UK Politics

David Cameron aims to boost Big Society

Prime Minister David Cameron has encouraged more charitable donations and volunteering in an effort to promote the Big Society.

Initiatives will include donating at cash machines and by mobile phone, and the use of social networking sites to promote volunteering, he said.

Government policies will also be tested for social value as well as value for money, it was announced.

But Labour said this was a "desperate" attempt to relaunch the Big Society.

A White Paper will set out plans for more than £40m in additional support for the voluntary sector.

In a speech in Milton Keynes, Mr Cameron emphasised the importance of strong families, communities and relationships.

He said: "These are the things that make life worth living and it's about time we had a government and a prime minister that understands that.

"These are the things I'm most passionate about in public life. This is what is in my heart. It's what fires me up in the morning.

"The Big Society is not some fluffy add-on to more gritty and more important subjects. This is about as gritty and important as it gets - giving everyone the chance to get on in life and making our country a better place to live."

Measures in the White Paper include:

  • A £10m social action fund to support measures to promote giving and boost volunteering in priority areas in England
  • Prizes of up to £100,000 for the best solutions to "volunteer challenges"
  • A £30m fund to improve the effectiveness of infrastructure organisations which support front-line volunteering
  • £1m to support the Youthnet volunteering website and £700,000 to support Philanthropy UK, which connects wealthy donors to charities
  • £400,000 to trial the "Spice" system in England, which offers rewards such as vouchers or discounts with local businesses for volunteers who help their communities
  • Establishing a new honours committee to ensure people are recognised for "exceptional and sustained philanthropy"
  • Trialling charity promotions on the public service website Directgov and opening up government buildings to charities and voluntary groups
  • Holding a "giving" summit in the autumn to bring charities together with philanthropists, businesses and financiers.

Cash machine network Link said its member banks had agreed to enable charitable donations to be made through its facilities from next year.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude described the level of charity giving and volunteering as having "flat-lined" in the past decade.

"The building of a bigger, stronger society will not be done by government but by citizens," he said.

"However, it will not emerge overnight and government has to play a role in supporting it."

In response, shadow Cabinet Office minister Tessa Jowell said: "Soaring political speeches like this may get headlines, but in practice this rhetoric is contradicted by this government's actions.

"Under the indiscriminate impact of accelerated cuts the essential elements of community life are slowly being starved of sustenance. What we lose in the next two years may become impossible to rebuild in 10."

She added: "This is just the latest in a long line of desperate attempts from David Cameron to rescue his 'big idea'.

"It will take more than a fourth re-launch to persuade people that a Big Society is being nurtured - when the people responsible for delivering it are losing their jobs and cutting back on the services that they offer."

Ministers are to undertake a day of voluntary service over the course of the year with a charity or community group.

But John Low, of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: "While the move to encourage ministers to volunteer is a step in the right direction, government could have encouraged them to pledge money as well as time, helping to shape social norms around giving."

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