Public Faith and Finance

All Party Parliament Group on Faith and Society discusses new Public Faith & Finance Report

Faith and Finance APPGA policy roundtable discussion was held on Thursday 14 July in Portcullis House, focusing on faith-based organisations’ responses to issues of finance, poverty and austerity. The event marked the publication of the report Public Faith and Finance: Faith responses to the financial crisis, which was presented by authors Dr Therese O’Toole and Dr Ekaterina Braginskaia of the University of Bristol. Omar Shaikh of the Islamic Finance Council UK spoke about the Council’s work, and its joint project with the Church of Scotland to develop ethical financial services. Steve Double MP also shared his thoughts in response.

Minutes of this meeting are available

The Secretariat to the APPG is FaithAction.

The research was funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust.




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New Report Published

Front page snapshotA new report on Public Faith and Finance highlights the role and contributions of faith organisations in responding to the financial crisis and austerity politics.

Based on research carried out by Dr Therese O’Toole and Dr Ekaterina Braginskaia at the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship at the University of Bristol, the report examines how faith organisations from across faith traditions are:

  1. providing forms of assistance to those experiencing financial hardship;
  2. engaging in activism and campaigning to reform financial products and services;
  3. advocating or providing alternative faith-based or ethical forms of finance.

In a context of welfare retrenchment and increasing financial exclusion, faith organisations, including from minority faiths, are not just plugging the gaps, but setting out alternative and often innovative approaches to welfare and economic justice.

Some key findings of the research include:

  • faith organisations draw on their faith values in providing welfare, often at critical moments where no other forms of support are available, typically to beneficiaries beyond their immediate faith communities, and in holistic ways;
  • highly organised and very informal faith groups are making significant contributions to welfare provision;
  • many organisations report a need for more support in relation to governance, financial transparency and compliance with charity regulations. This is particularly an issue for Muslim charities who are under high levels of scrutiny and can suffer adverse reputational damage from having underdeveloped governance mechanisms;
  • informal faith groups would benefit from forms of support for capacity building or funding that do not require them to become highly bureaucratic;
  • faith-based perspectives on debt and money are being mobilised to create dialogue and collaboration across faith and secular groups to promote sustainable, just forms of finance and to successfully campaign for reform of financial services.

Download the full report, or a short summary report.



BCTThe research was funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust. The Barrow Cadbury Trust is an independent, charitable foundation, committed to bringing about socially just change.


Dr Therese O’Toole is Senior Lecturer in Sociology, based in the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies at the University of Bristol, where she works on ethnicity, religion, governance and political participation. She is a member of Public Spirit’s editorial board, and was Principal Investigator on the project Muslim Participation in Contemporary Governance.

Dr Ekaterina Braginskaia is Research Associate in the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, in the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies at the University of Bristol. Her interests include comparative approaches to religion and civil society participation, national identity and Muslim representation in Britain and Russia.

Faith and Finance Fair

Posted on 14/06/2016

Faith&Finance 211 July 2016, 13:15-17:00
Main Hall, Woburn House Conference Centre
London, WC1H 9HQ

Public Spirit and FaithAction are delighted to bring together faith-based and community organisations, researchers and others interested in welfare provisions, ethical finance and credit lending to share information that can help boost social action and shape local delivery.

In today’s climate of financial austerity and the growing rate of personal debt, faith-based organisations are increasingly stepping in to tackle poverty, offer financial support and develop ethical approaches and innovative alternatives to financial services.

  • Hear the latest findings from our Report on Public Faith and Finance
  • Learn about innovative campaigning, welfare initiatives and alternative ethical products
  • Share your thoughts on the current policy context and develop new collaborations with other organisations

We look forward to seeing you at the Fair!

To book your free place, please

Click Here 

About the research

‘Public Faith and Finance’ is a research project that is being conducted by a research team from Public Spirit and the Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship. The team members are: Therese O’Toole (University of Bristol), Stephen Jones (Newman University) and Katya Braginskaia (University of Bristol).

Funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust’s ‘Resources and Resilience’ programme,  the research explores the role of faith-based organisations in developing alternatives to market-based financial services or models and building sustainable and socially just economic systems.

In the current climate of retrenchment and financial austerity, coupled with the growing rate of personal debt and the expansion of payday lenders, faith organisations are increasingly stepping in to deliver ethical ways of alleviating poverty, providing financial support, helping with debt management and advocating alternative financial models.

Building on Public Spirit’s earlier debates on the role of religion in addressing financial exclusion, the project explores the ways in which faith organisations are campaigning on financial regulation and creating alternative, interest-free credit arrangements, as well as supporting those experiencing financial hardship.

Case studies of faith initiatives

Thank you all for making very interesting contributions to our research and sharing with us some of your initiatives to tackle indebtedness and develop more responsible financial provisions.

