BM attended an open meeting organised by a long-established (650 years) local charity yesterday, at which they shared the welcome news that they are now in a position to start distributing grants to worthy causes again, having been preoccupied with other matters for the past few years. It's a sign of the general anxiety being felt that on a day when England were playing and the weather was suddenly Summer-y, the attendance at this meeting which ran from 3-5, was beyond what the charity had anticipated.
Several things stuck in my mind from the session. Firstly a great deal of good work is being done by small groups, associations and the smaller local charities who now fear for their very existence. Secondly, is it possible that some of them duplicate other services on offer from the local authority and thirdly, for the charity running the session, how do they establish in deciding which grant applications to approve that they are not funding duplicate projects? (I have no answers, just questions).
The other interesting snippet (gleaned via a presentation given by Kids Company) was that several City firms seem to be ramping up their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) time, offering in some cases, 5 CSR days per annum in addition to annual leave to staff. Clearly at a strategic level, the bigger firms understand what the 'Big Society' concept means and are showing willing. The local Southwark Volunteer Centre, which handles these offers and brokers time for projects in need, is experiencing a surge in offers of CSR time. The sceptic in me assumes this must mean that it's tax deductible, but you can't look a gift horse etc.
Overall the session was a useful reminder of just how complex our 'society' is with statutory services supported by so many varied volunteer groups. Again, while one can't deny that problems exist which is why many of these groups were formed, I didn't and don't believe that our society is 'broken' in the way some would have you believe.