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18/05/2010 / John Hanna

Empowering Faith Groups

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The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have published a Discussion Paper on their website entitled ‘Empowering Faith Groups’.

Please note: I’ve highlighted and annotated some of their better proposals.

The DUP proposes:

  • Greater collaboration between the Northern Ireland Government and the faith sector
  • More sharing of experience from work across the province to promote best practice
  • Promoting innovation to solve social problems
  • Work towards levelling the playing field for faith based organisations
  • Remove unnecessary barriers inhibiting partnership between faith groups and Government (my very Baptist ‘separation of church and state alarm’ is sounding!)
  • More partnerships involving faith groups with public and private sector organisations
  • Encourage local government to engage fully with faith sector
  • Training to build capacity in church and faith based groups (Rick Warren for Training Tsar!)
  • New organisations seeking government funding for projects for the first time
  • Broader range of providers to address social need (churches should be ready to address social need)
  • Explore possible incentives to increase charitable giving
  • Encourage skilled professionals to share their time and expertise with non‐profit organisations (Lord Sugar for ABC Association Director!)
  • Greater use of voucher systems to promote individual choice
  • Faith Audit for Northern Ireland to be carried out (I foresee eschatological sermons on this in some Evangelical quarters)
  • Establish faith sector interfaces with Government including forum on social/community development issues and means to allow input into broader Executive issues
  • Study conducted into barriers facing faith sector in obtaining funding, and further exploration of means to develop distinctive funds to be accessed by those opposed to lottery funding
  • Extra support for volunteer opportunities which meet the needs of unemployed
  • European Year for Volunteering 2011 utilised to recognise appropriately the vital contribution volunteering makes to community life
  • ‘Timebank’ concept should be promoted in Northern Ireland (‘Timebank’ sounds like the name of a Doctor Who episode!)
  • Support costs required for funding applications considered
  • Unacceptable delays in providing clearance for individuals to work with young people addressed (this issue should be at the top the list)
  • Democratic Unionist Party Leader, Ministers and Spokespersons to step up regular engagement and consultation with faith based organisations and church leaders
  • Group established within the DUP to advance these issues and enhance faith sector co‐operation (expect Jeffrey Donaldson to head it up)
  • Build broad support among other political parties for taking forward our recommendations including potentially forming a cross‐party group on faith issues at Stormont (my very Baptist ‘separation of church and state alarm’ is sounding again!)

Their website states that: “This discussion paper outlines some areas where we believe there is the potential to increase collaboration between government and the faith sector. We are keen to hear your views as we develop our policies further. A key advantage of having a locally accountable administration is the opportunity for local people to input into and influence the development of policy.”

Opinions can be submitted to or by post to: DUP Policy Unit, 91 Dundela Avenue, Belfast. BT4 3BU.

Related Internet Links

  • DUP Have your say – Empowering Faith Groups (PDF 0.6mb)

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