To adopt the faith strategy action plan.
Sis Sheeba Levi-Stewart, the Rastafari Movement UK; Siriol Davies, Interfaith Advisor; Violet Hinrichs, Local Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is; Archdeacon Dr Jane Steen, Diocese of Southwark; Hajia Saidat Oketunde, Muslim Association of Nigeria and Sis Stella Headley, Director of the Rastafari Movement UK were also in attendance to provide their input.
1. That the faith strategy action plan be adopted.
2. That it be noted that the Southwark Way of Working shared values around ‘treating every resident as if they are a member of your own family’ are vital in building trust and removing barriers between faith communities and the council be noted. Closer and more collaborative working will ensure that we are on a journey towards more open and deeper conversations.
3. That it be noted that the new approach to engagement will be embedded in the delivery of the action plan through ‘putting people at the heart of the engagement processes’. This means that we will seek to understand the lived experience of faith communities and be open to their views and comments about the strengths and weaknesses of approaches and interventions contained within the action plan.
4. That it be noted that the action plan will work through the relationships above to achieve its aspirations of building trust, releasing potential and greater collaboration through an asset based community development approach. In the first instance this will mean raising awareness of this approach and continuing to map the skills and resources of faith communities.
5. That it be noted that in celebrating our diversity and providing a space for the expression of faith leaders and their communities there is greater opportunity for them to realise their potential. This growth and confidence provides a strong foundation for the birth of ‘champions’ and ‘ambassadors’ that can work with the council and the voluntary and community sector.
6. That it be noted that the faith strategy action plan will deliver the recommendations of the faith strategy as follows:
(i) Celebrate faith and diversity of faith organisations in the borough through connecting faith communities both with each other and the council and the voluntary and community sector. We will help to promote the expression of faith through using existing opportunities within faith communities who are working together on cross cultural and faith celebrations including the boroughs participation in Inter-faith week and Peace Week.
(ii) Support faith organisations and their approaches to supporting individuals who are a part of their congregations by finding out how we can better support faith communities’ activities and projects. This could include the development of tailored learning programmes and raising awareness of council policies and procedures. The council can also work through an enabling role and increasing access to information, training and shared learning around safeguarding, equalities and funding avenues.
(iii) Improve the lives of Southwark residents through embedding a culture and practice of ‘faith navigators’ to improve the signposting and referral to services. In increasing the knowledge and awareness of faith communities residents can be helped and supported more quickly and effectively without being directed to the wrong departments. The sharing of information and intelligence at a neighborhood level through joint working can also help to improve outcomes for residents and support for families especially those from migrant communities that faith communities are instrumental in providing support for.
(iv) Support the council in delivery of key pieces of work through identified areas of collaboration and co-production such as the outcomes from the Faith and Health Challenge and safeguarding concerns. This can be achieved through the activation of health and wellbeing champions around areas such as mental health, and sexual exploitation as well as improving the knowledge and awareness of good safeguarding practices. This also delivers an opportunity for faith communities to become more widely connected with wider groups such as the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), South London and Maudsley (SLaM) and colleagues working on serious youth violence, child criminal exploitation and child sexual exploitation.
(v) Improve the way in which the council is able to reach significant numbers of its residents through faith leaders and their congregations. The strategy highlighted that some migrant community congregations had between 50 – 200 members and some Pentecostal congregations up to 100 and 200 or more members. The nature and function of many faith communities is often ‘mission focused’ where their values and aspirations include reaching anyone in their areas and particularly the most vulnerable and isolated. Faith communities are heavily involved in work around social action supporting families, black, Asian and minority ethnic(BAME), migrant communities and those that are the poorest financially. Working with faith communities enables to the council to extend its engagement reach through these channels.
(vi) Ensure that the council is aware of the challenges that their worshippers face such as housing, debt, children/young people, food poverty, anti-social behaviour, educational achievement and homelessness. The strategy also highlights 3 key areas of challenge when working with the council around the areas of planning, parking and premises. Faith communities also said that they need support around increasing their levels of understanding around funding, project management, governance and how to better support families particularly asylum seekers and migrants. We will work with faith communities to develop a better understanding of council policies and procedure and work to develop more innovative solutions around sharing available space and exploring other community assets.
(vii) Support social integration and community cohesion in our neighbourhoods through wider engagement at an early stage between faith communities and the council to mitigate any adverse community impacts. The Planning department has been working more closely with faith communities around regeneration proposals on the Old Kent Road and providing opportunities to both shape and connect plans. The New Approach to engagement commits the council to a reflective approach and to continue to identify lessons learned from previous regeneration projects.
Faith communities have also played an active role in delivering reassurance messages in the aftermath of tragedy. Sometimes this involves actively being the ‘voice’ of an entire neighbourhood or the whole borough but more usually it is the steady quiet work of support at a micro level for families, the lonely, homeless and migrant communities.
(viii) Organising with Southwark Faith Leaders two conferences a year for faith communities that will allow participants to showcase their work and take advantage of networking opportunities. The first conference - had a focus on ‘youth violence working together for solutions’ was held on 25 September was attended by 120 people including 71 faith group leaders and 14 social action and migrant community groups, with links with Southwark faith groups.
(ix) Working with council departments using the feedback from the conference sessions to address the challenges faith organisations identified. The notes from the two workshops of the first conference have been shared with all participants and have been used to populate the faith action plan around the timescales and the responsibility of the delivery of key outcomes.
Two members of the steering group attend a task and finish group on serious youth violence led by the cabinet member for community safety and public health and the council will be commissioning the delivery of information workshops in faith settings for faith leaders their congregations and young people.
One of the questions that the panel was asked was about the council’s response to homelessness. After the conference all participants received a summary of the 2018-2022 strategy and the progress on the updated action plan. A link to information on referrals, advice and support for housing needs with an offer for the councils team working on this area to attend the faith strategy steering group to support training and information needs.
(x) Continuation of work with the Steering Group to deliver the strategy recommendations and monitor progress. We will continue to support the steering group through chairing meetings and working with them to develop conference themes and discussions around progress of the work plan. Currently we are working on the diversification of the members of the steering group to include smaller and newer faith community leaders. While we received some interest at the faith conference we are adopting a much more intentional approach through targeting specific faith leaders.
(xi) Continue to talk and to grow the breadth and depth of our relationships with communities of faith so we continue to involve a wider network of faith organisations and diversity of faith groups. The faith strategy action plan will seek to implement key principles around asset based community development. This involves first promoting the knowledge and understanding of this approach and secondly mapping both needs and assets in order to co-ordinate resources more effectively. This approach will build and strengthen relationships around meeting common outcomes through goodwill and sharing.
We will continue to extend our reach to those faith communities that have not previously engaged and work with those that have cited specific barriers around engagement. It is envisaged that through a more diverse steering group and progress against the delivery of the action plan will open the way to a wider network of relationships.