Religion- and belief-based organisations can make an important contribution to social action and services provision, not least because of their capacity and motivation to address local need. There are, however, some issues about their work that are the source of debate.
The following submissions are particularly noteworthy for their discussions of religion and belief in the context of social action.
‘…it is our faith and the beliefs we hold that drive us to engage with the world around us and to seek the welfare of our neighbours.’
The Church Urban Fund argues that faith-based social action needs to be valued and invested in by the government. It argues that contributions of faith-based organisations include that their work is ‘often more relationally based’ than with other organisations, and that they create spaces for long-term relationships to grow. The Fund suggests that local authorities are becoming more willing to partner with faith-based organisations after a period of mistrust.
‘Faith-based providers are often overlooked due to local authorities’ fears that they might discriminate or proselytise to service users.’
This submission is from the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, a Sikh organisation. The authors argue that faith-based organisations act as ‘community anchor organisations’ and serve a range of local needs. They set out some of the advantages and disadvantages of social provision by FBOs. They also suggest that FBOs face difficulties when bidding for contracts with local authorities because of concerns that the FBOs are motivated by a desire to proselytise. This submission also makes extensive points related to law and education.
‘The UK Government needs to ensure it does a quality and correct stakeholder analysis. Consulting with the wrong stakeholder can be catastrophic, causing conflict and creating distrust.’
Jay Ashra is an international development professional and teaches Hinduism at GCSE level. Ashra suggests that governments are failing to identify and fund truly representative Hindu organisations. The submission argues that many faith-based social action organisations aim to proselytise, and that they should instead ensure that their work is done in a ‘secular manner’, without attempting to convert people they seek to help. This submission also discusses social change and issues concerning law, media and dialogue.
‘Faith-based organisations are facing increasing demand for vital social services. At the same time, however, they are seeing their funding come under threat as a result of equality legislation.’
This submission is from the Northern Ireland Catholic Council on Social Affairs, which advises the Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland on social, legal and political issues. It discusses the challenges posed to some publicly-funded Catholic agencies by changes in equalities legislation, over issues such as same-sex marriages. It argues that faith-based organisations are facing threats to their public funding because of these legal issues.