The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Faith and Society, chaired by the Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, has pressed today for national support and uptake of the Faith Covenant.
The Covenant, developed after hearing evidence from faith groups across the country, was the idea of David Lammy MP, who was keen to develop a set of principles that faith groups and local authorities could adopt to promote joint working. Since its development in 2013, six local authorities have recognised the significance and potential of the Covenant, adapted it for their locality and signed it – demonstrating a commitment to partnership between local authorities and faith groups.
A widely appreciated tool for engagement, the Covenant has not received the traction it deserves despite efforts. Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP spoke in the debate today picking up on the additional support that the Covenant needs,
The hon. Member for Congleton intervened a few minutes ago to draw attention to the Oasis Trust. That multi-academy trust is one of the biggest school providers in the country. The Oasis Foundation aims to carry out research in this area and to publish reports. As the hon. Lady noted, its first report, “Faith in Public Service”, points out correctly that the covenant that I have described has been taken up by only about half a dozen local authorities so far.
I commend to the Minister the report’s call that the Government, under the auspices of the Office for Civil Society, should “articulate a clear strategy for national and local engagement with faith organisations, to include…sponsorship of the Covenant developed by the APPG on Faith and Society”, and should offer further encouragement to local authorities to engage churches and church-based organisations in their commissioning decisions. I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Anna Turley), who speaks for the Opposition on Office for Civil Society matters, is in the Chamber. I welcome the further endorsement of the covenant provided by the Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, chaired by Baroness Butler-Sloss, in its comprehensive and thoughtful report “Living with Difference: Community, Diversity and the Common Good”, which was published last December with the support of the Woolf Institute of Cambridge.
Daniel Singleton, National Executive Director of FaithAction, which provides the secretariat for the APPG on Faith and Society, said,
The Covenant is a fantastic tool for local faith groups and local authorities to increase mutual understanding and joint working. Since the Covenant has been signed, we have seen some great progress – not always new programmes, but examples of faith leaders and local authorities working more closely together and building relationships to benefit the whole community. We would like to see increased recognition and adoption of the Covenant, particularly in some of the most diverse local authority areas in the country.
Notes for editors
About the APPG on Faith and Society: The APPG on Faith and Society was launched in 2012. The APPG’s aims are to highlight the contribution to society by faith-based organisations, to identify best practice, and to promote understanding of the groups providing innovative solutions around the country. Its chair is the Rt Hon Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham. For further information see www.faithandsociety.org
About the Covenant: The Covenant is a joint commitment between faith communities and local authorities or other commissioners to a set of principles that guide engagement, aiming to remove some of the mistrust that exists and to promote open, practical working on all levels. It has so far been adopted in Birmingham, Leeds, Northamptonshire, Solihull, Barnet and Calderdale. For further information see www.faithandsociety.org/covenant. Those interested in adopting the Covenant should contact FaithAction on 0845 094 6350 / [email protected]
About FaithAction: FaithAction is a network of faith-based and community organisations serving their communities by delivering public services (such as childcare, health and social care, housing and welfare to work). For more about FaithAction, please visit www.faithaction.net
A transcript of the debate can be found on Hansard.
A video of the debate is available via parliamentlive.tv.