National and Devolved Politics


UK ‘civic core’ needs diversity boost to keep public services afloat

The UK’s current ‘civic core’ –the people who participate in activities such as responding to consultations about local services, engaging in democratic processes or playing a direct role in decision-making by becoming a councillor – is predominantly “prosperous, highly educated and older,” and needs an urgent boost of diversity.

In a new report, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) said that while membership of bodies such as trade unions and tenants’ associations has shrunk, the number of people willing to give their time to support a cause and volunteer civically remains high.

Between 2006-7 and 2016, for example, the proportion of people involved in charitable giving has remained relatively stable (between 54% and 61%), as have the total amounts donated to the voluntary sector by individuals.

The challenge, however, is to ensure a more diverse group of people are involved in society’s civic core.

Civic engagement can come in different forms, such as civic participation (contacting an elected representative, taking part in a protest or signing a pretention), civic consultation (engaging in local service consultations or completing questionnaires) and civic activism (becoming a local councillor or school governor for direct involvement).

But while there is a “huge diversity of activities,” the picture is “quite different” when taking into consideration who is involved. The greatest variation concerns socioeconomic status and education level, with people in higher social grades and with a higher level of education being more likely to get involved in these civic activities.

Similarly, those contributing a “disproportionate amount of time” to civil society predominantly hail from the wealthy, middle-aged and highly-educated sections of the UK population.

This landscape has also remained largely unchallenged for years: there has been minimal change in the demographics of who gets involved, with previous research over the last decade finding participation to be unequal.

The NCVO has called on organisations to effect change in the voluntary sector given the valuable contribution of civic society to the running of everyday services – for example, from the 300,000 school governors and 125,000 hospice volunteers who are integral to service delivery.

“Growing demand for services, reduced public spending and the ongoing search for quality services may lead to a recruitment drive for more volunteers,” said the report. “However, given that overall levels of volunteering have been static over time, there is a clear challenge for organisations looking to grow their volunteer base to innovate and find new models of volunteering, perhaps more flexible ones that will allow more people to get involved.”

Karl Wilding, director of public policy and volunteering at NCVO, added that organisations of all kind will need to innovate in order to lift their levels of volunteering and attract a more diverse base.

Many organisations are already thinking about and doing this, and we should all try to learn from them,” continued Wilding. “If we are to create a society able to address the diverse needs of all who live in it, we need to make sure that people from all walks of life are able to join in and work towards change.”

Paul Winyard, senior policy officer at the NCVO, has previously written for PSE about the importance of engaging the voluntary sector and volunteering more broadly in order to make devolution a success.


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

London City Hall’s progress with closing gender pay gap ‘barely noticeable’

20/03/2018London City Hall’s progress with closing gender pay gap ‘barely noticeable’

The Greater London Authority (GLA) continues to have a significant gender pay gap, new data has revealed. According to the latest figures, the G... more >
Council tax should be scrapped due to inequality in current system, say experts

20/03/2018Council tax should be scrapped due to inequality in current system, say experts

Council tax should be abolished as it is too similar to poll tax, according to a new report, published today. ‘Home Affairs,’ by the... more >
Khan commits £600,000 to ‘tackle barriers to social integration’

19/03/2018Khan commits £600,000 to ‘tackle barriers to social integration’

The mayor of London has committed to a new £600,000 integration strategy, which will specifically look at bringing young people and familie... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the o... more > more last word articles >
Leader resigns after Whitehall report calls for failing council to be split up

16/03/2018Leader resigns after Whitehall report calls for failing council to be split up

The leader of Northamptonshire County Council has announced her resignation after a government report recommended the impoverished authority should be split into two smaller unitary councils. ... more >
Javid ‘minded to’ approve unitary plans for Buckinghamshire

12/03/2018Javid ‘minded to’ approve unitary plans for Buckinghamshire

Sajid Javid has today announced that he is minded to approve plans which would see a large unitary authority created from the six existing authorities in Buckinghamshire. Under the current p... more >

the raven's daily blog

Apprenticeship levy – five myths busted

05/03/2018Apprenticeship levy – five myths busted

On the first day of National Apprenticeship Week 2018 (NAW 2018), the director of the National Apprenticeship Service, Sue Husband, challenges some of the key myths around the apprenticeship levy. NAW 2018 takes place from 5 to 9 March. It will be a week-long celebration of apprenticeships in England designed to showcase how apprenti... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >


Building a more diverse society

05/03/2018Building a more diverse society

Karl Wilding, policy director at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), argues that diverse membership in charities and local g... more >
Developing our future leaders

05/03/2018Developing our future leaders

Kerry Bishop, apprenticeship and qualification development manager at the LGSS (pictured), provides an insight into how the organisation is suppo... more >
What's next for BIM?

05/03/2018What's next for BIM?

After some mostly positive findings in last year’s National Building Information Modelling (BIM) Report, PSE’s Luana Salles considers... more >
BIM: Reaping the rewards

26/02/2018BIM: Reaping the rewards

Although austerity has been a barrier to adopting Building Information Modelling (BIM), continued investment in these tools can greatly benefit t... more >


Keeping London safe

05/03/2018Keeping London safe

Theo Blackwell, London’s first-ever chief digital officer (CDO), speaks to PSE’s Luana Salles about the role he plays in ensuring the... more >
BIM: Digitising the public sector

19/02/2018BIM: Digitising the public sector

PSE’s Josh Mines talks to Stephen Crompton, CTO at GroupBC, and Stuart Bell, the company’s sales and marketing director, about how Bu... more >
Duncan Selbie: The energy of devolution

19/02/2018Duncan Selbie: The energy of devolution

The NHS plays a part in keeping the country well – but when it comes to places and their people, local government has a major role to fulfi... more >
Are we taking a risk on education?

14/12/2017Are we taking a risk on education?

Adrian Prandle, director of economic strategy and negotiations at the National Education Union (NEU), questions the stark lack of announcements a... more >

public sector focus

View all News