Saturday, May 20, 2006

State Intervention or a Road to Nowhere - The Third Sector

"In a letter to Ms Armstrong setting out her key priorities, the prime minister said that he wanted to see a "step change" in the involvement of the so-called "third sector" within a year." BBC Report.

For several years, I have been making comment, unpopular to some, on the kidnap of community voluntary effort to government policy ends.
An expansion of the "voluntary" sector remains, in that context, dangerous.

It gives (apparent) authority to unelected people.
It provides a vehicle for entryism for special-interest groups (e.g. evangelicals).
It reinforces the power of unconstrained prejudice.
It diminishes genuine community initiative and defuses community protest (where that remains legal).
It softens the boundaries between participants and "authorities".
It helps shift responsibility for the condition of the poor and "socially excluded" to the poor themselves while expecting an unrealistic level of participation from those same people.
It diverts attention from other economic, educational and social policy failures.
It creates a self-sustaining system of "output" spin where the (employed) co-ordinators, administrators, outreach workers safeguard their jobs and the projects through exaggerated reports of the benefits of their project. (The output spin also feeds a false impression of policy success to central government politicians).
It distorts the application of charitable funding, shifting it towards a government policy agenda.
And it provides a another self-sustaining angle: if you don't participate, you are failing in your civic duty and must therefore be classed as socially excluded which will then merit intervention.

Since, from my own local observation, the active people involved are of low calibre, of limited vision and are largely motivated by some form of grandiosity or self-interest, I took a view that to participate was a waste of my time, unless I made it a clear and very time-consuming part of a step back into active politics. It's too late for that now. I also took the view that to participate further would be to endorse that dangerous system.

Excuse a little repetition of points already made.

Yes, yes, I know some good work gets through...



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