Monday 1 November 2010


So, I have to admit that although the idea of the Big Society is something which I, something which most people would agree was a good thing, I wondered how on Earth people would have the time to actually do anything much about it.

Where would the average “hard-working British Family” member manage to fit in some volunteering, what with presenteeism and flexibility to work late or take work home, kids activities, housework, shopping, gardening, the few hours at the second job to pay for the holiday, friends, family duties, DIY, children’s homework, school runs, sports and hobbies, evening classes to improve job prospects... and time for each other...

Life has always been busy, but today with two parents working, it is difficult to find so much time for volunteering... (and yet people do, particularly retired people, but happily many young people). In David Cameron’s youth it may have been different. Certainly within his class, at that time, it would have been unusual for the mother to work after marriage. Mrs Cameron, for example, was a Justice of the Peace, and sat on the bench. It’s likely that other cabinet members’ mothers may have done the same sort of thing: meals on wheels, WRVSS, charity shop work, sick visiting, prison visiting, etc.....

Now one of the flagship councils for Cameron’s big idea, the Big Society, where volunteers provide the services that the government used to, has come up with an idea to encourage people to take part. Financial recompense. Not in the form of actual cash which would obviously defeat the whole purpose, but in the form of tokens which can be redeemed at local supermarkets and restaurants which will presumably agree to foot some of the expense for free advertising. Windsor and Maidenhead authority is currently working out the details, but hopes to join forces with an loyalty card organisation like Nectar.

Additionally the government recently floated the idea that tokens should be paid for good works with elderly people, and they could be redeemed for care when the volunteer reached old age him/herself. The rather sinister inference being that, unless you do volunteer to help now, you needn’t expect any more than the barest essentials of care when you get old!

The “rewards” aspect of the Big Society was never mentioned in the early days, prior to or just after, the election.
It is, without doubt, going to be an uphill task to get this moving now , much more so than it would have been in the 1950s and 60s. Along with the undoubted truth that we live in a very much faster world, it seems that the money, money, money culture of the Thatcher era is going to be very hard to shift.


  1. A scary development in volunteering Tris. Makes me think is it worth it. Having a loyalty card would give the company involved personal details of mine and I've been well warned that all these databases are sold on to companies who then start phoning to sell their wares - even though I've done my best to stop them. I don't use any loyalty cards these days.

  2. Well, yes, a loyalty card, like a mobile phone, or a bank card can tell people who get hold of the information a great deal about you. And that's scary>

    But it's the fact that yet another of the prime ministers unresearched and badly thought out policies is suffering the same fate as his new nuclear sub that really worries me.

    I mean it is concerning that the wheels seem to fall off everything that comes from this government, what kind of people have we leading our country.

    Now they are no worse than the last lot, but they don't seem any better and that's frightening.

    The second thing is, if to make it work he is going to bring in something like, "you volunteer now and you get credits for later" the inference is that if you don't voluteer now you will have no, or minimal, care later.

    Fine. What happens to those who for one reason or another can't voluteer?

  3. I wouldn't volunteer for cast irons Big Society. He's shown himself to be a liar over the EU budget so I would feel inadequate volunteering in his name.
    Maybe volunteer for a blockade on Downing Street or a month long ban on buying anything. That would be more useful.
    Total swine the Cameroid and Clegoid are.
    Send their gimps like Dean though. They will sniff around Cleggie and Call me daves bottom smells and get pleasure from it.
    But not me thanks.

  4. Hardly a Big Society if you have to bribe people to take part!

    Another cack-handed load of rubbish from this dreadful coalition.

  5. Morning Kipper. I see you're in a good mood today. I think it was another of their policies that was bound to crash and burn, because of a lack of realistic expectations.

    The Cabinet and senior civil servants who come up with these things don't and probably have never lived the lives that the rest of us live. They don't cook the tea (they have dinner and it's done by cook, or at the very least the woman who comes in "to do"). They don't wash dishes, they have gardeners and nannies, and people do just about everything for them. They just imagine that it will be easy to find 4 or 5 hours in the week to work for charity. It's not.

