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to ask if you think 'Big Society' (or whatever the phrase is) is in fact a bad thing

(19 Posts)
manicinsomniac Mon 11-Jul-16 11:21:30

...and we shouldn't be facilitating its existence?

The church I go to runs:
*debt counselling and budgeting courses
* a clothing store where people can make an appointment to come and take what they need.
* a furniture store that is on a much smaller scale but emails round and tries to find people what they need from donations
* a winter months homeless shelter where people come and sleep in the church
* a summer holiday lunch scheme where children who receive free school meals can come and eat lunch in the church

It's also active in food bank collections/volunteering and a food van that visits areas where people are sleeping rough to give them soup/sandwich type meals.

During term time I work 70+ hours a week and I'm a single mum so I don't get involved with any of this and I do feel really guilty about it. Now it's the holidays for me and I was saying to a friend that I was looking forward to helping with some of these, especially the school lunch one.

The response I got was 'you shouldn't do that'. I think I must have subconsciously heard it as 'you shouldn't have to do that' because I said something about not minding, having lots of time available, feeling like it was something all members of the church should do at some point. But then she explained that she meant that churches and volunteer organisations should not be offering these things at all because the responsibility used to be the government's, they used to provide for those who had no other option, wages used to be sufficient to live on and now these kinds of initiatives are allowing the government to continue with cuts and austerity and get away with it.

It made me think. I don't think she's right but it is a point, isn't it? What do you think? Was she BU? Or are these kinds of projects a hinderance rather than a help?

SilverDragonfly1 Mon 11-Jul-16 13:00:07

She is completely right morally, but of course not doing these things will not immediately trigger the government's sense of responsibility! So people would suffer greatly in the short to medium term.

It's Catch 22! The schemes should not need to exist, but now they do the impact of ending them would be very negative indeed.

Leviticus Mon 11-Jul-16 13:07:23

I think the current government have done an appalling job of looking after society's most vulnerable.

But...

I also believe it's a good thing for us to have opportunities to give and care for others. It pushes us to be thankful for what we have and not be selfish.

I think 'the poor' are my responsibility as well as the government's.

Iamnotloobrushphobic Mon 11-Jul-16 13:13:38

It's great that we have volunteers willing to help those less fortunate than themselves. However, the govt is getting away with not providing the services that it should. People should be getting paid to do many of the jobs now carried out by 'the big society'. What has happened to the employment status of those who previously carried out these roles?

MolesBreathless Mon 11-Jul-16 13:19:01

I'm with your friend - the State plays far too involved a role in people's lives as it is.

Looking after vulnerable members of society should, primarily, be the responsibility of that individual, their family and their community.

In the event that these fail for whatever reason, then there should be a safety net provided by the State as a last resort.

SilverDragonfly1 Mon 11-Jul-16 13:25:09

Can't really agree with that mole. Families and communities can't give people jobs with decent pay or provide medical or therapeutic services needed. Most charities would not need to exist if these things, which are unarguably the State's responsibility, were available.

MolesBreathless Mon 11-Jul-16 13:32:42

I think what people forget is that the State is nothing more than an amalgamation of all of us. It has no money of its own, and no power other than that which is vested in it by us as a society.

Things that are the responsibility of the state should really be the responsibility of all of us as individuals. If a problem has reached the point where the state needs to intervene, then we should all take a look in the mirror and ask ourselves how we have allowed this to happen.

Iamnotloobrushphobic Mon 11-Jul-16 13:33:48

I don't agree mole. Family and friends often have their own lives and jobs to get on with and simply don't have the time to provide proper adequate care for relatives / friends with a high level of needs. People who are vulnerable need to have proper consistent care provided by people who have the time, skills and motivation to meet their needs. We live in a society where in many families both adults need to work and if they have young children then they need to fit that in with their lives, they have no time left to provide decent care for elderly, frail or vulnerable relatives. The state should be responsible for looking after vulnerable members of society. Obviously if family can provide care and want to do so then that is fantastic but it shouldnt be the default automatically.

MolesBreathless Mon 11-Jul-16 13:38:54

Providing hands on care is one option, but I was more thinking along the lines of family and communities providing funding for the individual needing the care.

I do understand that society isn't geared up along these lines, and moving from the centralised structure that we have today towards a more community based approach will be painful, but I do think it is for the best in the long term.

I do have a great deal of sympathy for those caught up in the current system of spending cuts that inevitably create vacuums that take a while to be filled. I just believe the current system of reliance on the state to provide is quite infantilising and 'one size fits all, but does't really fit anybody' IYSWIM?

