Headlines: March 25th, 2009

Five government departments have joined the Church of England to improve the support offered to churches and faith groups to work with local communities.

The report, ‘Realising the potential’, is the first time a list of all the relevant Government funding streams and capacity building resources have been listed in one document. It sets out support to help faith groups engage strategically at local and regional levels around the delivery of local priorities and access to funding allocations. There are also out actions for national, regional and local government to improve how they work with churches and faith groups.

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham described places of worship as being at the heart of neighbourhoods. He said: “Both the buildings and the people that frequent them are so often active in enhancing the lives of many people, offering services to meet the needs of the local community.”

A panel of experts will now be set up by the Department for Communities and Local Government “to address any squeamishness that funding providers may have in allocating public funds to faith groups”.

The Church of England welcomed the report, highlighting the fact that its 16,000 parish churches form a larger network than that of the Post Office, and can be found in areas that have few or no other public facilities. Already, a dozen churches have set up post offices, while one hosts a tourism discovery centre.

Anne Sloman, a member of the Archbishops’ Council, said: “It is now up to the Church, and others, to take advantage of this initiative – nothing will happen unless we make it happen. This is a wonderful opportunity that we should embrace wholeheartedly.”