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The Big Society. A faith response. What is ‘The Big Society’* The giving of power and information to Citizens, communities, and local government.enabling them to come together To solve the problems they face And build the Britain they want. How is this to be achieved?

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the big society

The Big Society

A faith response.


What is ‘The Big Society’*

The giving of power and information to

Citizens, communities, and local government.enabling them to come together

To solve the problems they face

And build the Britain they want.

How is this to be achieved?

By allowing the above groups to take responsibility

To achieve fairness and opportunity for all

* David Cameron ‘Hugo Young Memorial Lecture’

what does this involve
What does this involve?

Using the skills and expertise of people across the country

Radically reforming the planning system to determine the shape of places in which their inhabitants live.

New powers to prevent closure of local facilities and services

Allow communities to bid to take over local state-run services

Training a new generation of community organisers.


The ProcessEncouraging volunteers to be involved in social actionLaunching a national ‘Big Society Day’Encouraging charitable giving and philanthropyIntroducing National Citizen Service for 16 year oldsTransferring power from central to local governmentSupport co-ops, mutuals, charities and social; enterprisesto run public servicesGiving public sector workers a new right to form employee-owned cooperativesto take over the services they deliver


How will this be funded?

  • By using dormant Bank Accounts to establish a
  • ‘Big Society Bank’
  • This will provide funding for
  • Neighbourhood groups, charities, social enterprises and other non-governmental bodies.
  • 2 other issues
  • A new right to obtain government data
  • 2. Police will be obliged to publish local crime data statistics every month

The Faith Response *

We have come to this world to earn for the life hereafter.

Allah, the Almighty has created us for His worship

and everything in the Universe for ourselves

Everything belongs to us and we to Allah the Almighty.

This world is illusory, perishable and

we are guests here only for a few days.

We have not to stay here for ever, Nor have we to come back.

We will have to leave our worldly wealth behind.

We have nothing except our good deeds to take with us

To the world hereafter”

* Barkat Ali ‘ Words of Wisdom’


The Human Face *

Faith communities make a huge investment, human, financial and physical to society In Education, health, caring, etc.

They are a significant source of practical good for society

They can motivate and mobilise energies of people to respond creatively and generously to a wide range of personal and social needs

The human face is the motivating factor in our response to need.

Humanity or Inhumanity

Are the chosen responses to situations of need.

* Excerpts in this paper are from a Critique by Fr. James Hanvey SJ


The God Imperative

Was given at Sinai “To love your God..To love your yourself.

The story of the ‘Good Samaritan’

The Early Christian Communities living together and sharing and providing for those in need

The Church in the Industrial Revolution

The Church in the 1920’s depression

The Church in post War Britain

The Church in today’s economic times

The Church in the World – Oxfam - Christian Aid - CAFOD


The Coalition Government ‘s Big Society agenda


To enhance the work of agencies and charities recognising they may be more effective than state provision.

This seems at first sight positive and encouraging

But when coupled with a policy of shrinking the state and cutting public finances,

it is illusory and ideological to think

that when the state shrinks, non political organisations

whose resources are even more finite that the state’s

will somehow fill the gap.


What is needed is, not the state withdrawal,

but that new ways are found for charitable and voluntary organisations to develop.

Without this the provision for the vulnerable will decrease.

Abandoned, those who need structures,

will become a permanent under-class

further de-stabilising society

Unless it has a vision which is

more substantial than sound-bites

the effect of the ‘Big Society’ policies

will prove to be a ploy for spending cuts and

the return of monetarism mark II


Questions arising out of the ‘Big Society’

  • What is the provenance of the ‘Big Society’?
  • Is it the Conservative part of the coalition seizing the economic crisis as an opportunity to push through the neo-liberal agenda of the last Conservative administration?
  • We should not forget the enormous social division this entailed
  • – the economic manifestation of Dawkins’ selfish gene,
  • the banking collapse and the global system of
  • capital combined with ‘market forces’.
  • If the ‘Big Society’ is to mean anything
  • it must contain a moral vision
  • as well as a social and economic one


A healthy society will have a flourishing civil society which is the realm of creative social freedom for the common good. This commitment and the corresponding capacity to realise it is essential for a functioning democracy

Subsidiarity is not privatisation.

It is not a ‘get-out- of jail-free’ card, for ‘Big Government’

Although wishing to devolve responsibility to local communities. It does not absolve the Government from ‘ assisting’ and recognising the lower authority’s competence which is already there.