We are still collecting innovative case studies and success stories of how religious organisations can offer financial support through grassroot initiatives and community-based involvement,  including credit unions, Islamic banking and different forms of microfinance and debt counselling. We are planning to build an online resource of faith-based organisations and are very interested to hear from different organisations, including local churches, mosques, synagogues and temples. The findings from our survey and case studies will appear on Public Spirit

Please read our latest post about our preliminary findings and watch this space:

***Final Report is coming soon!***

 Please bookmark our News Blog to stay up-to-date with the latest developments on the project.

To learn more about our research, please contact


What role do faith-based organisations play in supporting people in financial need?

Faith&Finance 2In the current climate of financial austerity, faith-based organisations and charities are making a significant contribution to alleviating poverty and providing welfare support, tackling financial exclusion and advocating ethical products and interest-free forms of credit.

Our research on Public Faith and Finance is uncovering the ways in which different faith organisations are addressing some of the most challenging aspects of the financial crisis and developing initiatives to help people in need. We are particularly interested in finding out what types of faith-based lending and welfare provisions are available to those experiencing financial hardship? What kinds of measures help to address financial exclusion? To what extent do faith and non-faith organisations work with each other to deliver assistance, counselling and support? Does the current policy climate enable or undermine faith-based initiatives?

Drawing on preliminary results from our Survey on Faith and Finance, we are building a detailed picture of the kinds of challenges affecting faith communities and local neighbourhoods. So far, the top three issues affecting communities reported by our respondents are financial hardship, debt and lack of access to sustainable financial services. Depending on local areas, some members of communities are more affected by financial exclusion than others. A clear tendency reported by our respondents is for faith-based organisations to offer support to anybody who needs it – regardless of their religious affiliation or lack of it.

Different forms of faith-based support, campaigning and ethical finance

We are uncovering a great variety of faith-based provisions and interest-free initiatives, as well as strategic partnerships to tackle financial exclusion and reform existing services. Large umbrella bodies and small charitable trusts, credit unions and institutions offering sharia-compliant products, places of worship and community centres are all actively engaged in helping vulnerable members of society.  Muslim, Jewish and Christian organisations, including Al-Mizan Charitable Trust, Interlinkand Bethany Christian Trust, are providing small grants to assist with everyday costs of living including education, household items, medical and funeral costs, mobility and subsistence.

With a growing threat of high costs of borrowing and lack of affordable housing, many are turning to faith organisations for advice on money matters and personal indebtedness. Organisations such asCommunity Money AdvicePaperweight Trust and others are offering advice and counselling for people with debt problems, alongside the Citizens Advice Bureau and Money Advice Service.

Dealing with the consequences of financial austerity is not limited to financial assistance. A number of organisations are creating and promoting foodbanks and providing free meals. The Christian-basedTrussell Trust remains the fastest growing foodbanks network. However, minority faith organisations are also developing initiatives and programmes designed to alleviate food poverty, with Sufra Food Bank, Midlands Sewa Langar and Bhagwan Valmik Sabha Bedford being just a few organisations working in this area.

While many faith organisations are supporting people to deal with day-to-day issues of financial hardship, others are engaged in campaigning to reform existing financial arrangements and deliver more ethical services and responsible banking practices, including Canary Wharf Chaplaincy, theChurches and Industry Group, Jubilee Debt Campaign  and the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility. Some recent campaigns for socially-just and responsible services include the Citizens UK Living Wage campaign, and ‘Your Faith Your Finance’.

Interest-free lending and alternative forms of credit are valued by faith organisations for their spiritual emphasis on sharing and fairness, generosity and a sense of duty. Alternative forms of credit lending are on the rise, including Islamic products such as 1st Ethical’s Halal Money project and Christian-based credit union schemes advocated by Together Lancashire or the Diocese of Hereford. Approaches to ethical finance and justice are also debated by Sikh and Hindu organisations, as evidenced by a recent report by City Sikhs.

Interfaith cooperation and policy engagement: is it working?

Our survey indicates that while some issues, such as personal debt, are believed to be better solved inside one’s own community, there is a willingness among faith organisations to work with other faiths and civil society partners. Cooperation with other faiths or community-based organisations is particularly strong in the areas of sharing information and directing people to available services, campaigning against poverty and unfair welfare policies, such as universal credits, or lobbying for ethical engagement with money.  While multi-faith engagement happens more in the area of campaigning, faith organisations are collaborating with Citizens Advice services or financial institutions to develop forms of financial support. Many faith organisations lack information, however, on what sorts of partnerships are available and how their members can benefit from closer cooperation with each other.

We are also noticing interesting developments in faith-based activities in light of the current policy climate.  Do policies on welfare and finance help or hinder the work of faith-based organisations?  While many of our respondents express a degree of disillusionment with some government policies, including welfare reforms and tax credit cuts, there is support for certain initiatives such as theBanking Reform Act of 2013, or government support for Islamic finance. For example, some of larger organisations have taken part in the Financial Conduct Authority work on payday lending regulationand government consultation on sharia-compliant student finance.


With just two weeks remaining till our online survey officially closes, have you had your chance to contribute to our research and tell us about your work? What are your views and experiences of faith-based activities and their contribution to financial provisions, welfare support and alternative forms of credit?

Please contact our research team by emailing: