We have summarised our desires in this manifesto as a desire for decency. We want to see a government that promotes decency for the communities of the United Kingdom, as well as seeking to promote this decent life to both our next-door and global neighbours.
“What is decent?” is a question that can be asked of policy far beyond that which is covered in the specific ideas contained in these pages. The question of how we promote decency in terms of quality of life and conduct of ourselves and others can be a guiding principle for the Ministry of Defence as much as it is for Defra, DWP, or the Home Office.
Our manifesto, therefore, asks for more than the adoption of some policy ideas; it asks for a rethink and a different approach as a nation.
While social prescribing has been happening across the UK (in different forms) for a long time, awareness of, and involvement in, these initiatives is patchy. With social prescribing forming a core part of plans to tackle loneliness, and the NHS Long Term Plan promising new funding and training to make it happen, it is crucial that its implementation includes the full breadth of the faith sector’s offer.
Training for link workers to recognise opportunities in different sectors, and mapping of social prescribing ‘destinations’ including faith and community assets is imperative within primary care networks. Where appropriate, funding should be offered to organisations receiving referrals.
Faith and community assets are often at the sharp end of dealing with the shortfall in public sector provision and government policy. There are too many ways for the most disadvantaged to fall though the gaps in UK society. Some policies have obvious good intent but fail through poor execution. We are calling on the next government to fix the gaps between policy aspiration and user experience.
Policy needs to be tested and developed with the input of civil society groups, as part of greater transparency input, recorded in a ‘you said, we did‘ framework so it is clear if government chooses not to take up the advice provided by civil society and faith groups.
Some problems—mental health, addiction, loneliness—affect us all. They are everyone’s business, and we should be looking for common solutions to these common problems. Historically, faith-based organisations have played a central role in these efforts, and the relationships, access, experience, and volunteers bring lived expertise to the table. Built on relationships, faith-based organisations often go above and beyond the mandate, while maintaining low transactional costs. They also provide long-lasting social capital. Faith communities offer places of belonging, rehabilitation, healing, learning, creativity, and transformation. These surplus benefits ought to be recognised.
The Faith Covenant should be adopted by Local Authorities who should identify and mould the Covenant to fit and strengthen partnerships with their communities.
Over 9 million people of all ages say they ‘always’ or ‘often’ feel lonely. In recent years, a government loneliness strategy has been published and ministerial responsibility given to the issue. FaithAction’s report “Right Up Your Street”, launched in July, highlighted the significant work that faith-based organisations have long been doing to tackle the problem nationwide. Loneliness must remain high on the Government’s agenda, and national initiatives should draw from the knowledge of faith groups, who are among the most experienced people working in this area.
We’re calling for a “loneliness impact assessment” to be introduced on all domestic policy so that progress made, and the effectiveness of all initiatives, can be better measured. The long-standing contribution of faith-based organisations and faith groups needs to be recognised and their expertise should be leveraged by invited them to discuss and shape future policy.
There are strains upon the very fabric of UK society. These are due to the political dislocations from the Brexit referendum, the disruption to society flowing from the financial crash of 2008, and the nature of unprecedented globalisation and technological change. The issues are complex and it has suited some leaders to magnify the differences and dis-unity. There now needs to be a concerted effort embraced by those in parliament and government to bring the country together.
We’re calling for a Minister for the Unity of the UK in cabinet—whose first order of business should be to approach faith groups on how they, along with other community groups, bring cohesion to people of diverse backgrounds (class, race and origin).
Create a faith-based unit within the government. The purpose of the unit will be to form partnerships between the government and faith-based organisations, to more effectively serve the people and communities that they represent, and to be embedded in all delivery at the local level.
The unit should be cross-departmental and accountable to a cabinet-level minister. The unit should be founded on the principle that it is these organisations, birthed at grassroots level, that are best placed to meet local needs.
This would be central to a new settlement between government and faith groups, a recognition that there needs to be new ways sought to solve today's complex problems. There needs to be a more creative way of releasing resources, to enact things like asset transfers, so that groups with the passion and drive to make a difference have the resources to do so. This will entail a recognition of what faith gives to these areas, and the fact that community is often at the core of any transformation.
Local authorities should sign the Covenant and enter a new era of working with faith-based organisations. A greater level of dialogue is needed, and feedback on what is working should be freely shared. Tokenism must be avoided. Multilateral discussions are good, but not a replacement for the building of relationships with individuals and their communities.
We say “share your concerns,” and you may ﬁnd that local faith groups are well-positioned to share in the burden and the solutions. For example, faith groups could contribute to the local Joint Strategic Needs Assessment and Health and Wellbeing Strategy. Faith groups could also be used to shape solutions within the planning cycle, to make consultation powerful and effective and to allow quality decisions to be made.
How much do you know about the activities of faith-based organisations in the area?
Do you know what issues matter to faith communities here?
How are you looking to connect with faith groups in your campaign?
Which of the proposals in this manifesto will you adopt?
Do you know about the Covenant and will you write to our local authority in support of it?
How will you support local initiatives, particularly from faith groups?