DESPITE a grim economic backdrop, small faith-based
organisations working in deprived communities are rising to the
challenge of meeting a growing demand for their services, new
The results of the 2012 National Church Social Action Survey,
Church and Community Involvement, which surveyed 1139
organisations that have received a Church Urban Fund grant since
2008, found that 71 per cent of the 250 respondents had been able
to make an increase, to some extent, in their service provision
over the past 12 months.
A total of 78 per cent had experienced a rise in demand for
their services during this time - a large increase in 36 per cent
of cases. Nearly all of the organisations are based in the most
deprived areas of England, and have an annual turnover of less than
£150,000 a year. Of the 43 dioceses in England, 39 are represented
in the survey.
The most common strategy to meet rising demand was to put more
time and resources into fund-raising, followed by developing
collaboration with other organisations, and relying more heavily on
volunteers to deliver services. The most common social problems
cited by respondents included high levels of unemployment,
especially among young people; reductions in benefits, coupled with
rising rent, food costs, and bills; increasing levels of
homelessness; and rising levels of debt. One food bank reported
that it had gone from feeding between one and 15 families a week to
more than 70.
The survey points to a growing optimism in the charity sector.
Almost four out of ten respondents believed that their situation
would improve in the next 12 months, twice the proportion in a 2011
A respondent from Hope Alive, a project in Warrington, said. "We
are determined to do what we can. . . We are working harder and
looking for more innovative ways to grow and expand the work we
The results of the survey also indicate a growth in activity.
Data from the 359 churches, across denominations, who responded,
suggests that the number of hours spent by volunteers on "local
social- action initiatives" has increased by 36 per cent since
2010, to 98 hours a year. The amount of money given by churchgoers,
and spent on such initiatives, has risen by 19 per cent to £342
Each church was involved in an average of eight initiatives, and
the author of the report identified "a rapid diversification" in
activity. The most popular initiatives included
mothers-and-toddlers groups, school assemblies, food distribution,
and caring for the elderly.
Town Sketch. A microcosm of a "world
under pressure" can be found in Ludlow, Churches Together in the
Shropshire market town have concluded. Published in November, the
group's report on "urgent social needs", Ludlow under
Pressure, is based on conversations with people in the area,
and talks of "the deep anxieties and unacceptable suffering of
older people at risk, the desperate needs of people in the 16-24
age group, the real impact limited community transport has for
those seeking work and health care, and the serious shortage of
social and affordable housing".
The authors say: "We should not accept as inevitable the levels
of anxiety and deprivation which are briefly sketched here. Even in
a time of financial constraints [we] should not tolerate them. It
is simply not true to say there is no alternative."