Stephen Timms has praised the work of faith groups for their “wide range of contributions they are making to their communities.” His comments came in a Westminster Hall Debate at the House of Commons. The debate, which was led by the Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom followed the publication of a report entitled Faith in the Community.
Stephen, who is the chair of the All-Party Group on Faith and Society, set out what the group had achieved since its formation in April 2012. His comments focussed on the findings of a number of roundtable events which covered welfare-to-work, children and young people, health and well-being and international development. Stephen highlighted some of the difficulties faith groups have encountered when working with grant-making bodies, citing examples where authorities have been hesitant to work with service providers because of a misunderstanding about their work. Stephen also referenced the Demos inquiry into faith, society and politics which he is chairing which found that faith groups are highly motivated and effective.
The All-Party Group on Faith and Society has proposed drafting a covenant that could act as the basis for a fresh conversation between local authorities, and public authorities and faith communities. Speaking about the idea, Stephen said: “The idea of a covenant would be to commit the faith communities that sign up to it to playing their part in addressing some of the pressing community needs and to meeting a set of very high standards, including providing assurances that they would not do the things that sometimes people suspect they might do, while also permitting them to be faithful to the convictions that are the reason for what they do.”
Speaking afterwards, Stephen added: “Faith-based service providers are rooted in the communities they serve. For too long many local authorities have been reluctant to work with them. I hope the idea of a charter will go some way to help."
The All-Party Group hopes to make some specific proposal about a charter shortly.