    With the best will in the world, people don't have the time... and there isn't always the best will in the world.

    I think you'll find that Dean is not always the loyal party member you paint him to be. I've heard him rail against Tory policies from time to time.

    I often disagree with him, but I've never felt it necessary to be quite so rude as you are.

    Lighten up my friend.

  6. Well Munguin, as I pointed out, I think most "hard working British families" are too stretched to manage much voluteering, but clearly reasearch shows that there are people who might do something if there were some sort of reward.

    Young people working in old folk's homes for credits that will give them some sort of help when they get old has its merits, but as you say, it's hardly the Big Society. It's working for something that you won't get paid for for a long time.

    And just how would it work if you only voluteered for a year, and then had to give up because of work committments, or pregnancy, or illness, or whatever?

    You get a year's looking after when you get old, then you get chucked out on the street?

    Anyway, didn't Mrs Thatcher say there was no such thing as society, not even a tiny little one? Seems she may have been right...

  7. This is only the beginning. Carrots for the better off. But all too soon it will be sticks for the poor. The unemployed or the sick will be made to go and be part of the Big Society-you wait!

  8. Reminds me of Major's Citizen Charter. When we were fighting to retain facilities for the homeless which his government were trying to close I sent him a cartoon of rough sleepers kipping under copies of the Charter. Incredibly, I got a response saying "Thank you for your contribution to the Charter"!!

  9. I'm waiting for that Munguin.

    I can imagine images flashed around the world of people voluteering all over the place with BIG SOCIETY tee shirts on, the camera carefully hiding the ball and chain, LOL.

    (No Dean; it's not an anti-Tory rant. It's a wee bit of a joke at Dave, that's all)

  10. Afternoon Brownlie old thing..

    Who said that the underpants man didn't have a sense of humour?

    Well everyone probably, except Edwina.

    He seems to get not bad press because by comparison with Thatcher he was caring...

    ...Only, of course, he wasn't.

  11. Tris

    What i should like to know is how much unpaid voluntary work Cameron and Osborne have done...
    let alone the rest of the Cabinet

    That would be nice to know dont you think?

    I did ask on the torydiary...still waiting for an answer

  12. Fair point Niko. But none of them will have to worry about their old age... and that goes for the otehr parties too. I don't imagine Alex will be in an second rate old people's home when his turn comes either.

  13. Tris

    More than a fair point Edd milliband should ask
    them at PMQS we need to know asap........

    No old peoples home for me first i gotta survive prostrate cancer and if i do when i'm old i'll kill meself (without anybodys help either)

  14. Niko:

    I thought the results for that were negative?

  15. Nectar an nice one.

  16. Damn CH. I was going to order a case for brownlie's Christmas... at £70 a bottle a mere
    £840 and at least a week's supply for him... but I see that they are out of stock.

    Wouldn't you just believe it!

  17. tris,

    Your mum's already bought me a case - that's how you missed out. She said that when we were drinking it she was going to put you back in the closet for the evening.

    I recently had a drop or two of Japanese whisky, or a nip of Nippon, as we wittily and hilariously called it after a few. Alas, like Monica Lewinsky said "It left a bad taste in the mouth".

    Have sent Sophia a message on Twitter but, alas again, no reply so far.

  18. Ah good Brownlie, she can afford your expensive habits better than I can. Did I tell you she's buying one for Conan and Niko too.

    And what makes you think she'd ever let me out of "the closet", as you so charmlessly put it?

    A drop or two? OK...I guess it depends on your definition of a "drop". I like to think that that will teach you about having all these nips in your mouth in one evening. I've told you before about that, but you never listen, so I suspect it won't! ;¬)

    Let me know if you hear from Sophia please mate. I'm missing her ... and I'm just a wee bit worried. Stairs can be hellofa slippy on a cold Edinburgh morning with a sherry hangover.