Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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Big Society event

November 01 2010
B.Hug asks whether the government‘s planned Big Society can support local communities

An event has been held in London to discuss the Government's new plan for a "Big Society".

Brent Homeless User Group (B.Hug) organised the meeting to discuss whether the new initiative can be inclusive and can support local communities.

More than 80 people, including homeless people and representatives from the voluntary sector, attended the workshop at The Salvation Army Headquarters in central London in September.

The charity's chief executive Atara Fridler said: "The key question was how to create something that we can all participate in. How do we create a Big Society that includes people who have been marginalised, that allows and encourages all of us to contribute as well as get the help we need?"

The coalition government describes their idea of a Big Society as one where "families, networks, neighbourhoods and communities that form the fabric of so much of our everyday lives" play a "bigger and stronger" part than ever before. This, ultimately, means decentralisation and the use of more volunteers instead of help from the state. Ms Fridler added: "At B.Hug, we have been working for many years with vulnerable people who have experienced homelessness, addiction and mental health problems.

"We know from experience that while these people are often the most excluded members of our society, they each have different knowledge, experience and insight that they can share with their local communities.

"It would, therefore, be a huge missed opportunity if the government's plans to create a Big Society did not make provision for these individuals and ensure that they are included along with other members of our communities."

The event consisted of policy workshops, and a manifesto was produced using the contributions of those attending. Speakers included director of housing at Brent, Martin Cheeseman; New Economics Foundation head of social policy Anna Coote; and B.Hug researcher and volunteer David Wright, who used to be homeless.

• The manifesto can be found at: