Most people in Britain are unwilling to get involved in their community despite wanting to engage more with local issues, new research suggests.
While 69% of people said they were interested in how things worked in their area and 51% felt getting involved could make a difference, only one in 10 said they were certain to do so in the next two years. This is according to a Hansard Society survey of over 1,200 people in England, Scotland and Wales.
Those most likely to put themselves forward were parents aged under 45 and from a high-income group. Respondents were more likely to volunteer if they felt strongly about an issue and believed it was directly relevant to them.
The government’s flagship Big Society policy seeks to increase volunteering. Prime Minister David Cameron has described his idea, which seeks to mobilise community-led initiatives in a range of areas, as his “mission”.
Dr Ruth Fox, Director of the Hansard Society’s Parliament and Government Programme, believes that to have any chance of success the Big Society must be seen as non political.
“A clear focus on the local and personal is where the Big Society has the biggest chance of succeeding. The concept needs to avoid political associations, focus on the local and personal and emphasise community rather than society,” she said.
The survey also found that just over one in four people were happy with what Parliament was doing – a 6% fall on last year – while less than one in three agreed that Parliament was “working for you and me” – a decline of 8%.
Distrust with politicians is not exactly a surprise, given the expenses scandal and the current round of public sector cuts.
But David Cameron will be worried that 90% of people do not seem to be enthused by his flagship idea. The failure of the Big Society notion would be a real blow to the Prime Minister.