The Emperor’s New Big Society?

Note: The following blog post has been written by Moira Fraser, Director of Policy at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers

You’ll probably have heard the story of the Emperor’s new clothes. An old tale whereEmperor's New Clothes two weavers promise an Emperor a new suit which is invisible to anyone who is incompetent or stupid. The Emperor proudly dons his suit and parades about for all to see and all the courtiers say “My goodness your Highness, how handsome you look and where did you get the beautiful suit?” Eventually a small child, oblivious to the peer pressure around him, giggles and says “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!” The aforementioned Emperor scuttles off in embarrassment, rapidly covering up his nether regions.

Maybe this is just about where we are with the Big Society. I’m all for communities doing more. And carers could certainly do with more help (in the right ways of course) from communities, neighbours, local groups. But it annoys me when people trot out the line that carers ARE the Big Society. I don’t think that’s true. Most carers I meet care because they have to, because otherwise the right quality of care for their friend of family member simply will not be provided.

Many get help from Carers’ Centres and other local charities, and many do get help from other family and friends, and anything that boosts that will be welcome. But for many carers, isolated and struggling, it can feel like a very Small Society indeed. The intellectual underpinning of the Big Society has always been a bit wobbly. Not just about volunteering, but about us all taking more responsibility for our communities and institutions. Carers do take responsibility – too much sometimes. We face possible decimation of our local support services and family incomes, and carers again will just have to cope. So, will the Big Society turn rapidly from rhetoric to resources? Does that beautiful Big Society Saville Row suit exist, or is David Cameron not really wearing anything at all?


February 23, 2011 - Posted by | Big Society, David Cameron | , , ,


  1. Big Society 21st century version ?

    A throwback to the Victorian era wherein it was accepted that the middle aged middle class scored social brownie points for manning the soup kitchens set up to serve the poor as Society itself did not take on that responsibility.

    Now , we are witnessing a repeat performance. Witness the stampede of middle class based charities only too willing to step in to the breach as public services are withdrawn , leaving the sick \ disabled and their carers to throw themselves on their mercy … often at a price bearing no relation to claimants income.

    The only way forward is a U turn … assuming virtually all readers would welcome the continuation of the free market economy ( in the absence of anything else ) , the protection of the weakest in Society against the ravishes of said free market economy needs to be the NUMBER ONE PRIORITY of whatever Government …. in that respect , politicians of all colours have failed in that duty.

    The only real hope is a complete financial meltdown …. many causalities for certain but …. what would follow ( eventually ) must surely be better than what went before ?

    Comment by Paul | February 23, 2011 | Reply

  2. Oh come on, you know we should all be grateful to Saint Cameron, the saviour of the Benefit Classes.

    Comment by ians12 | February 23, 2011 | Reply

  3. The result will be little difference for many of us!

    Big Society will end up much the same as officialdom – you’ll get help if your face fits or if you sit on the committee!

    Just yesterday somebody asked me if I got help for my daughter from a certain charity – I had to bite my tongue!

    I remember years ago we were pointeed towards a charity regarding some equipment. We weren’t asking them to provide the equipment but to lend it to us so that we could see if it would be useful – if it was then I would have happily bought it. They announced that not only would they supply the equipment but a whole list of other stuff too. To cut a long story short they didn’t! Not only did they go back on their word but they treated us appallingly and put us through an experience that was totally unacceptable.

    If Cameron wants us all to rely on self serving idiots in charities then he can think again – this family will not risk a repeat of the previous experience.

    Comment by Boggle | February 23, 2011 | Reply

  4. The central idea behind David Cameron’s Big Society appears to be that community groups should take control over services such as schools, hospitals, social care and social services. The theory is that these groups will consist mainly of co-operatives, mutual societies, charities and not-for-profit companies. In practice, however, there are far too few such groups who have or can acquire sufficient organisational and managerial capacity to run such enterprises on the scale necessary to make much impact on the country as a whole. In relation to the NHS, groups of GPs are supposed to control hospitals. But most GPs have more than enough to do in running their own practices. Large private corporations are really excited about these developments. They see this as the opportunity they have been looking for to take over the NHS.
    In a very different way – by being successful in tendering to Local Authorities at lower costs than voluntary organisations – private companies are increasingly taking over the provision of respite care for carers, often saving Local Authorities money by providing lower quality, less reliable care.

    The Big Society philosophy is open to very different interpratations, and is being applied in very different ways to schools, hospitals and social care.

    In practice, the Big Society is a clever cloak to mask privatisation accompanied by drastic public expenditure cuts. The surprising answers to your question are that the clothes David Cameron is wearing are Margaret Thatcher’s,and that they seem to fit him very well!

    Comment by Peter Senker | February 23, 2011 | Reply

  5. The big society must look at what we have to offer.
    It needs to understand that we need at how we are going to make those who need the help at certain times in their lives when the chips are down the big society in Westminster need to look and help us the community of people that don’t really want to ask, however that help is the difference between living on nothing or restoring the pride to those who pay in, but, need need to call on it earlier than expected.
    The DLA allownce does just that.

    Comment by annediamond1 | February 23, 2011 | Reply

  6. Mr Cameron,s “big society” is nothing more than empty words made to sound good for media comsumption. The reality is that CARERS are already doing more than is humanly possible for SLAVE WAGES which often means no money at all. AS for the governments sudden realisation that the nation has to live wthin a budget CARERS have always had to operate this way, because the government and the country is getting a CARING SERVICE that is staffed by CHILDREN and ADULTS and totally underfunded.
    How much is a “LIFE” worth and how can any civilised nation SPEND PEOPLE,s LIVES AS IF IT WERE NOTHING MORE THAN A COMMODITY????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

    Comment by Taras Kurylak | February 24, 2011 | Reply

  7. Spot on Peter Senker. Actions speak louder than rhetoric and the Big Society is a mask for cuts in public service provision and a paving of the way for privatisation on a massive scale. On the radio the other day I heard Cameron described as ‘the caring face of not caring’, which i thought very apt. In our house he is known as ‘the acceptable face of facism’.
    PS. Did anyone see Francis Maude stumbling over his words recently when asked during an interview about the Big Society what volunteering work he was doing?

    Comment by Philippa | February 26, 2011 | Reply

  8. Well today we have somemore empty promises, lets hope he will look after all those who have illnesses that can’t be cured the courage to stand up and be counted many are just to tired to carry on with the challenge. Can’t the government give us a break.

    We can’t carry on if there is no hope
    So much for the big society

    Comment by annediamond1 | June 13, 2011 | Reply

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