The Voluntary Sector
The purpose of this essay is to critically analyse the notion of the ‘Big Society’. Through discussing influences on the operations of voluntary organisations in contemporary society and analysing the interface between the voluntary sector and policy makers the aim is to ascertain whether its implementation as a piece of social policy is realistic. On May 6th 2010 the general election took place but no party achieved the 362 seats required for an overall majority. David Cameron, the conservative Party leader won the largest number of votes but still fell short by 20 seats, this then resulted in a hung parliament. After discussions, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats came together to form the coalition government. The term “third sector” was defined by The Cabinet Office of the British government up until 2010 as “the place between State and private sector”. The Conservative/Liberal Democratic coalition government retitled the department the Office for Civil Society. The term Civil Society may be more recognisable as the term ‘Big Society’, which was introduced as a central motive for the Conservative Party election manifesto in 2010 and again is highlighted as a central policy initiative for the coalition government. David Cameron states in his and the deputy Prime Minister’s speech at the Big Society launch that ‘it’s going to be the voluntary sector, social enterprises (no longer to be called ‘the third sector’, from now on: that phrase is to be abolished). The office of the voluntary sector and social enterprise sector will be a bigger part of government than ever.’ Jeremy Kendall (2003) describes the voluntary sector as ‘increasingly central to public policy debates, and is one of the fastest growing segments of the economy in the UK... The expectation is that we should turn to this sector to address a raft of pressing societal problems, from social exclusion to environmental degradation.’ Unlike today, during the Middle Ages the main influence on society was the Catholic Church who possessed great political power. Orders of nuns, monks and knights worked to deliver services for the poor and to people in need. One of these orders was the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. The Order’s hospital, which was founded in 1099, treated the sick and injured without distinction of race, colour or creed. In 1140 the Order was introduced into England but was disbanded by Henry V111 in the reformation. In 1888 the Order was revived as the Order of St. John, their main aim being to provide First Aid and transport for the sick and injured, more commonly known today as the St. John’s Ambulance.
Philanthropy developed at the beginning of the nineteenth century, this is when an individual donates their time or money and/or their reputation to charitable causes. Wealthy industrialists and political individuals such as the earl of Shaftsbury (1801-1885) and Charles Booth (1840-1916) strived to help the poor. Sir Titus Salt (1803-1876) Owned woollen mills in West Yorkshire, he commissioned architects to design a mill and village outside the city where the air was cleaner which was to become Saltaire. He supplied houses for his workers and each house had piped water and its own outside toilet. It took over 20 years to build Saltaire; it had its own shops, hospital, school, library, park and church. There were alms houses for the poor and elderly, allotments public baths and wash houses. By the end of the nineteenth century philanthropy was in steep decline and it was seen that the way to solve problems was ‘statism’ not ‘voluntarism’. New Labour came into power in 1997 and wanted to review the role of the voluntary sector. They understood the voluntary sector as having an important role in community renewal and sought for an improved relationship between the voluntary sector and the government. Tony Blair, the then Prime Minister, talked about the government’s mission to...
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