Communities & Community Development
March 01 1993
by Mike Tuffrey
The Community Development Foundation has just published its second annual report examining key national issues facing communities in the light of developments over the last year.
During the past year, the importance of the voluntary sector, particularly the small local groups operating at the grass roots, has been increasingly recognised. Both the Conservative Manifesto and the Home Office policy statement The Individual and the Community acknowledged their vital r”le. Local solutions to securing long-term security and prosperity are coming to the fore. Paradoxically, at the same time, the pressures on the sector are increasing, with the continuing recession, cuts in local authority funding and confusion of the future of City Challenge and the Urban Programme.
What are the key issues facing local communities? Should business partners adjust their programmes to take account of these issues? How have the developments of the last year affected understanding of the sector?
Small local organisations can generate large amounts of valuable unpaid work for the community. However in the absence of much data or analysis, the sector’s value to society can be marginalised. Hard data about the voluntary sector is still patchy, but:
there are some 230,000 to 500,000 organisations, according to NCVO estimates
of the 171,000 registered charities, 149,000 have incomes less than £25,000 pa, and are mostly locally based
around one third of people volunteer, based on broad definitions of voluntary activity.
Smaller charities have suffered disproportionately from falling income in recent years, according to Charities Aid Foundation. Local authority funding is the largest source for local groups, but:
there has been a real reduction of some 7% in 1992/93 compared to 90/91
cuts are deepest away from front line with the long term preventive r”le of community groups being sacrificed
the shift to service contracts has favoured larger, more professionally organised, organisations
the ending of Urban Programme (75% funded by central government) will withdraw up to £240m pa from social and economic development programmes.
The review and reorganisation of local government, already started, adds to the uncertainty, with doubts about the strategy of national government too. Change without a clear alternative strategy is usually disruptive and the CDF believes companies should try to offer stability and sufficient resources to small, locally based community organisations in a time of considerable change.
Considerable changes are on the cards nationally, some already apparent, others as yet unclear. Government continues to stress value for money and partnership as key guiding principles. Companies should examine these changes, understand the needs of voluntary sector in adapting to them, and help them to meet the challenges presented.
Most notable among likely developments are:
an increase in the number of independently run schools and health facilities
encouragement of child-care facilities, with involvement of voluntary organisations in after-school care
the introduction of community policing nationwide
the extension of Citizen’s Charter
the implementation of Community Care
the pledge to continue support for voluntary sector and expand volunteering
Charities Act 1992
National Lottery and eventually the Millennium Fund
A number of these topics are worth exploring in more detail.
City Challenge was set to become the basis of government urban policy in England and Wales, but the abandonment of the third round has called that into question. The halt allows for evaluation of the first two rounds, especially to examine the way the bids were complied and how resources were devoted to community development. CDF’s assessment is that there is no correlation between the success of a bid and best practice in community involvement and partnership building. For companies, the question is how real is the involvement of the local community in schemes which are meant to be for their benefit.
Communities suffering most disadvantage already also endure the highest rates of crime. During the year, some of them played “host” to riots, often started by joy-riding. Business cannot flourish in an environment of crime and fear of crime; economic regeneration cannot occur. Senior police accept they do not have the solution alone, yet participation in regeneration is itself hindered in a climate of fear. So a critical issue for all the partners in regeneration initiatives to address is crime and community safety.
Community economic development
Two important developments over the last year were the launch of the National Association of Development Trusts for England and Wales and the Investing in Community Enterprise initiative.
Development trusts bring together the local community, the private sector and the council to regenerate a locality, with emphasis on economic activity and physical assets. The NADT has funding from the Department of the Environment to act as a focal point for such locally-led development organisations.
Investing in Community Enterprise, coordinated by BITC, is investigating the strategic needs of community enterprise, especially in finance and legal structures. There is much experience in the United States to draw upon. Companies in the UK are often ignorant about what can be achieved at local level by community businesses such as credit unions, community cooperatives and other groups meeting social needs primarily through economic means.
The increasing demands on voluntary groups makes high quality training crucial for staff and volunteers. There is a wide range of needs with several agencies addressing them, often backed by companies. BP has taken a lead r”le through Advancing Good Management and the Open University. At its simplest level, companies should examine their own training programmes to see if greater interaction with the community would yield benefits on both sides, at little extra cash cost.
The green environment
During 1992 the Rio Summit focused the spotlight on the future of the planet. Many initiatives are now translating that global concern into local action. The DoE has produced Think Globally, Act Locally. Companies are involved with the Groundwork Trust in environmental partnerships. The CBI’s Environment Business Forum and the International Chamber of Commerce’s Business Charter also enjoy considerable corporate support. Increasingly other initiatives, such as City Challenge, have environmental aspects.
Another feature of the past year has been the debate about community involvement in urban design, fostered by the Prince of Wales Institute for Architecture and the Urban Villages Group. However, without appropriate technical aid and development support, individuals and community groups can have difficulty participating on an equal footing with the professionals in determining their built environment.
From April 1993 social services and social work departments of local councils take responsibility for managing community care. Vulnerable people, especially the elderly, currently rely on many informal networks in the community for support. Community level organisations have an important part to play in the range of provision, but involving the community more has implications for resourcing community groups. Furthermore private companies will be increasingly involved in service delivery and they will need to examine their links with local groups.
Among organisations representing black and minority ethnic communities, there is increasing anger and frustration at their marginalisation, with real fears that the trends towards larger and better established groups surviving the squeeze best will hit black groups disproportionately. Changes to the government’s Section 11 funding, now targeted on training and enterprise, will affect more socially-orientated services. Companies need to examine whether black and minority ethnic groups receive a fair share of their corporate support. Most companies do not have any monitoring system nor formal policy to guarantee equality of opportunity.
On other pressing social questions, such as primary health care, HIV/AIDS and child welfare, top-down approaches can be less effective (although cheaper) than involving people in their communities. A key question is the effectiveness of mass media campaigns on (say) anti-smoking or safer sex, if more marginalised groups, such as the long term unemployed on peripheral housing estates or women in Asian communities, are not also reached through community-based initiatives.
Some of the changes at the EC level will enhance local communities, others may not. The concept of subsidiarity ought to mean more decisions being taken as close as possible to the grass roots, even if national politicians interpret it simply to deny powers to Brussels. On the other hand, increasingly free movement of capital, workers and goods could be a destabilising factor in local communities. The EC structural funds are intended to overcome this, but there is little targeting within the poorer regions and funds are subject to the notorious additionality rules. So while EC trends will affect local communities in the UK, the implications for companies, as for other partners, is as yet unclear.
Community Development Foundation
The CDF was set up in 1968 to strengthen communities by ensuring effective participation of people in determining the conditions which affect their lives. A number of leading companies have signed its Community Investment Charter, an initiative which encourages businesses to support community groups as a sound business investment.
Key Trends is an annual report on major national issues in community regeneration and social and community care. Copies of the full report, including a regional analysis, are available price £2.95 from Sukhvinder Stubbs, CDF, 60 Highbury Grove, London N5 2AG. 071 226 5375
Corporate Citizenship Briefing, issue no: 9 – March, 1993