Christians and other faith groups will have their capacity to participate alongside others in regional policy-making in England enhanced thanks to the new Regional Networks Support project, says Faithworks, which has established the initiative.
The leading national Christian social action movement has been awarded the contract by the National Lottery’s Big Lottery Fund to strengthen and build comprehensive regional networks of faith sector agencies across the nine English government regions.
In addition to improving faith sector representation at regional government level, the project also aims to increase regional bodies’ understanding of what makes faith-based service delivery distinctive, to create more service delivery partnerships and to enable more support from infrastructure agencies for hard-to-reach faith-based organisations. It is estimated that at least 200 organisations and projects in each region will directly benefit from this work.
To achieve these goals, specialist regional partners will be recruited from each of the English government regions, and two new full-time staff members will also be appointed. Faithworks has already run an extensive consultation with the national and regional Christian sector, which has successfully identified existing networks and built relationships with key regional stakeholders.
Malcolm Duncan, leader of the Faithworks Movement, said the project would bring benefits to communities across the country.
“It is vital for the faith sector to be involved in regional policy-making, consultation and service delivery because it represents a large segment of our communities, and is a leading provider of voluntary and statutory services already,” he said.
“Moreover, faith groups have the ability to reach those ‘hard-to-reach’ pockets of society and communities which government can’t. Society as a whole benefits from the faith sector being involved in policy making and service delivery. Traditionally there has been misunderstanding and suspicion on the parts of both government and faith groups, but this is changing for the better and we hope this project will contribute to further significant improvement in this area, ultimately leading to positive change on the ground.
Faithworks describes itself as "a movement of thousands of individuals, churches and organisations motivated by their Christian faith to serve the needs of their local communities and positively influence society as a whole. Faithworks exists to resource, inspire and speak up for these vital initiatives."