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Surveyed churches reach nearly 3.5m people a year

22 May 2015


In action: a church foodbank in Birmingham 

In action: a church foodbank in Birmingham 

A NATIONWIDE survey of more than 2000 churches and faith groups has suggested that almost 3.5 million people a year benefit from their social action.

The 2110 groups that responded to an online questionnaire collectively mobilised 140,000 volunteers, and more than 9000 paid staff, to run a total of 16,068 projects last year.

The Cinnamon Network, a charity that works to facilitate Christian social action, organised the survey. It calculated that the faith groups it polled gave more than 28 million hours of voluntary work each year. If this had been done at the Living Wage rate of £7.85 an hour, it would cost £220 million.

The report, the Cinnamon Faith Action Audit, was launched on Wednesday in central London, and the Archbishop of Canterbury gave the keynote address.

"I'm reminded that the work of the church is emphatically not done by archbishops," he said. "It's done by every local church community - and they do it in the most extraordinary way.

"Thanks to Cinnamon [Network] and other bodies like it, this is not mere do-goodery. It is seeking to find best practice and put it into action in the most professional way that can be imagined. That is why faith is a force for good in our society."

Archbishop Welby was joined in a discussion of the report by a panel that included the Deputy Chief Constable of Durham, and Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, a minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government.

The founder of the Cinnamon Network, Matt Bird, said that the findings showed how central faith-groups were in delivering social action across the UK. "We want to see their work externally recognised and properly resourced as part of the overall picture of provision in any given community," he said.

The data was collected by 57 local "champions", who were mostly members of congregations, selected by the Cinnamon Network to investigate what faith groups were achieving in their area. They invited churches and charities to fill in the questionnaires in February.

The survey found that, on average, each faith group ran eight projects, supporting 1656 people, with four paid staff and 66 volunteers. The vast majority - 94 per cent - of those who responded were Christian groups.

Anglicans made up 29 per cent of these. Of the rest, nine per cent were Baptist projects, seven per cent were run by independent Evangelical churches, six per cent were Methodist, and four per cent were Roman Catholic. An array of smaller denominations and non-denominational groups completed the list.

The most popular forms of social action were training and education, befriending, running community groups, and foodbanks. About one in three groups collaborated with another faith group in social action.

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