LITTLE information appears to be available about the distribution of awards made from the Government’s Faith New Deal pilot fund: a competitive grant programme set up last year to help faith-based organisations to use their resources effectively in the community.
Launching the new fund in September 2021, the Government said that it was “seeking to build on what we have witnessed in the last 18 months and embed a ‘new normal’ of national government and local government working in partnerships with faith-based groups.
“[The Fund] has been designed to support faith-based organisations build on and expand the good work being carried out locally and to demonstrate the important role they play in tackling and responding to social challenges.
“Practically, the aspiration is that local public services routinely invite faith groups to co-design solutions to social problems and commission services with confidence. It would also mean that faith groups are supported to enhance their particular strengths in social action by learning from the way that public services design interventions and deliver against outcomes.”
Faith groups had a narrow window in September in which to apply. Applicants had to demonstrate how they would support one or more Covid-19 recovery objectives: mental well-being and loneliness; debt advice; employability; food poverty; and increasing community engagement through volunteering.
They could bid for grants up to £200,000. Bids up to £125,000 had to demonstrate in-kind match; larger bids would require a match donation from a philanthropic funder. The bidding process closed on 14 October, and results are expected within weeks.
The Totnes Team Mission (TTM) in Devon applied. Their project sought to support the communities of Bridgetown — a residential area outside central Totnes, where most support and social activities are based — with a range of initiatives to reduce isolation, especially through the winter months, and reduce poverty through healthy eating and gardening programmes that took many forms.
They applied for £77,650, and had in place the matched funding in terms of grants and in-kind volunteer or partnership time.
“The scheme was perfect, in that it enabled churches to develop mission with much needed resources. At our current stage, this was a godsend,” Dr Diana Walters, of the TTM, said. “ Since then, I have heard nothing. I’ve contacted them several times, and each time get either no reply or a short holding email. Each time they say it is delayed and under consideration.”
Dr Walters said that, in despair, she had contacted the MP for Totnes and South Devon, Anthony Mangnall, to ask him to pursue the matter. He contacted the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) , whose remit this is, but was also unable to get a response.
Mr Mangnall was apologetic, thanked them for their patience, and tried a second time, suggesting in a reply to Dr Walters that perhaps those working in this area had been seconded to work on the Ukraine situation. The last communication was on 9 March, Dr Walters said, when Mr Mangnall assured her that he was “chasing this up”, and that he had had been told that the team “should hear something soon”.
Tim Farron MP asked the Secretary of State, on 18 February, when the Department planned to inform applicants to the Faith New Deal pilot fund of the result of their application. In a written answer, Kemi Badenoch said: “We received a large number of applications to the fund and officials are in the final stages of the assessment and moderation process. The results will be announced shortly.”
The Church Times contacted the DLUHC by email and by phone, asking for details of the number of applications received and the number and type of awards made. The paper was assured by the press office that the request had been noted, and that “someone will get back to you.”
The Department told the Church Times on Wednesday of last week: “We received 352 applications to the Fund. We will publish further details in due course.”