Revealed: Big Society exists – but only one in ten of us are in it

Study identifies ‘civil core’ responsible for most of the work for good causes

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Indy Politics

David Cameron’s ambition to nurture a Big Society looks as distant as ever, judging by a new report.

The survey for the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has revealed that only nine per cent of the population – a group it has dubbed Britain’s “civic core” – is responsible for donating two-thirds of the time and money given to good causes, while one in four people gives either nothing or very little.

The concept of the Big Society, in which all parts of the community work together for the mutual good, was at the heart of the Conservative election manifesto.

But it has been quietly sidelined after critics accused it of being a cover for cuts to public services. One senior Tory source told The Independent yesterday: “I doubt you’ll be hearing about the Big Society at the next election.”

The ComRes survey confirmed that the lion’s share of volunteering in Britain is still undertaken by a small group of the population.

It also established that women are more likely to be generous than men and retired people are more prepared to give their money and time than younger age groups.

The CAF said in its report: “It is largely the generosity of this civic core, in providing charitable donations and volunteering their time, that powers charities.”

John Low, the organisation’s chief executive, said: “Britain is one of the most charitable countries in the world, yet this research shows a stark divide in society – between those who do the most for good causes and those who do little, if anything at all.

“It is a worrying fact that nearly one in four people do very little if anything to support charities which are at the forefront of civil society.

“Charities, Government and businesses can all encourage people to discover how rewarding it is to support the causes we all care about.”

Members of the “civic core” are also the most passionate about the public’s duty to vote, the survey found. More than 90 per cent of them said it was important to take part in elections, compared with fewer than three-quarters of the “zero-givers”.

A similar proportion told ComRes they said “hello” to passers-by in the street, against 64 per cent of the “zero-givers”.

In numbers

66% The proportion of the time and money given to good causes by nine per cent of the population (“civic core”) 

90% The proportion of the “civil core” who think it is a duty to vote

25% The proportion of people who give little or nothing