Study of faith groups and local councils to explore pandemic relationship

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New research from Goldsmiths, University of London will chart the changing relationship between faith groups and local councils as they help communities respond to the impact of coronavirus.

Many faith groups are providing food to vulnerable people during the pandemic

During the pandemic, local authorities seem to have turned to – and indeed relied on – churches, mosques, and faith groups in new ways. In some cases this might build upon a pre-existing relationship, and in others reflect a new openness toward collaboration in contrast to previous hesitance to work together.

Working with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Faith and Society, researchers from the Faiths and Civil Society Unit at Goldsmiths will explore how and why these relationships have come about, how they have worked in practice, and what their implications might be for local authorities, communities, and faith groups.

Professor Adam Dinham and Professor Chris Baker will lead the project, which includes a large-scale survey of local authority leaders and interviews with local authority and faith group representatives.

Work has been made possible by the Sir Halley Stewart Trust, with support from the Trussell Trust (a charity that supports some 1,200 food bank centres, and is working actively towards an end to the need for food banks in the UK) and the Good Faith Partnership consultancy, which helps different sectors work together for common aims.

A final report will be published in October 2020 and will recommend ways in which local authorities and faith-based organisations can continue to work together effectively in the future.

Chair of the All-Party Group for Faith and Society, the Labour MP Stephen Timms, says that anecdotal evidence shows faith groups to have played a crucial role in supporting families, including through food provision.

He said: “Since 2012, the APPG has been encouraging collaboration between local councils and faith groups, and working to overcome the mistrust which can sometimes mark their relationships. And now, with the crisis engulfing everyone, it finally seems to be happening. Faith groups have a key role at the heart of communities up and down the country, and the pandemic seems to be highlighting just how significant a contribution they make to our society.

“Many Councils have turned to churches, and to other faith groups, to help, particularly to provide food to people who would otherwise go without. The anecdotal evidence suggests these partnerships have suddenly become very widespread and are playing a crucial role in getting vital help to families.  This report will shine a light on them.”

Professor Chris Baker, Director of the Faith and Civil Society Unit at Goldsmiths, said: “It is likely that our society will look very different in the future and faith groups will have a critical role which is why this piece of research is so important.

“We hope to provide a set of recommendations that will inform the development of new collaborations – whilst enhancing the effectiveness of existing ones – reflecting the importance of these relationships in the months and years to come.”

The Faiths and Civil Society Unit at Goldsmiths is a centre of excellence, linking research, policy and practice in the field of faith-based social action. Find out more about the Unit