This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
The Faith and Communities Minister was in East London today (25 March 2013) to see for herself how community groups benefiting from the Near Neighbours programme were bringing people from religious and ethnically diverse backgrounds together to build stronger local ties and improve their neighbourhood.
At the Departure Arts Café in Limehouse, she met the recipients of the 400th small grant award, a group of mothers who despite having children at the same school, had never previously engaged or interacted, even though they saw each other every day at the school gates.
Now thanks to Near Neighbours, the group of 17 mothers - representing a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds from China, Turkey, Russia, Kurdistan, Lithuania and Somalia - will be able to build supportive friendships at the same time as learning about each other’s faith backgrounds and history.
The awarding of this grant builds on the work of the successful fathers group who received a similar grant a few months ago. This group of English, Bengali, Lithuanian, and Chinese dads are now spending time and supporting each other in relating to their respective children. They are learning from one another and spoke about the positive impact this has had on their children who can learn about different cultures and spend time with each others families.
Lady Warsi said:
“Near Neighbours grants are benefiting so many people from different backgrounds, faiths and cultures helping to build stronger and more supportive communities.
“It was fantastic to hear first-hand how these small grants are making such a big difference to the lives of local people and I’m sure it will have a lasting effect on everyone involved.
“Reaching the 400th grant is a real milestone and it shows that, by using faith networks’ existing infrastructure, we can make a real impact in communities.”
Set up as a charity by the Church Urban Fund and the Church of England, Near Neighbours uses the unique parish system - which has presence in all neighbourhoods - to deliver small grant funding to communities that have bright ideas for local inter faith projects. A wide range of community, education, business, environmental, arts, and sports activities are eligible, as long as they encourage involvement by local people from different faiths or none.
Near Neighbours is a £5 million 3 year project funded by the department, and administered by the Church Urban Fund. It aims to bring people together from diverse communities and different faiths so they can get to know each other better and improve their local neighbourhoods.
Near Neighbours small grants of between £250 and £5000 are being awarded to grass roots groups in four areas: the M62 ‘mill towns’ corridor (Bradford, Burnley, and Oldham); Leicester; and selected boroughs and wards in East London and Birmingham.
Each of the 4 areas has a centre with experience of working with different faith groups, removing the need for any additional red tape. The programme will then fund them to undertake new inter faith work.
The Church Urban Fund, the Church of England’s poverty relief charity in England, has been working for over 20 years in the most deprived areas of England, including these multi-faith communities.