Lord Greenhalgh is the Minister of State for Building Safety, Fire and Communities.
Over the past year and a half, the response of faith communities to the pandemic has been remarkable and I have been extremely proud of being the Faith Minister during this time.
Up and down the country, faith communities have risen to the challenges created by the pandemic, offering solace to so many people, not only for their spiritual wellbeing, but also by providing a multitude of support services.
Faith groups have been a lynchpin for many, providing pastoral care, support networks for older or vulnerable people, and continuing informal education and enriching cultural activities online.
Faith groups have also been at the forefront of the vaccine roll out, promoting and supporting people to take up the vaccine as well as countering the spread of misinformation – with many vaccines being given in places of worship up and down the country.
I am therefore delighted to share the steps I have taken to ensure we can build on the work witnessed over the past 18 months and strengthen the nature of engagement between national government, local government, and faith groups.
The Faith New Deal Pilot Fund has two elements:
- £1,000,000 (including £25,000 to aid capacity building in the faith community sector) available through a competitive Grant Fund to support Faith groups to deliver innovative partnership projects
- Development of a Faith Compact which will set out key principles to aid engagement between faith groups, national government, and local government.
Each element aims to bring in the underutilised capacity of the faith sector to work alongside local public services. I am also seeking to reduce the number of initiatives taking place in silo, and make best use of national, local and philanthropic funding.
It is important to acknowledge two reports from parliamentarians / parliamentary groups that have helped to shape this new policy. Danny Kruger’s report for government, ‘Levelling up our communities: proposals for a new social covenant‘ and the APPG on Faith and Society’s report, ‘Keeping the Faith – Partnerships between faith groups and local authorities during and beyond the pandemic’.
Both reports set out the ability of faith groups to provide innovative solutions to complex problems to make valuable contributions to all parts of society. I also expect the independent advisor Colin Bloom’s report on the Government’s engagement with faith communities to help me further form this policy – specifically the Faith Compact.
The £1m Faith New Deal Pilot Fund
The pilot fund is a new, competitive grant programme to test and strengthen relationships between public bodies and Faith groups. My intention is for this fund to explore how we build on the way faith groups have partnered with national and local government throughout the pandemic to see how we can forge a ‘new deal’ between government and faith communities to galvanise our energy in the national COVID-19 recovery effort.
The Fund has been designed to provide proof of concept that faith groups can play a significant and effective role in supporting wider communities to solve local problems, levering in additional philanthropic resources and providing match funding from their own resources. The intention for the funded projects is that they support capacity building efforts to develop learning and good practice, documenting the impact of their programmes and their unique role and contribution to civil society.
The Faith New Deal Pilot Fund will also inform the development of a Faith Compact, a set of partnership principles, to strengthen existing collaboration and inform future relationships. The Compact will seek to promote open working at all levels to give faith groups the opportunity to continue to work constructively and effectively as part of civil society. We will work closely with the APPG on Faith and Society, Danny Kruger MP, and Colin Bloom to determine the most effective way to inform this work.
The time is right to announce this new policy in response to recommendations made from our colleagues in parliament and the exceptional work we have witnessed over the last 18 months. The Faith New Deal will continue to build on the tenets of common understanding and collaboration and the fundamental proposition that by working together, we will achieve more through our common endeavours.