Subsidiarity also entails participation in the political process and in all those means for creating and sustaining the multiple goods of society which enable human flourishing.


Subsidiarity also demands

we look at all factors and causes of social exclusion,

and to address the social and economic issues

affecting justice for the most vulnerable.

If the state is genuinely committed to the support and development of a thriving, creative, civic realm then it cannot simply devolve its responsibilities and activities because it finds it economically or politically convenient to do so.

It is clear that faith communities have a powerful, creative presence in the civic sphere. They are the institutions which have demonstrably remained faithful to the protection, growth and flourishing of civil society which is the realm of freedom and human flourishing



No society can thrive unless it is committed to the principle of solidarity – ‘we’, rather than ‘me’

In a society which encourages individualism it can begin to forget how dependent we are on each other.

Unfettered this pursuit of personal gain can lead to great injustice and social division

Solidarity leads us to address those issues which generate and sustain injustice and unjust inequalities.

It is a reality that when we abandon the ‘exchange of goods, for a ‘mutual sharing’ of goods. This is good in itself.


Solidarity makes us vigilant to those structures and situations which leave people disabled, alienated and marginalised.

It does not allow us the luxury of blame because when we see some excluded from the goods of society, none of us can truly enjoy them.

This leads us to the notion of “Gratuity” from the Latin ‘Gratis’-free which is a strange concept in a world dominated by capitalism. Yes it does mean ‘getting something for nothing’ because this underlines what it means to be good. This in turn evokes Gratitude

These two concepts are built into the very fabric of our creation and world. We cannot truly have a truly human existence without them.. There can be no ‘Big / Good Society’ without them as foundation stones.



1.The Faith community has centuries of experience and prophetic involvement in creating, and sustaining society.

2. It needs to keep its independence and not be swallowed up by other agencies, because its mission will constantly mean it is discovering new needs that have to be addressed.

3. The ‘Big Society’ can be a threatening concept in a society composed of small vibrant charities answering thousands of needs. The advent of ‘Community Trained Leaders’ can likewise create a divison between the “Talkers” and the Do-ers”

4. Government and the Voluntary sector must work in tandem, each respecting the responsibilities of the other.

5. The government cannot see this as a cheap option for the provision of care, and has said little about the “Big Society Bank’ whatever that may be.


What it could do is to free registered charities from VAT.

Allowing only ‘not for profit’ organisations to tender for provision of care services, etc.

Open up resources for charities to draw on: eg. technical and professional advice

End the barrier between Faith Communities applications for Government sponsored grant aid.

6. The Faith community must not lose sight of its primary purpose outlined at the beginning of this section.It is not there to provide an alternative Health or Social Care service

Offering healing and care are integral to achieving its purpose as a demonstration of the Gospel imperative to Love God and to love your neighbour as yourself, so that we may take ‘our good deeds with us’ “When I was hungry you gave me to eat – when did it to the least of my brothers and sisters”


7 There is much to commend the ‘Big Society’ which the Faith Community should support because an equitable society is in all our interests.

This depends ultimately on people sharing the same values. Which are not evident in many areas of our Society – in Financial structures; in trading and protectionism; in profit making institutions of care, in situations where market forces dictate policy.

9. A person’s value cannot be measured only in economic terms. Each person, from the unborn to the terminally ill, is a gift to our society and we we need to show our gratitude – not exclusion

8. Finally I feel it will be the ‘little people’ – the vulnerable – who today, have little or no voice in their future, or the society in which they wish to live, who will be the arbitrators of the success or failure of this venture.


Further Comments & Analyses – Available on the Internet – Catholic Church & The Big Society

Building the Big Society – Government Cabinet Office

The Big Society & The Churches

Christian Today – Baroness Warsi

How should Churches respond to the Big Society – Archbishop of Canterbury & CEO The Childrens Society Catholics & The Big Society – A dialogue of The Deaf? – Daily Telegraph blog

The Big Society & Islam

Faislam Islam on Economics – Big Society or Bijou Society? The Objective Thinker - Charity to one’s fellow man is one of the five fundamental principles of Islam

The Big Society & Sikhism

In Wagheguru we trust – Guru Manyo Granth Sikh Centre

The British Sikh Consultative Forum

The Big Society & Buddhism –The Buddhist network of Buddhist Organisations