Public have little interest in Big Society voluntary work

18 May 11
There is scant appetite for Big Society-style volunteering among the general public, a survey has revealed.

By Vivienne Russell

18 May 2011

There is scant appetite for Big Society-style volunteering among the general public, a survey has revealed.

Research commissioned by public sector insurer Zurich Municipal found that almost two-thirds (62%) of people in the UK said they would be unlikely to volunteer to help community organisations provide local services.

The main reasons cited were work commitments and having other things to do in their spare time.

Almost a quarter (24%) of the 1,000 people canvassed said they had no interest in how local council services work, as long as they were doing their job.

The research, conducted by Ipsos Mori, also found a lack of priorities over which public services should be cut and which protected. When asked what police priorities should be, roughly equal proportions cited responded to emergencies, tackling major crime, managing antisocial behaviour and targeting drug dealing.

Andrew Jepp, director of public services at Zurich Municipal, said: ‘This highlights the challenges of involving the public in priority setting, as they’re understandably no clearer than the providers themselves on how or where to make cuts.

‘Any push towards increased involvement is going to need support and education. Without this, the more obviously “popular” or visible services may be prioritised over those equally valuable but less known ones.

‘This could prove a false economy, leading to a gap in delivery that could be difficult to plug in future.’

Jepp added that, in order for the Big Society to become a reality, people needed to be shown how to play their part and how rewarding they would find it.

‘Now is the time for public service providers to pull together and help educate people on the detail.’

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