The charities and voluntary organisations that the government says it wants to help to tackle social exclusion are the first to be cut when local authority budgets are squeezed
The fault of the “big society” agenda lay in the preference for “new initiatives” (Tory denial of austerity’s impact cannot continue, Editorial, 9 August). Had those in charge really been keen on small-scale, local efforts and voluntary groups, and had a look at what was working, it might have been more successful. You say that the new “civil society strategy” is imagining “new institutions to support local communities”. Are they not aware of the thousands of volunteers, up and down the country, who still maintain village halls, run Brownie packs, drive old people to appointments, organise youth groups, staff charity shops and raise money for local schools? None of this is glamorous but it is the big society at work.
Nearer to the coalface, Home-Start schemes train volunteers who visit and support families with young children. Over the 40 years Home-Start schemes have been working with vulnerable families, hundreds of thousands of pounds have been saved from social services budgets, and many thousands of families have been rescued from crisis and breakdown. But this sort of preventative work is the first to be cut when local authority budgets are squeezed, leading to the ridiculous situation where minimal – tiny – amounts are taken from highly cost-effective Home-Start schemes in order to keep the necessary funds for “crisis care”.