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Church News

MPs call for a 'Faiths Commissioner' to liaise between local government and faith groups

by Cara Bentley

A group of MPs has called for the role of 'Faiths Commissioner' to be created to encourage collaborations between local government, churches and other faith groups. 

The role would be a similar status to the Children's Commissioner, appointed by a government department - in the Faith Commissioner's case, the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government. The commissioner would responsible for promoting and protecting the interests of that community. Part of their role would also be to look at how religious communities can help central government post Covid-19. 

Politicians on the All-party Parliamentary Group for Faith and Society argue the appointment would strengthen relationships between local authorities and faith groups, remove mistrust that can sometimes happen and would build on progress which they say has already been made during the pandemic in terms of collaboration. 

Chair of the group for Faith and Society, Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP said the coronavirus has pushed many into working together already: "Many Councils have turned to churches, and to other faith groups, to help, particularly to provide food to people who would otherwise go without."

The Labour MP for East Ham added that the accompanying report which recommends the appointment shows more collegiate activity would benefit everyone: "Public policy has often implicitly assumed that religious faith is on the way out. This fascinating report underlines that, in Britain in 2020, faith groups have vital resources which are crucial for community wellbeing. We need our public institutions to be able to work confidently with people whose starting point is religious faith and to tap into the moral perspectives, the experience of running practical initiatives, and the insights into how policy is influencing people's lives in local contexts, which faith communities can offer."

The Keeping the Faith report which argues for the role states that 67 per cent of local authorities say  that there has been an increase in working with faith groups since the start of the pandemic, with partnerships mostly focusing on solving hunger. 

Seventy-six per cent of local authorities expect that new partnerships formed with faith groups during the pandemic will continue afterwards. However, 47 per cent of them want these partnerships to continue on a changed basis after the pandemic. 
The MPs on the APPG say that this desire to work together in some format proves there is a need for someone who can work on the nature, implications and level of collaboration.

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