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Keeping the Faith: six months on

On 5th November 2020, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Faith and Society launched their latest report. Almost six months on, we wanted to remind you of the findings from this important report and give you an update on the activity that has occurred since its launch.

Keeping the Faith was a report conducted by researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London, with the aim of evaluating how local authorities had worked with faith communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. In short, their survey of 194 local authorities found that collaboration between local authorities and faith communities had increased drastically.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Over two-thirds of local authorities surveyed reported that there had been an increase in partnership working with faith groups since the start of the pandemic.
  • 91% of local authorities described their experience of partnership with faith groups as ‘Very Positive’ or ‘Positive’.
  • 76% of local authorities expect that new partnerships undertaken with faith groups during the pandemic will continue afterwards.

As Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the APPG, remarked:

The imperative of providing support to vulnerable families has overcome decades of wariness.

On that note, another interesting thing to see from this report was that only a very small minority of local authorities (3%) reported any concerns around proselytization when working with faith groups, despite this issue historically acting a major roadblock to collaboration.

The primary recommendation of the report is the appointment of a Faiths Commissioner which would underpin the development of three further initiatives to strengthen relationships between local authorities and faith groups:

  1. Nationwide adoption of the Faith Covenant
  2. Developing a toolkit to facilitate effective partnership under the Faith Covenant
  3. Establishing a new “Faiths Advisory Council” to develop more effective ways for faith groups and Government to engage in strategic planning

In the months following the launch of the report, Keeping the Faith was discussed at Church Commissioners Questions and at an adjournment debate on “the response of faith groups during the COVID-19 outbreak”. In his closing remarks at the adjournment debate, Eddie Hughes MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Housing, Communities and Local Government, commended the response of faith communities during the pandemic and the impressive findings of the Keeping the Faith report, as well as endorsing the Faith Covenant, stating:

Such initiatives can help to encourage collaborations that bring about huge benefits for communities. I encourage all councils to look at the Faith Covenant and take up the challenge to work constructively with faith groups.

Conversations around the findings and recommendations of the report have continued to take place with government ministers and officials, and plans to conduct a piece of follow-up research are under consideration.

FaithAction have championed faith communities and celebrated their response during the past year through the work of the APPG and through our independent activity and hope to continue making sure all levels of government consider the value that faith communities add to society, both during and beyond times of crisis.

One way in which we will continue to do this is through working with the APPG to develop the recommended toolkit to assist local authorities and faith communities alike in partnering well and making use of the framework provided by the Faith Covenant. Additionally, we are continuing to host monthly focus groups to capture the work that faith communities are doing to serve the needy and assist in rebuilding, as well as their opinions regarding the current regulations.

As a membership organisation, if there is work that faith communities you know are doing that is going overlooked, or needs that are not being met, we’d love to hear from you. We will be distributing our annual members’ survey next week, so please do take a minute to complete that to let us know how FaithAction can best support you at this time. Our Coffee House for next week will also be covering the survey in more detail if you’d like more information or to ask us any questions.

Additionally, we hope you will join a focus group, or get in touch at [email protected] to set up a call.

About Matt Allen

Project Officer

Matt plays an important role in FaithAction’s efforts to advocate for faith communities and the value they add to society. He was central in coordinating our COVID-Response project and continues to gather and collate concerns and ideas from faith communities up and down the country. He also oversees FaithAction’s work as Secretariat to the APPG on Faith and Society and works to support the propagation and health of Faith Covenants nationwide.