the South West and North of England regions faring strongest.
The report argues that communities faced with ‘double deprivation’ – those lacking both financial wealth and community resources such as volunteering – should be targeted for extra help to cope with the withdrawal of traditional state services.
The report recommends a much clearer role for local government in helping the Big Society grow from within localities. The authors also suggest that Whitehall should do more to understand the social complexities of communities and use that knowledge to better inform policy formation and resource allocation.
In a boost to the Government’s Big Society agenda, new polling by Ipsos Mori shows that there is an untapped well of people willing to get more involved in community work through staffing libraries, sharing skills or mentoring children.