Children and the Big Society: Backing communities to keep the next generation safe and happy

Publication Details

On Tuesday 21 June, ResPublica launched Children and the Big Society: Backing communities to keep the next generation safe and happy, in which we argue that the Government must acknowledge the community’s vital role in promoting the safety and well-being of children.

The report, authored by ResPublica’s Research Associate, Duncan Fisher, and the Head of the Children and Families Unit, Sandra Gruescu, sets out a number of policy recommendations that would draw children and their communities together in order to support the efforts of those – children, young people, families and others – who seek to make their community a better and safer place.

The report asserts that the ‘Big Society’ has enormous potential for delivering new ways of supporting children, young people and families, but the connections between this agenda and children have not been fully considered. We have a particularly poor record on the care of children – in 2007, UNICEF rated the UK bottom of the league of developed countries in terms of children’s overall well-being and in particular in relation to children’s experience of family and friends. Neglect of children has not diminished over the years, and child poverty has stabilised. In order to tackle such atrocities further, and to work with the increasing pressure on parents, we must turn once again to grassroots initiatives and successful, community-based services that offer extended social and economic support for those who are most vulnerable.

Key recommendations of the report include:

  • Ensuring that the new Community Organiser programme for England includes a focus on children and young people within their local communities;
  • The pilots of a number of large-scale and comprehensive community building projects with the specific aim of keeping children safe through the development of social capital and preventing the need for acute and crisis intervention;
  • Ensuring that the roll-out and success measures of the National Citizens Service are based on the success of providers in keeping young people safe through the development of community focussed social capital, particularly within areas of deprivation;
  • Extending the ‘right to challenge’ within the localism and public service reform agendas, to give opportunities and support for children and young people to challenge and influence local planning and spending decisions that affect them;
  • Taking steps to ensure that local assets that keep children safe and develop social capital, such as parks, playgrounds and children’s centres are retained.


  • Duncan Fisher

    Research Associate

    Duncan Fisher is the author of ResPublica’s report published in June 2011, “Children and the Big Society: Backing communities to keep the next generation safe and happy”. Duncan has been working on family policy for over 10 years, with an...

    Duncan Fisher
  • Sandra Gruescu

    Contributing Author

    Dr Sandra Gruescu led ResPublica’s work around children and families policy from January 2010 until August 2011.  She co-authored ‘Asset Building for Children’ with Phillip Blond, published in Autumn 2010. She was previously a senior research fellow at the Social...

    Sandra Gruescu