By Max Clarke

A report into the feasibility of David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ entitled Powerful People, Responsible Society has been commissioned and will be carried out by ACEVO (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations).

Speaking on the launch of the Commission on Big Society, ACEVO’s chair, Lord Rennard said, “Big Society presents exciting opportunities for civil society and the country more broadly but it’s crucial that we think through the practical actions needed to make it work. It is important that this thinking takes place not just within the confines of Whitehall but encompasses the views of leaders from across civil society.”

Discussing the impact of the report, and the concept of Big Society from a business point of view is Dr. Neil Bentley, director general of major business organisation, The CBI (Confederation of British Industry).

Said Bentley: “The report is right to say that businesses play an essential role in society. They make a vital contribution by creating wealth and generating jobs.

“But the Commission’s view of how businesses consider their role in society is not the whole picture. Giving money to charity is only one way of being responsible. Many companies support their local communities, through activities such as volunteering, helping local schools or working in partnership with the public and voluntary sector to giving young people apprenticeships.”

On the Commission’s proposal to amend the Employment Rights Act 1996, and give employees the right to take time off for volunteering, Dr Bentley said:

“Encouraging volunteering is important, but a change in the law is not the right way to go about this. For many employers letting staff take time out of work is a benefit to them and their community, and it is right that this should be encouraged. But a complex statutory procedure would undermine this.”