Britons are giving more time and more money, but how successful is the Big Society?

Few believe in it, but the communities minister is optimistic

Four years ago, at the dawn of the coalition, the Big Society was one of the policies David Cameron pledged would define his premiership. Now a new survey of those working for Britain's charities has found that only one in 10 believes it to be a success.

A third of respondents disagreed and a third strongly disagreed that its aims were being realised. Only 1 per cent felt strongly that Cameron's vision was being realised, with another 8 per cent merely agreeing.

It is a damning judgement on a flagship policy; even more so since two years ago nearly one in three respondents answered that the Big Society was offering new opportunities to help volunteering flourish and give charities a bigger role.

Only 4 per cent now consider the Conservative Party has the best policies for the voluntary sector, according to the poll by the consultancy nfpSynergy and Third Sector magazine. The Liberal Democrats fared little better with 5 per cent.

As minister for civic society, Nick Hurd is responsible for making the Big Society work. Less than 5 per cent of those surveyed believed he had succeeded in achieving the three benchmarks he had set: getting more resources into the sector, making it easier to work with the state, and making it easier to run a charity.

The Tory MP acknowledges that the programme has not met many people's expectations but refused to accept such a damning verdict. "There have been plenty of bricks thrown at the Big Society," he said. "But it was about encouraging more people to get involved in their communities and about encouraging people to work together at a local level more effectively and that is happening. The most obvious demonstration of that is the rise in volunteering which has risen sharply."

His department's figures show that 72 per cent of people volunteered last year, compared with 66 per cent in 2009-10. This included 80,000 young people in its National Citizen Service, which was established to encourage 16- and 17-year-olds to help out in their communities, and 3,000 community organisers recruited and trained by the Government to campaign in their local areas.

In addition, he cites the legislative changes that have enabled people to buy important community centres, and the spread of social enterprises across the country. There are now at least 180,000 of these, contributing £55bn to the economy and employing two million people.

"What [our polices] have done is bring people together, give them a sense of power to take action," Hurd said. "The first steps are quite small: reinstating a bus or whatever it is. Then the power grows.

"We have a programme for the 600 most deprived wards in the country, for example. We have simply said to residents in those areas that we'd like you to work together to establish what your area needs. What we've found, in these wards, is that for every £1 spent, £4 of community value has been done – and that is volunteering time."

The greatest support from those surveyed was for the introduction of Gift Aid for one-off donations. The National Citizen Service and the £80m Community First initiative, which included a programme targeting deprived wards, were thought by more to be a success than a failure.

Mr Hurd said: "We've faced a barrage of cynicism around the Big Society from when we started to talk about it, and it was very difficult to extricate it from the story around austerity and build up trust because people thought it was a cover for cuts.

"The state can't do everything and shouldn't do everything because in too many areas it hasn't done a good enough job. Government is and remains absolutely massive. It's just we've got to work in different ways and that's what's it's about. We have got to be a bit more open and a bit more humble. The future is about collaboration and partnership."

The survey of 600 charity professionals also found that 42 per cent of respondents reported their organisation's overall income was increasing compared with 39 per cent who said it was falling. Two years ago, 30 per cent reported a rise while 48 per cent reported a fall.

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
News
peoplePamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
Arts and Entertainment
tvSpielberg involved in bringing his 2002 film to the small screen
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
News
people
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of IT (Not-for-Profit sector) - East Sussex

£45000 - £50000 per annum + 5 weeks holiday & benefits: Ashdown Group: Head of...

Nursery Nurse

£25 per day: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery nurse needed in th...

Supply Teaching jobs in Thetford

£21588 - £31566 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

KS1 teachers needed in Peterborough

£110 - £125 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education are ur...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape