The failure of the Big Society, heralded by some of the most influential charities in Britain, comes as no surprise. How was the Big Society to survive in a country so intolerant of religion?
Adoption agencies, homeless shelters, youth groups, hospitals and hospices: a host of religious institutions were behind these Big Society initiatives well before they took on that name. Men and women devoted to their God and their faith staffed the soup kitchens and the schools that offered a network of benevolent support to the most vulnerable.
But these institutions, whether Christian or Jewish, Muslim or Hindu, cannot survive in the hostile environment that Britain has become. The challenge to Catholic adoption agencies set the scene: the government stopped agencies from rendering their service because they were cherry picking the recipients of that service. It didn’t matter that many thousands of children would now lose a chance to be with loving parents; if Catholic adoption agencies wouldn’t match children to gays, then they couldn’t match children to heterosexuals either.
This was a short-sighted move by the government (that it mirrored what was happening in America was no excuse.) In a climate of austerity, when the Coalition would like to shrink the government rather than increase it, Britain needs all the charities it can get. They are the little battalions that can get the job done and spread an atmosphere of “we’re all in this together”.
But many of the little battalions now won’t brave the inclement Coalition weather. It’s a bitter blow to them — and to those at the receiving end of their good works.