From the alternative society to the Big Society? Voluntary organisations and drug services in Britain, 1960s-2010s

Journal article citation:
Voluntary Sector Review, 3(1), March 2012, pp.51-66.
Policy Press
Place of publication:

This article presents an overview of the changing nature of voluntary action in Britain from the 1960s to the present, particularly focusing on examples from the drug voluntary sector. The history of voluntary action is analysed over 3 phases. Firstly, the late 1960s and early 1970s saw a dramatic upswing in voluntary activity. Many new groups were established, some with connections to the alternative society. In the next phase, during the 1980s and early 1990s, the voluntary sector expanded still further. The value of these organisations was apparent to those in the mainstream as well as those outside it, something that can be seen in increased government funding for voluntary groups working in the drugs field and more broadly. In the next phase, during the 1990s and 2000s, voluntary organisations became a key part of the mixed economy of provision in health and social care. The analysis concludes that voluntary activity has played an increasingly important role within British society. Recent calls for the strengthening of the 'Big Society' point to an ever-more important role for voluntary organisations. However, questions can be raised about the impact that close relations between the state and the voluntary sector has for both parties.

Subject terms:
social policy, voluntary sector, central government, drug misuse, government policy;
United Kingdom
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