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Government to launch big society survey

Community Life will replace the former Citizenship Service axed by the Coalition in 2010

The Government is to undertake a new survey to assess the levels of volunteering, charitable giving, and social action in England and Wales.

Called 'Community Life' the first survey is due to commence this year and will be led by the Cabinet Office's Office for Civil Society. The survey is expected to assess the views and activities of 3,000 people and the contract for the work is due to be awarded next month.

The Coalition denied this was a u-turn on its earlier decision to scrap the former Citizenship Survey when they came into power in 2010. Led by the Department for Communities and Local Government the Citizenship Survey, which was used to assess the level of volunteering and community engagement in the country, was considered to be a key indicator to the success of government initiatives to promote giving. The last survey showed that levels of volunteering had remained static despite huge investment by the previous government, particularly targeting young people.

A spokesperson for the Cabinet Office said the format for Community Life was still being developed but it was expected it would include areas such as the country's levels of formal and informal volunteering, charitable donations, plus levels of community action and collaboration.

The survey will also assess how connected people are to their communities and whether they are able to affect local decision making, in keeping with the Big Society agenda. Unlike the Citizenship Survey Community Life will also aim to assess the nation's wellbeing through their levels of happiness, anxiety and satisfaction.

Commenting on the decision, leading volunteering commentator and blogger Rob Jackson said,

"The news of a new national volunteering survey is very welcome, although one wonders why a whole new survey is being created so soon after the citizenship survey was axed.

Regardless, I hope that the methodology reflects the established best practice in researching volunteering and provides data that is benchmarkable with previous surveys and provides data that helps improve volunteer management practice not just headline data that is of interest to statisticians."

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