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‘Social policy relies on the Church’

12 July 2013

CHURCHES must not be "sticking plaster" for an "ailing" Big Society, but should act in partnership with Government to deliver social projects, a new report argues.

Holistic Mission: Social action and the Church of England, published by the think tank ResPublica, was launched at Lambeth Palace on Wednesday. It says that, while the Church "will always be there to fill the welfare gap during hard times", it is "profoundly damaging" when the Government takes the work of the Church's "unpaid volunteers" for granted.

The report calls for a "new settlement" between the Government and the Church. Its recommendations include: the Cabinet Office's setting up a new "unit or taskforce" to look at "how Government can better work with the Church and church-based social venture"; the Archbishops' Council and the Church Commissioners' establishing a national "Social Commission", tasked with "setting-out a vision for the future of the Church's social action and role in delivering public services"; and the Mission and Public Affairs Council's setting up a Social Action Unit, which would "encourage each diocese to set up designated Social Action Teams".

The report states: "Local churches are distinctive in their geographic spread across the country, their commitment to social service and their ability to catalyse a local network of volunteers. Churches therefore provide a critical platform for deep social transformation and could generate even greater social impact with bolder vision, resourcing and leadership."

A survey of about 600 Church of England churchgoers, carried out by ResPublica, found that 90 per cent volunteered "informally"; 88 per cent said that they were happy to help those with "different beliefs or values".

The director of ResPublica, Dr Phillip Blond, said: "The Government's plans for decentralisation, localism, and community empowerment will never . . . be that effective without the support of the Church."

The research director of Theos, Nick Spencer, has written a blog about the report.

 www.respublica.org.uk

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