What are the challenges to the Big Society in maintaining lay involvement in health improvement, and how can they be met?

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The UK Coalition Governments Big Society policy has highlighted the value of the contribution that local people can make to well-being in their own communities, and plans to increase the contribution of community groups and third sector organizations in delivering services. This paper attempts to unpick some of the challenges to delivering health improvement interventions within the Big Society framework, and offers suggestions to reduce risk and preserve the value of the unique contribution that local people can make. The challenges identified are: supporting and developing skills in social enterprise; demonstrating effectiveness to commissioners; supporting local enterprise while mindful of inequality; guarding against the third sector losing its dynamism; using volunteers to replace or complement existing services. We conclude that the drive to increase community sustainability through the involvement of individuals is laudable, and responds to potential flaws in the welfare state. In order to protect the most vulnerable, and ensure equity, any change will take time and resources. More efficient ways of meeting societys needs must be sought, but we recommend that a stepwise, supported and appropriately evaluated approach is essential, and equity of provision across communities and organizations must be a primary concern. © 2010 The Author Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Faculty of Public Health. All rights reserved.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-10
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Public Health Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2011