As we put Christmas 2022 behind us and look forward to the New Year we all probably have similar aspirations: good health; peace; security; freedom from hunger; suitable and affordable housing; financial well being; progress; love of family ; strong communities; comprehensive public services; freedom from terror and oppression. I am sure that our readers, members and friends can add to this list depending on where they live, their position in society and their own personal and family needs. In the 1930’s a Liberal politician called Beveridge developed a list of what he referred to as the evils of society :
Now these terms might seem dated and certainly were an outcome of the moment in time but they became the foundation stones of the new Welfare State adopted in 1945 by the reforming Labour Government.
If, for a moment, we unpack these “evils” we, perhaps, can see what was driving Beveridge and others whilst we test their relevance to our situation today as we look out towards 2023. In contemporary terms we might translate these as :
- Inadequate and unaffordable education and training systems
- Poor and inadequate housing
- Poorly structured , insecure and low paid employment which offers little hope and leads nowhere
- A failing, under funded and declining health system
- system leading to inadequate health care provision.
The Robert Owen Society now with the Marches Consortium in its 31st year of existence, sits firmly as a co-operative within the mutual and third sector. Our pioneer founder members in 1992 saw that to achieve a universal civil society, local co-operative commonwealths had to formed as legal entities involving both statutory and third sector providers. In those early days such a notion found almost universal favour as delivery of services came to be seen in true partnership terms and government and local authority money flowed more freely into the mutual and third sector. The vision was of holistic provision and comprehensive community involvement. A good example was the school centred initial teacher education scheme developed by Herefordshire and Marches sub region schools in partnership with the University of Gloucestershire within the Robert Owen Society . At its height it brought £7.5m per year into the local economy and over the life of the project trained some 3,700 post graduate teachers.
I think David Cameron understood this with his notion of the ‘Big Society’ but it never gained traction because the funding tap was turned off and public bodies turned in on themselves as the fight to keep funding and jobs intensified.
So back to 2023 and all that. What is the challenge? Well somehow both the Co-operative , Mutual and Third Sectors have to reflect and reform in a post Brexit world of austerity and rapidly declining services . However, the statutory bodies must also be part of this process so that genuine and well funded partnerships can be formed to best serve the needs of our people. If we miss this opportunity our fractured society could well break irrevocably and in a manner that will serve no one. A brave new future beckons in 2023 if we are brave and come together to revolutionise our approach to civil society at community level. The Robert Owen Society could lead this revolution in the Marches sub region.
A happy and peaceful 2023 to our members, our friends, our partners , our people and our communities.