REFOCUS THE BIG SOCIETY ON THE BROOM ARMY BRIGADES, SAYS CCCF

Children, Churches and the Big Society: Calling Church and Nation

Major new forum took place on 2 November

The government should help re-establish social cohesion in the wake of last week’s riots by radically refocusing the Big Society. David Cameron must change its direction, so it leverages many more community initiatives along the lines of the spontaneous ‘Broom Armies’ which took to the streets last Tuesday.

This was the call from the Christian Child Care Forum (CCCF) today as it announced a major new conference on 2 November, which will take place a few yards from the epicentre of the Oxford Circus riot. Children, Churches and the Big Society: Calling Church and Nation will focus upon the place of children and young people in the Big Society. This is especially relevant as more than one in five of those charged with riot-related offences are aged under 18.

David Lane, Chair of the CCCF said: ‘The Broom Armies of last week are just the latest high profile examples of the vast amount of effort that is put in, day in day out, by thousands of unsung, ordinary people across the UK as they care for the people and communities they love.

‘This is a part of British society that is not broken, but it does need support in terms of both leadership and finance, especially as the spending cuts bite. So acute has the financial crisis become that we are now regularly told that there is no little or no new money available – not even to pay for necessities such as policing our streets properly and clearing them up in the aftermath of the most serious riots for thirty years.

‘David Cameron and the coalition government should now use the Big Society as part of the solution, refocusing it as a seedcorn initiative. Small amounts of money targeted upon small, very specific projects will return their monetary value many times over by strengthening local communities and lessening the likelihood of future civil disorder.

‘Motivating and encouraging young people to get involved, positively, in their communities should be at the heart of every such initiative, so that they can be proud of their neighbourhoods. Were they to take off along the lines of the Broom Armies – and there is no reason why they should not – they would go a long way towards mending the broken Britain that our politicians are currently wringing their hands over.

‘Churches have always been at the forefront in delivering community services. They are often the organisations best placed to deliver such initiatives, especially in inner city hot spots. This is why a group of 14 leading organisations* has got together to host the Forum. Here they will work through what the Big Society should be and what role they can play in giving meaning and purpose to the lives of our children and young people’.

The key questions the Forum will address include:

* What is the Big Society?
* What is the role of children and young people?
* Hasn’t the Church been doing the Big Society for 2,000 years anyway?
* What’s different now?
* Isn’t the Big Society just a way of doing things on the cheap?
* If not, what opportunities does the Big Society offer today, and what should churches be doing to further its aims?

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Plenary speakers included Bishop Paul Butler, Sarah Hayes, and Rev Steve Chalke. Workshop sessions covered internet safety, youth work, minorities in the community, parent/toddler groups, foster care, street pastors, setting up church projects and more.

The fourteen leading Christian partner organisations sponsored the event were CCPAS, CCCF, the Children’s Society, Anthony Collins, Oasis, Frontier Youth Trust, Scripture Union, Children Matter, Ci 2 eye, Compassion, Livability, Fegans, the Salvation Army and Spurgeons.

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