Some politicians and voters are pretty sceptical about David Cameron’s concept of the ‘Big Society’, but faith-based organizations certainly seem to be keen to demonstrate that they are already doing ‘it’.
Various surveys of religion as social capital have been undertaken recently. Nationally, they include research by the Cinnamon Network (http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/?p=735) and by the Evangelical Alliance (to be published in full on 11 January).
Locally, we have already covered on these pages a study of faith in action in Oxfordshire (http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/?p=369). Now the Plymouth Faith Action Audit has been completed and is available to download at:
The Plymouth survey was carried out by the University of Plymouth’s Social and Public Policy Research Group on behalf of Churches Together in Plymouth and Cornerstone Vision. Its methodology replicates a similar enquiry in Stoke-on-Trent in 2007 by Saltbox and Faithworks.
The principal survey instrument was a postal questionnaire sent to 155 faith organizations, 80 (52%) of which responded, the overwhelming majority of them Christian. Eight semi-structured telephone interviews were also conducted, to add qualitative depth.
Allowing for some double-counting, the report calculates that the responding faith organizations contribute over 450,000 hours of voluntary community service each year. These are worth (using the minimum wage as the benchmark) £2,780,000.
These figures would need to be grossed up to include the 48% of faith groups which did not respond. The data are also said to exclude ‘the goods, services and capital contributions’ made by faith organizations, although this is not further explained in the document.
The top ten public services provided were in the areas of:
- explanation of religious texts (51%)
- children’s groups (49%)
- marriage preparation (47%)
- school liaison (46%)
- vulnerable children (44%)
- youth groups (43%)
- older people (43%)
- toddler/play groups (41%)
- life skills (40%)
- food/shelter for vulnerable people (40%)