LaurieFairyCake Mon 11-Jul-16 13:39:03

It's fine to take a two pronged approach

I campaign politically for change/vote for change/ write to mp's etc but also help wherever I can as individuals can't wait

SilverDragonfly1 Mon 11-Jul-16 13:44:28

Family and communities do provide the funding, in the form of the taxes they pay. Unless a huge number of regulations around building, care and education are relaxed, there's nothing much else they can do. I can't build and run an elder care home or a cottage hospital and neither can anyone else without the full support of the government and the money we give them.

MoonriseKingdom Mon 11-Jul-16 13:48:23

What I worry about with 'the big society' is that it seems to be a way of doing things on the cheap and doing away with real jobs.

I take my DD fairly regularly to our local library. I am of course pleased such a thing still exists. It is entirely staffed by volunteers. They are reasonably nice but most of the time seem to not know what they are doing. In particular they struggle with the computer systems which makes everything take a very long time. The books in the children's section are badly organised - the books for very young children are supposed to be separate but are all mixed in and many are very tatty/ damaged. Being a librarian used to be a respected career and now barely exists in local libraries.

ApocalypseSlough Mon 11-Jul-16 13:51:30

^ that's a good example Moonrise
The government washing it's hands, relying on others to step in.
There's also a governance problem. It's cheaper and 'cleaner' for the government to give grants to organisations like kids company than to do the job themselves.

Birdsgottafly Mon 11-Jul-16 13:52:42

""because the responsibility used to be the government's, they used to provide for those who had no other option, wages used to be sufficient to live on""

During what time period? I was born in 1968. Had my first child under Thatcher's government (80's Liverpool).

All I saw around me was poverty, child poverty in particular. People went hungry, those that were doing slightly better, helped by feeding other people's children, sometimes, only jam butties, or chips, but they were fed.

WTC and CTC were introduced because we wasn't hitting the cut off for child/family poverty, that was issued by the EU. That was one reason, I realise it's complex.

We had to go back to 'big society' because Thatcher convinced a lot of people that there "was no society, only individuals". Communities were broken down etc.

Mole, you may not realise about the various Care Acts that exist, starting with the Community Care Act. The LA has a duty of Care, so that Care is consistent and Human Rights etc are respected. People shouldn't be at the mercy of those around them.

It will be interesting to see how things go, because if you offer these services, you can tap into funding, which came via the EU and EU directives. Likewise so could Charities, that funding will either cease to exsist, or have to come from the Government.

Yet, the Tories don't recognise Carers as doing an essential job, or having an important role in Society.

How do we fit everything in?

Birdsgottafly Mon 11-Jul-16 13:56:02

"" I can't build and run an elder care home or a cottage hospital and neither can anyone else""

You can't even keep hold of a spare bedroom, to take granny, or a grandchild in, if you're on benefits.

That was the point of mixed communities. There used to be small blocks of single person flats, all over my city, these were demolished and now those having to move into flats, have had to move out of their area.

manicinsomniac Mon 11-Jul-16 14:31:16

Mole I think what you're saying is the opposite of what my friend was saying. She thinks communities doing these things lets the government off the hook whereas you think it's our job anyway.

I don't know, I can see both sides. But the most important thing is to try and get people what they need and the government isn't going to do that right now

VestalVirgin Mon 11-Jul-16 15:15:17

I think it is perfectly morally acceptable for you to help with those things.

What I cannot stand are people who present themselves as oh so altruistic because they participate in charity activities, and then vote in a way that guarantees them a steady supply of poor people to hand out alms to.

As long as you use your vote to try and force government to do its job, I see nothing wrong with trying to soften the effects of bad politics on poor people.
You might be reducing the potential for a revolution by doing so, but I am not a big fan of revolutions anyway. Too messy, too much blood. Political change by democratic vote is preferable.

Perhaps consider splitting your time between doing charity work and demonstrating against the politics that make your charity work necessary?

Iamnotloobrushphobic Mon 11-Jul-16 16:24:59

Providing hands on care is one option, but I was more thinking along the lines of family and communities providing funding for the individual needing the care.

Many families are struggling to provide for themselves and care packages are very expensive. Where do you think they will find the extra money? As an example: disabled person I know goes to specialist respite care for 30 nights per year and it costs £800 per night, most families would not be able to come anywhere close to funding that. They do provide care the other 335 nights though saving the govt a fortune on the cost of full time residential care.

Samcro Mon 11-Jul-16 16:49:33

i think we are going back to how was it the old days. we now have the situation where people are relying on things like food banks.
when social care is in free fall due to lack of funding.
the idea of going back to families and communities providing care for the vulnerable is scarey
carers get very little support and very very little money(carers allowance is a joke)
the money could be found for things like social care, but the government instead prefer to spend the money on vote winners.

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