I've been listening to a lot of things about "The Big Society" in the UK, now to me this is a Thatcherite eye wash and always will be, its the flip side of "small government" which no one talks about anymore because it alarms people, they rightly consider that it means less security, less work or money in some communities or some parts of their community.
Anyway, I was listening to a broadcast today about how the government was hoping to be able to tap into or substitute private faith based services for public ones, at the minute it looks like a pipe dream but the idea is that the churches were once the source of hospitals, schools, soup kitchens, orphanages/childrens residential, clothing co-ops etc. and they will be again.
There's also a hope, I believe, that there will be something akin to the church revivals which took place in the US at the time of the Carter administration, that private churches could accumulate so much in the way of funds that they could then fufil responsibilities which had previously belonged to the public authorities.
I reckon that there could be a major decline in the quality of service, surely the expectations and also the legislation under pinning services could not be the same if it is being delivered by unqualified public spirited individuals than professionals?
I'm also wondering about the availability of services were it could be judged that those services are in conflict with the underpinning values of the agency dispensing the service, for instance would a face based agency provide womens services if they dont believe that women have an equal status?
What if you dont belong to a faith community with the resources or dont belong to a faith community at all? I belong to the RCC but I dont think I'd go to a celibate member of the clergy for reproductive advice or couples therapy, there's a lot of services I'm not sure I would want to get from the faith community of which I'm a member and I appreciate the boundaries which already exist.
I've also got a suspiscion that the census will be used to promote this idea, if people complete the forms and indicate that they are a member of a particular church, whether they merely identify as a member of that church or are a practicing, contributing, active member wont really matter but it could be used to argue that services already exist or that people should be dependent upon church rather than state services if they find themselves in a state of dependency.
What do other people think, have any of you heard of the "big society" idea? Does it sound like what the Bush administration had suggested years ago, prior to 9/11 anyway, that faith communities could take over social security?