Have just uploaded my responses to the South Somerset Issues and Options Consultation. Having tried the 'download and fill in a questionnaire' option, and wrestled for 2 hours with trying to get the thing to format properly, it's just so much easier to fill it in online. There is blue text in each section of the online consultation document. Click on that, and you get the feedback forms and buttons.
It's not brilliantly designed, but its less painful than global warming, traffic pollution and youth crime, which will be the results if we don't get this right.
Some quotes I've used:
“Third sector organisations provide much needed services to people throughout society. They help strengthen communities and bind them together. They provide opportunities for voluntary activity and civic commitment. They articulate needs and provide a voice to those who might otherwise not be heard. They express values and motivations which help create the kind of society people wish to live in.” (Gordon Brown, from the Foreword of ‘Guide to Government Assistance to the Third Sector’ Treasury/Cabinet Office/Charity and Third Sector Finance Unit. June 2006)
“Faith community organisations are gateways to access the tremendous reserves of energy and commitment of their members, which can be of great importance to the development of civil society….Moreover, faith communities have a long tradition of working with their members and others to foster community development.” (Home Office Faith Communities Unit ‘Working Together’, 2004 pages 7-8)
and Reports such as
Defra ‘Faith in Rural Communities’;
The Council for the Christian Voluntary Sector in Wales ‘Faith in Wales’;
North West Regional Development Agency ‘Faith in England’s Northwest: Economic Impact Assessment’
'Daily Service: How Faith Communities Contribute to Neighbourhood Renewal and Regeneration in the South West of England ' publised by SW Council of Faiths/Government Office South West, September 2004. See also 'Faith in Action' from the same source.
all demonstrate the positive economic and social impact of faith communities on their locality.
quotes and citations not used, but free to a good home:
“I want to see a greater role for faith based groups in UK welfare delivery. If we are to successfully tackle problems like poverty, long-term unemployment and benefit dependency then we need to ensure that people have access to the services and support that the welfare state offers.I believe that faith based groups offer an invaluable link into communities and individuals who may at first be reluctant or unsure of how to engage with the state and the programmes that are there to help them. What I want to do now, is see how we can take this further." (Jim Murphy, Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform, January 2007)
Jim Murphy said elsewhere: "Put simply, I believe that there is not an entirely secular solution to achieve social cohesion in our communities. It can not be done without the partnership of all faith-based groups"
“the vast majority who are involved in the church keep this a throbbing, thriving community – and if they weren’t here, it would be dire. They are the ones with teh motivation to do things in the village, becasuse they want people involved. They are the ones who push and drive and build the community. Without it the village would be dead really.” (village resident, cited in Faith in Rural Communities p3)
Hazel Blears MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government: "the increasing role of faith–based organisations in delivering community support and local services, for example housing associations. I welcome this phenomenon. I've read and enjoyed Steve Chalke's book 1000 Ways to Transform Your Community, which highlights the Christian contribution to community regeneration and renewal, and I know there are comparable examples from the Muslim and Jewish communities."
Rt Hon David Hanson, Minister of State for Justice "The Government recognises and values the experience and resources that faith communities and organisations bring to building strong, active and safer communities. Faith-based organisations have a long and impressive history of working with some of the most challenging and socially excluded young people and adults in our society to help them turn away from crime. Faith can be a great source of support and a motivator for personal change, and can also motivate people from a wide range of backgrounds to help and care for others. " from the foreword of 'Believing We Can', a Government consultation paper on the role of faith communities in justice and work with offenders.
"The Government recognises the vital contribution faith communities makes to society. Faith communities can make a difference in ways governments cannot; in the ways they reach out to excluded communities, build the confidence and abilities of those who volunteer, and provide innovative solutions to the new problems that society faces. The Government wants to address the barriers faith communities experience to participation in civic life, including in accessing sources of funding, and wants to increase and improve the wide range of services that they provide to members of their own faith and to the wider community." From Office of the Third Sector – “The future role of the third sector in social and economic regeneration - Interim Report" Box 2.2, p 13
Basically Government ministers are queueing up to partner with faith groups, and slowly we're cottoning on to the fact that resources and partnership is available. Government does not have all the answers, and government departments are looking to faith groups and the 'Third Sector' to help in areas like crime, cohesion, welfare, poverty, community building etc.