My Lords, I am an enthusiastic supporter of the big society concept. I would like, in the limited time available to me, to talk about the role of the charitable sector, which is dear to my heart. In my contribution to the Second Reading of the Charities Bill last week, I was keen to stress how charities are a useful barometer of the degree of social cohesion.
The Bill will make a contribution to the big society by making charity law simpler to understand and navigate, which will reduce the existing complexities that serve to discourage participation. I await with eager anticipation the publication tomorrow of the Giving White Paper, which promises to focus on supporting the giving of time and money.
We should all work towards providing adequate recognition of the contribution of many civil society organisations. They do not exist to seek awards, but we should all be pleased that the big society awards are highlighting the achievements of those undertaking important work and, by raising the profile, encouraging wider participation.
Most charities appeal to people’s good nature and generosity by asking for donations of money and time. There needs to be an alternative to government provision in addressing problems in our society. The Government are correct in prioritising the big society as a means of providing that alternative. The British people are famous for their generosity and our record on charitable giving is impressive when compared internationally.
People need to be enabled to use the vehicle of the charitable sector to volunteer their time, energy and resources for the good of all. We should all think about taking responsibility for everyone else’s welfare interests: that is the big society. The success of this initiative will not rest entirely on the activities of the Government but requires participation from everyone.