Govern­ment boost for in­ter­faith pro­grammes

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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.

* Hear the Arch­bishop’s com­ments on The Church of Eng­land News­pa­per Ra­dio Show on iTunes or on our web­site.

Eric Pick­les

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