Why the ‘big society’ is frightening the young

The concept of the Big Society originates from before there was support for the most vulnerable people in our communities, and in which help came from the wider society. Such protection offered by the church, charities and communities was not state funded and grew out of communities, individuals and institutions organising themselves to provide services to the most disadvantaged.

It seems that big society means that as the state contracts “society” expands. Young people seem extremely anxious about cuts to public services specifically to youth services and the key source of their anxiety is the national and local media.

Young people have come to expect a level of service and support that is now being changed under the banner of “transformation and reform”. Getting young people themselves and local communities to do what the council did previously, is going to be difficult.

Young people have not been so politicised since the 1980s, when the government of the day was also cutting public services to reduce the nation’s financial deficit.
Perhaps conflict and politics go hand in hand, the challenge for professionals is to resolve that conflict peacefully and even create a new social contract in which service users are not just passive recipients but have a reciprocal relationship with professionals where services are co-produced. Then perhaps we can have a big society that includes young people as equal partners delivering a new public service together.


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