The fragility of civil society

COVID-19 has exposed both existential challenge and tremendous potential. It has laid bare the fragmentation of our society and the weakness of the institutions that bind us together at the same time as we have seen the awakening of widespread community spirit.

Over recent decades politicians have demonstrated awareness that our voluntary and civil society sectors have weakened, but successive initiatives have failed to reverse the decline. COVID has laid the problem bare, with the beleaguered charitable and care sectors struggling to cope with the increased pressure, leaving Government exposed on issues from mental health to child poverty.

In particular the pandemic has demonstrated how inadequate our civic structures are for mobilising a collective national effort when it is needed. Historically the state was never the bedrock of the UK‚’s third sector, and yet in recent years public sector cuts have increased the need for charitable and voluntary organisations just as the institutions that underpin them are in decline. As such, outcomes differ wildly depending on geography or social variants.

We have yet to see our shared admiration of public institutions translated into a shared sense of endeavour and we lack the state structures to organise accordingly. As such mass efforts in the UK such as test and trace become subcontracted to much-maligned private service companies or to the military, and volunteer coordination is ad hoc.

COVID presents an opportunity to address this in the form of a desire to learn lessons and build resilience. It has recalibrated the value ‚’ in all senses ‚’ we place on ‚’key workers‚’ that doesn‚’t correlate with their current societal status. The Government should harness this to implement policies that seek to invest individuals in the institutions that they rely on, and to build the resilience of those institutions for moments of crisis.




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