The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) published findings in January 2015 that showed the worst of the UK's spending cuts are still to come.
In order to meet plans announced in the 2014 Autumn Statement, the IFS said that departmental spending cuts of £51.4bn, or 14.1%, are needed in the next parliament. The fat has all been trimmed; now the deeper cuts to central and local government welfare provision will begin.
So whilst our economy slowly returns to growth, for those who struggle in our communities the worst is yet to come.
At Cinnamon Network we are increasingly hearing reports of local authorities approaching churches and other faith groups to ask for their help. Local government officials are recognising that in faith groups they have access to hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of assistance, much of it voluntary, by people already living in and amongst those in need. Add to this the fact that such volunteers are motivated not by dry duty but by deep compassion for their neighbours, and the apparent suspicion of faith in recent years is rapidly crumbling.
But what exactly is happening, and where? I was delighted to see that one of Faith Action’s Manifesto proposals (Proposal 5) calls for audits and mapping of existing faith-based social action across the UK.
Cinnamon Network is currently putting together the finishing touches to the first ever nation-wide audit of faith based social action - the Cinnamon Faith Action Audit. Over the past few months we have helped faith groups in 56 Local Authority areas to map out the social action they are undertaking, and the results will be released shortly after the General Election in May.
Cinnamon Network are already building a list of places interested in undertaking the audit in the near future, and will be repeating the national audit before the next General Election in five years’ time so we can measure the distance travelled.
Previous regional audits have already demonstrated that the results give faith groups the evidence they need to approach their local authorities, police and other agencies with confidence and provide an even stronger foundation for formal and informal partnerships.
Cinnamon Network and I welcome the Faith Action Manifesto and trust that the government will embrace and adopt its proposals to support those people of faith who so willingly stand in the gap for their neighbours.
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.