UK public willing to get involved in Big Society but unsure how

New research has shown the UK public is generally willing to get involved in the Big Society but have concerns over how to do so.

The research, conducted by think-tank the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) and accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), comes from seven months of interviews with frontline professionals and service users in Reading and Darlington and focuses on three public service areas- education, community safety and social care.

Of the people surveyed, 42 per cent said they were willing to attend regular meetings with their neighbourhood police team; 18 per cent would volunteer at a police station; 20 per cent were willing to make a regular commitment to mentoring a child struggling through the education system; and a third said they would regularly drive an elderly person to the shops.

However, the research also identified a number of barriers to people getting more involved with public service delivery, including frustration at the level of red tape in the education system and concerns over potential legal disputes related to crime and anti-social behaviour.

Additionally, many frontline professionals expressed concerns that handing public services over to citizens may lower standards.

Concerns were also raised about the role of the state in the Big Society, with 90 per cent of people surveyed saying the state should remain primarily responsible for delivering most key public services.

IPPR director Nick Pearce said: “It is a mistake to think that if only ‘big government’ gets out of the way then Big Society will flourish. In our research we found that very often people wanted more, not less, help from public agencies in order to give them the skills and confidence to be more active citizens.

“Also, the public have a clear idea that that the state is primarily responsible for delivering services – people want to get involved so they can improve those services, not take over the running of them.” 

Commercial recycler and social welfare charity, Recycling Lives, is itself a part of the Big Society- a business providing real benefits to the community, and to those who need help the most.

Recycling Lives Founder and Chairman, Steven Jackson, said: “The Big Society is a revolutionary concept that will change the way our society works and, for the first time, give communities and individuals real power to shape Britain.

“That so many people want to get involved in improving the public services to their communities is very encouraging. All that remains is to find the best ways to make this possible.”