Eric Pickles officially launches £5m Near Neighbours programme
Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, today formally launched the Near Neighbours programme at a special event at St John on Bethnal Green. The event was attended by national faith representatives including the Bishop of London, the Rt Rev. Richard Chartres. Read more »
Church Urban Fund awarded £5million to support Big Society action in multi-faith communities.
The Government has today awarded the Church Urban Fund £5 million to promote interaction in communities through a new project called Near Neighbours.
The three-year initiative aims to bring people together in diverse communities, helping them build relationships and collaborate to improve the local community they live in.
Near Neighbours will be set up as a charity by the Church Urban Fund and Church of England to foster better understanding and relationships between people of different faiths. People of any faith will be able to bid for funding through the local parish church to award grants of up to £5000 to individual local interaction projects. A wide range of community, education, environmental, arts, and sports activities will be eligible, as long as they encourage involvement by local people from different faiths or none.
Near Neighbours taps into the unique Church of England parish system, which has presence in all neighbourhoods and an ethos as the national Church with a responsibility towards all in the parish.
Near Neighbours will start operating later in 2011 in locations in the M62 “mill towns” corridor, Leicester, East London (north and south) and Birmingham (north and east), drawing on the resources of local churches long established in all the neighbourhoods in these areas.
The Church Urban Fund has been working in the most deprived areas of England for more than 23 years, during which time it has awarded more than £65m worth of grants to fund community projects tackling both inner-city and rural poverty. Near Neighbours will develop and expand this work.
Church Urban Fund’s chief executive Tim Bissett says:
“We welcome the government’s recognition of the vital role churches and faith-based organisations play in local communities. More than 20 years experience has shown us local people often hold the key to solving local problems. Church Urban Fund is already working in these communities and will also use the Church’s existing strong relationships and infrastructure to make this idea a reality.
"We’re also excited by the opportunities this grant presents for us to work alongside committed people from all faiths to bring about much-needed change in some of England’s most diverse areas.”
Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, said:
“Religious organisations play an enormous pastoral role in our neighbourhoods and have excellent networks within our communities – none more so than the Church of England. They have been getting on with their work for centuries - offering support to youth groups, parents and pensioners and providing services to those in need.
“Near Neighbours will build on this and bring folks from different backgrounds together for the good of the community – be it a sports event or working together to improve a local park, it will mean meeting your neighbours and getting on.
“There are very few faith groups that don’t look beyond their own faith and congregation to put something back into the community that surrounds them, so this project will build on that and I encourage people to get involved.”
The programme will complement and strengthen existing patterns of inter faith work in these areas. There will be consultation with the Inter Faith Network for the UK, through which the Churches work alongside all the major faiths for good inter faith relations. The resources of the Christian Muslim Forum, the Council of Christians and Jews and the Hindu Christian Forum will be drawn on, to assist with particular local needs.
Speaking in support of the initiative, Dr Musharraf Hussain, of the Christian Muslim Forum (former vice chair) said:
“We are hugely grateful to the Department for Communities and Local Government for supporting this important work. It is imperative for Christian and Muslim leaders to develop a dynamic spirit of open-mindedness, cooperation and friendship through meeting, working and learning together and for local Muslim communities to learn from the greater professionalism in the churches.”
Ramesh Pattni, Co-Chair of the Hindu Christian Forum, said:
“The Near Neighbours project has a real resonance with the Hindu ethos of the Universal Family of Man. This will be a tremendous opportunity for Hindus to work effectively at neighbourhood community level with members of other faiths. We are confident of the positive outcomes of greater understanding and appropriate local change with the implementation of this project.”
Maurice Ostro, Vice Chairman of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ), the UK’s oldest national inter faith organisation, said:
“For almost 70 years CCJ has brought together two faith communities to learn from one another and tackle issues together. This initiative will enable CCJ to further the work of cooperation and community integration.”
For further information about Near Neighbours, or to set up an interview, please contact Emma Bennett at Church Urban Fund on 0207 898 1666 or Jeremy Aspinall (also Church Urban Fund) on 0207 898 1856.
Notes to editors:
Church Urban Fund is a Church of England charity working to tackle poverty in England. It was established in 1987. For further information about its work visit www.cuf.org.uk.
Near Neighbours will be working in East London (north and south), Leicester, Birmingham (north and east) and the northern ‘mill towns’ including Bradford and Burnley. It will work through four Presence and Engagement centres that have been in action for the last 5 years.
The £5million has been awarded to Church Urban Fund by the Department for Communities and Local Government as part of its commitment to supporting community integration.
The Interfaith Network for the UK is a national membership organisation working to promote good relations between people of different faiths; member organisations include research and educational bodies concerned with inter faith issues, local and national inter faith groups and representative bodies from the Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and Zoroastrian faith communities. Further details can be found at www.interfaith.org.uk.