FaithAction awarded contract to support Barking & Dagenham Faith Forum

In October, the team here at FaithAction were delighted to learn that we had secured an 18-month contract to support the Faith Forum in Barking & Dagenham, one of Greater London’s most eastern boroughs, and FaithAction’s home turf (our office is located in the borough and many of the team are residents). Barking & Dagenham is also one of London’s most deprived boroughs. It is undergoing a transformation, however, with Crossrail running through the north of the borough, a raft of new homes appearing to attract those looking for easy access into the city, and a brand-new film studio currently under construction. The borough has also seen a massive transformation in its faith make-up, seeing large growth in the number of faith communities now meeting in the borough. Faith plays a tremendous role in the lives of many of its residents, with 74% noting some form of religious identity in the 2011 census.

The role that faith plays in the borough was demonstrated no more clearly than in the response to the COVID pandemic. Many faith groups joined the BD CAN initiative, a partnership between the local authority and VCFSE groups. This initiative provided food to those in need, collection services for essential medicines for those who were isolating or shielding, and befriending to those who had lost connection with their usual support networks. Many places of worship opened their doors as hubs for deliveries, and many people of faith volunteered their time to help make deliveries and phone calls to those most in need.

Our first event working in partnership with the Faith Forum, and the Forum’s first in-person event since the start of the pandemic, was a Faith Reception to celebrate Inter Faith Week. We were delighted to be joined by Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr Saima Ashraf, who spoke about how proud she was of the response faith groups had made to a time of crisis. Attendees were also given the opportunity to tell us more about what they thought the priorities should be going forward.

The Barking & Dagenham Faith Forum joins the Tower Hamlets Inter Faith Forum as local projects the FaithAction team has the great pleasure to work on. This gives us the opportunity to find out first-hand the exceptional work being taken on by faith groups, and helps us ground our policy work with real life examples of what challenges face many faith groups across the country. We as a team couldn’t be more proud to be helping the residents and faith groups of both Barking & Dagenham and Tower Hamlets, and working alongside the hard-working trustees and steering committee members to continue to highlight the role that faith can play in supporting the most vulnerable and in need.

About Andrew Welsby

Project Officer

Andrew is one of FaithAction’s Project Officers.

Andrew is leading on our Barking and Dagenham Faith Leaders Network, supporting local faith leaders delivering social action projects in their community. He also supports hubs on our Cafe Connect programme, helping new arrivals from Hong Kong.

Andrew has also been involved in project managing our Community Champions Programme, directly recruiting and working with our Community Champions. He was part of the Faith COVID Response Project, arranging focus groups and becoming the team’s go-to person on the places of worship guidance.