Hidden work of religious groups

Religious communities are providing many millions of pounds worth of services to communities with little recognition from local authorities.

A study carried out by a Cambridge University academic in the east of England found faith communities – attached to Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Sikh places of worship – were having an "extensive" social impact.

The research, by the Faith in Action research group, looked at 12 communities in Luton and Peterborough.

Zok Morris, of the faculty of social and political sciences at Cambridge University said she had been surprised by the "vast amount" of community activity being undertaken by the groups.

"The social impact that the communities are making is extensive and covers everything from lunch clubs and childcare to bereavement counselling and financial advice.

"The role being played by the faith communities, it seems, is seldom fully appreciated either by the communities themselves, or by potential funding agencies.

"Yet without them, many of the activities and opportunities would simply not exist, or would be very expensive to provide."

The report was due to be launched today by the Prime Minister's "Faith Tsar", or envoy to the faith communities, the former Foreign Office Minister John Battle MP.

Mr Battle said: "I welcome this report as an important assessment of the range of services being provided by faith groups in the east of England. It demonstrates the diversity of services being offered, and how each is appreciated and valued by the community."

The research was carried out for the East of England Faiths Leadership conference and was supported by the East of England Churches Network, the East of England Development Agency and the Government Office for the East of England.