Headlines: June 13th, 2007



A new report today sets out recommendations for a framework that would enable faith based groups to deliver more public services without policy makers alienating civil society. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations is warning that treating faith-based organisations as separate may be divisive.

In its report, ‘Faith and Voluntary Action’, it says while organisations such as religious congregations, community groups and charities are distinctive, treating them as separate from secular charities or community groups creates the danger that policy makers will alienate civil society. NCVO is particularly concerned that secular and faith-based organisations both at times feel discriminated against when applying for Government funding and can feel excluded from policy discussions.

NCVO recognises the tensions about the role of faith-based bodies delivering public services and it cites the debate over adoption services, but it is worried that the current approach is affecting the potential for collaboration between faith and secular organisations. It is calling for the relationship between government and faith groups to be based on the same principles as that with other organisations, including respect for their independence.

Karl Wilding, Head of Research at NCVO said, “At a time when civil society organisations are facing pressures in terms of identity and role, greater levels of collaboration should be a source of strength. Faith-based and secular organisations should build on their shared distinctiveness and should not lapse into practices and identities of separateness and, ultimately, isolation.”

Today’s report says both-based and secular organisations are well placed to deliver public services but that their work with clearly defined communities may not always be in the broader interest. If faith-based organisations are to play a greater role in public service delivery, it argues, a statutory framework that emphasises the universality of service delivery needs to be upheld.

It calls, too, for more impetus for collaboration between the two sides and a more joined-up approach to multi-purpose buildings. The report recommends that policy makers should be more consistent when referring to faith groups and should recognise that the use of the term “faith-based organisations” disguises significant variation in resources, roles, attitudes and practices.