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Goldsmiths, University of London research into the vital work of faith groups in supporting those in need throughout the covid-19 pandemic has led to the launch of a new £1m government community funding pot.
Produced by Professor Chris Baker and Professor Adam Dinham on behalf of the All Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society, the November 2020 report Keeping the Faith – Partnerships between faith groups and local authorities during and beyond the pandemic showed how faith groups are providing innovative solutions to complex societal problems.
From delivering food to front line workers and vulnerable members of society, supporting the lonely or isolated, and helping vital information get to those who needed it most, faith groups have been instrumental in supporting communities throughout the pandemic, the report showed.
A survey found that in order to serve communities over summer 2020, nearly 60% of local authorities called upon the help of church food banks, a quarter worked with those set up by mosques, 11% with food banks based in Sikh Gurdwaras and 10% with those in Hindu Temples.
Even larger numbers have also been working with faith groups, including Jewish and Buddhist organisations, to collect food or financial donations, cook and deliver meals, recruit volunteers for council programmes, and share information to members.
More than 90 per cent of council leaders said that their experience working with faith groups was positive, and three quarters of local authorities said that they expect their new partnerships with faith groups to continue after the pandemic.
Now a “new deal” has been announced between faith groups and government, with the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government recognising that the good work and closer relationship undertaken during the pandemic should be improved and strengthened.
Faith groups will be able to apply for a share of the fund for projects providing innovative solutions to issues such as food poverty and poor mental health, providing debt advice, or helping those unemployed during the pandemic return to work.
Additionally, the funded projects will aim to have a positive impact in fostering good relations between people of faith and those of other faiths or none within local communities.
The £1m Faith New Deal pilot fund is a direct response to recommendations made by Professor Baker and Professor Dinham’s report, and a second report by Danny Kruger MP published in 2020, Levelling up our communities: proposals for a new social covenant.
Professor Adam Dinham, Director of the Faiths and Civil Society Unit and Co-Head of Department of Social, Therapeutic and Community Studies at Goldsmiths said: 'This significant new funding, along with a new faith-government compact, is a welcome endorsement of the hard work faith groups do in communities, and we look forward to sustained funding and policy to support this invaluable work for years to come.'