On Thursday 11th February, Rt Hon Stephen Timms tabled a debate in Parliament on the response of faith groups during the covid-19 outbreak. Several MPs joined this debate to commend faith communities and faith-based organisations for the excellent and often sacrificial ways in which they have served their communities throughout the past year.
Timms drew special attention to the Keeping the Faith report, conducted by the Civil Society Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London, and commissioned by the APPG on Faith and Society with support from the Sir Halley Stewart Trust, the Trussell Trust and the Good Faith partnership. Referencing some of the key findings, Timms noted that:
- More than two thirds of the councils surveyed reported an increase in partnership working with faith groups.
- 91% described their experience with faith groups as “very positive” or “positive”.
- Nearly 60% of councils have been working with church-based food banks during the pandemic, 24% with mosque-based food banks, 11% with food banks in Gurdwaras, and 10% with food banks in Hindu temples.
- Only 1% expressed “concerns about the possibility of proselytization in the context of partnership working”.
See the Keeping the Faith report for more findings as well as the resulting recommendations for government.
Timms also urged Ministers to encourage nationwide adoption of the Faith Covenant – a framework that reflects shared values to foster trust and promote effective collaboration. Interest in the Faith Covenant had continued to accelerate during the past year, and, as Timms remarked, “FaithAction, the APPG’s secretariat, is increasingly drawing those councils together to network and learn from one another, together with faith groups in their areas.”
In his closing remarks, Eddie Hughes MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Housing, Communities and Local Government, commended the response of faith communities to the pandemic and the impressive findings of the Keeping the Faith report, and endorsed the Faith Covenant, stating:
“Such initiatives can help to encourage collaborations that bring about huge benefits for communities. I encourage all councils to look at the faith covenant and take up the challenge to work constructively with faith groups.”
Reflecting on the debate and the response it received, Timms remarked:
“I was delighted that MPs had the chance to recognise the vital work of faith groups during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We need our public institutions to be able to work confidently with people whose starting point is religious faith so I was very encouraged by the Minister’s comments about the Covenant. I hope his department will support its continued roll-out across other local authorities.”