Government boost for interfaith programmes
A SUCCESSFUL interfaith programme carried out by the Church Urban Fund is receiving a £3 million expansion to work in a further nine communities.
The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced last week the further investment in the Near Neighbours scheme, which helps local people transform and improve their neighbourhoods.
The Cabinet Minister praised the work that had already been carried out and was happy to ‘hand over the cheque’ to expand into Luton, Rochdale, Bury, Dewsbury, Leeds, Nottingham, North and West London and the Black Country.
This project does something that government is ‘terribly bad at’, Mr Pickles said, organising something that’s both worthy and fun.
Speaking at an event to announce the expansion, in a South London community cen- tre that hosts groups that benefit from the scheme, he said: “We seem to have got ourselves in a place where government have just ignored religious institutions.”
Mr Pickles joked that this ‘just in case they went out and used the money for missionary work’, but he went on to say that the networks in the Church of England were uniquely place to serve the community, which was why the Church Urban Fund was used in 2011 when the programme was established.
“We in government tend to over-talk everything,” the Communities Secretary said.
“Everything has to be a ruddy vision.”
But Near Neighbours has been ‘deliberately underplayed’; a wonderful slow-burning exer- cise that has produced dividends in some of the most culturally diverse parts of the country, he added.
The Archbishop of Canterbury was also at the gathering of faith and community leaders where the expansion was announced.
Justin Welby said getting money from government was often like ‘pulling teeth’, but that was not the case here and he was grateful for it.
“We need to recognise how important Near Neighbours is and how it shows us what can be done. It under-promises and over-achieves,” the Archbishop said.
A women’s group based at the Rockingham Centre, where the event was held, stood to speak about the benefits the group had made to them.
Elephant and Castle is a culturally diverse area, but this group brought the women together and allowed them to make friendships outside their own religion or race.
The Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham are excited that they are an area set to benefit form the project’s growth.
The Rev David McCoulough, Director of Partnership and Mission in the Southwell and Nottingham diocese, said: “These projects can make a real difference to their communities, bringing people together and further strengthening relationships.”
Community and social projects that involve faith groups working together are eligible to apply to the fund for grants of up to £5,000. Projects that have been helped already in other parts of the country include a summer sports programme and the creation of business mentors.
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