Heather Bellamy spoke with the Cinnamon Network Founder, Matt Bird about the results of the audit, the working relationship between Government and the Church and his hopes for the difference the audit will make to local communities

Matt Bird
Matt Bird

At a time when budget cuts, changes to benefits and rising housing costs are affecting many communities across the country, there are groups of committed and faith driven individuals who are stepping into the gap. Earlier this year the 'Cinnamon Faith Action Audit National Report' was published, documenting the extent of the impact faith groups are having on the nation. To find out more Heather Bellamy spoke with the Cinnamon Network Founder, Matt Bird.

Heather: Please could you describe for me, what is a 'Faith Action Audit'?

Matt: The 'Cinnamon Faith Action Audit' is simply a way that the Cinnamon Network has created to help local churches measure the social impact and economical value of what they do in communities. We as church communities find it easy to tell amazing stories of amazing changed lives, but sometimes it's really important to provide empirical evidence; providing numbers to give a sense of scale and scope of what we are doing. That's what the 'Cinnamon Faith Action Audit' was all about.

Heather: So why is that detail important? Why is it important to have those facts and figures?

Matt: The reason we did the audit was to provide the confidence both for the Church and for local authorities, police and other agencies that what we are doing as a Church is really important and really valuable. Having that evidence leads to a new conversation with community groups about how we can work together to have a greater impact.

Heather: How many faith groups responded and took part?

Matt: There are 60,000 faith groups in the UK. We built a database of 4,500 of them and incredibly 47.5% of those faith groups we invited to respond to the survey did so. Normally, if you've got 10% on a response to a market research survey you'd be really delighted, but we got nearly 50%. So, there were over 2,000 faith groups that responded to the research.

Heather: What was the breakdown of different faith groups taking part?

Matt: Predominantly, as it is in the population, it was Christian churches. There are 60,000 faith groups in the UK and 50,000 of them are Christian churches. Just to give you a sense of scale. Another 5,000 of the 60,000 are Christian charities and another 5,000 are mosques and synagogues and other places of worship and faith based organisations. So the response that we had, roughly reflected the breakdown of different faiths in our population, which really gave us added credibility to the research.

Heather: And what were the results of the survey?

Matt: It showed the average number of projects that faith groups run is incredibly eight projects. The most important thing we were looking for to measure though, was the number of volunteering hours given by faith groups. When you add it all up across the country, churches and faith groups contribute 288 million hours to their communities every year, which is quite phenomenal. I mean, 288 million it's hard to picture that number and that many volunteer hours! If you apply the living wage to that, then it's actually worth over £3 billion a year. The time given alone by the Church and other faith groups in the UK is phenomenal!

Heather: How many people benefit from all those projects?

Matt: There are 45 million beneficiaries. Now many of those beneficiaries had more than one experience; the support of a faith group more than once, but in total there were 45 million occasions where a community beneficiary was helped by that work.

Heather: And what type of work in the community do these faith groups do?