Faith groups are embedded in every community. Over 35 million people in the UK profess a religious affiliation and 17% say that it is one of the most significant factors in their life.
Faith groups are, and always will be, significant to civil society. They are familiar with many of the issues found in our communities and are involved in the solutions. In a world of shrinking budgets and economic imperatives, their sustained engagement should be highly valued.
It is good to have people of faith involved in our communities. They live longer, have stronger relationships, are happier and healthier.
This manifesto is not self-seeking, for we do not pursue a more comfortable existence. It is a request for better partnerships so we can better serve society.
FaithAction, and our members, can speak from a position of engaging daily with the successes and challenges found in grassroots social action. They are too significant to ignore.
The Covenant is a joint commitment between faith communities and local authorities, developed by The All Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society. It is a set of principles that guide engagement, aiming to remove some of the mistrust that exists and to promote open, practical working on all levels.
The Covenant has already been adopted by 6 local authorities since it's launch.
Local Authorities have a multitude of positive partnerships with faith communities who are involved in the design, delivery and evaluation of a wide range of initiatives.
The Covenant should be adopted by Local Authorities. Faith leaders should propose the Covenant to those of influence in their locality. Local Authorities identify and mould the Covenant to fit and strengthen partnerships with their communities.
The Covenant will continue to be championed by Central Government Departments, who have been encouraging Local Government to adopt this framework.
Faith is woven through the very fabric of voluntary endeavour.
We are not a single cause or a minority group. We have always been, and will continue to be, at the forefront of delivering solutions in society. Sometimes, our work carries a faith label, but often it does not. As one of our members tweeted, “The social action of faith groups is not some additional icing on the cake”.
The Charity Commission should allow groups to register their status as a faith based organisation.
Local MPs and party leaders should commit to visit and meet with faith leaders and faith based organisations regularly. This will help to build relationship and avoid tokenism.
The Act requires people who commission or buy public services to try and secure added economic, social or environmental benefits for their local area.
Social value is something that faith groups understand. We can help commissioners to design better services that work with existing resources rather than trying to import solutions as part of a contract.
Local authorities and their contractors have an exciting and diverse menu of opportunities whereby social value can be delivered in a meaningful way.
Commissioners and faith groups convene community activists as social value teams to develop Social Value Charters. These guide the ways in which contracts can leverage the social capital and effective work that is already taking place.
Faith groups are providing innovative and active solutions to many of society’s problems. They may already be addressing needs before such needs are formally identified and assessed. Having a spokesperson at the highest level will ensure that existing wisdom and knowledge is brought to bear on the challenges found in society.
This role would go beyond that of the ‘Minister for Faith’, which has historically focused on dialogue, or the ‘Minister for Communities’ with its focus on cohesion. We are asking for a Minister to be an advocate, representing and signposting Government officials to the great organisations and work that is being done by them.
A new government Office for Faith Based Organisations with a new Minister of State.
A new role created in the Cabinet to vocalise the real change faith based groups bring to communities.
This will help uncover the rich tapestry of work undertaken. It will help local agencies and faith groups in strategic planning. Faith groups can reach the parts of society others cannot. They serve at times and in places beyond the scope of those who would claim to do similar work.
Audits of faith based social action, and other research becomes commonplace. These audits will then be used to plan services and demonstrate the tangible difference faith groups play in communities.
Faith groups are actively invited to discuss and address local challenges. Local Authorities should not only look to faith groups for consultations and plans, but how to connect existing services better for local communities.
Even services that are not charged for directly have a cost that ought to be recognised. Faith based communities offer places of belonging, rehabilitation, healing, learning, creativity and transformation. Built on relationships, services often have low transactional costs.
Faith groups are good at making things happen even when money is limited because they have a ‘values bottom line’ concerned with making a difference more than making a profit. Sometimes these are organised in a way that necessitates a funding agreement. We call on funders to contribute to the associated costs of delivering projects – a budget line in proposals, tenders and bids to recognise long term social investment should be permitted.
Central government should be aware of the social capital – or perhaps we should say ‘faith capital’ - and the service that it is ‘buying’ and reflect this when it comes to budgetary decisions.
Central Government to specify how much core costs they are willing to fund (in percentage) for faith based organisations. We also recommend a long term social investment budget line to recognise the work already contributed in creating and growing sustainable presence in communities which will continue beyond the length of the contract.
While many faith communities do open their buildings for public use, many more could offer a greater range of public services with support and encouragement.
This will benefit local agencies, the faith group and local residents. Furthermore, buildings are only one element of the accumulated assets of faith groups. Wisdom, know-how and track record have amassed over many years. These assets need intelligent support, not just formulaic contracts.
Faith groups and their activities are supported with permission, facilities, people, places and funding with a particular focus on using faith buildings for public services.
Project commissioning and consultations draw upon the institutional memory of faith based communities. Together, local authorities and faith groups discover the full range of enabling factors, including funding.
Create a faith-based unit within Government, based on the original mission of the US model. The purpose of the unit will be to form partnerships between government and faith-based organisations, to more effectively serve the people and communities that they represent, and to be embedded in all delivery at the local authority level.
A UK version would be cross-departmental and accountable to a Cabinet Level minister. The Office should be founded on the principle that it is these organisations, birthed at grassroots level, that are best placed to meet local needs.
This would be central to a new settlement between government and faith groups, a recognition that there needs to be a new solution to solve complex problems. There needs to be a more creative way of releasing resources, to enact things like asset transfers so that groups with the passion and drive to make a difference have the resources to do so. This will entail a recognition of what faith gives to these areas, and the fact that community is often at the core of any transformation.
Local authorities should sign the Covenant and enter a new era of working with faith-based organisations. A greater level of dialogue is needed, and feedback on what is working should be freely shared. Tokenism must be avoided. Multilateral discussions are good, but not a replacement for the building of relationships with individuals and their communities.
We say “Share your concerns”, and you may find that local faith groups are well positioned to share in the burden and the solutions. For example, faith groups could contribute to the local Joint Strategic Needs Assessment and Health and Wellbeing Strategy. Faith groups could also be used to shape solutions within the planning cycle, to make consultation powerful and effective and to allow quality decisions to be made.
How much do you know about the activities of faith-based organisations in the area?
Do you know what issues matter to faith communities here?
How are you looking to connect with faith groups in your campaign?
Which of the proposals in this manifesto will you adopt?
Do you know about the Covenant and will you write to our local authority in support of it?
How will you support local initiatives, particularly from faith groups?