Faith-based social action is a subject that divides opinion. With the UK having moved toward a ‘mixed economy’ of welfare over the last three decades, successive governments have praised religious organisations that engage in charity work and deliver welfare services. In 2012 the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) even held a day to celebrate faith-based social action at which the Minister for Faith and Communities, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, highlighted the voluntary work done by faith groups. As she put it, ‘[P]eople who “do God” do good … every single day’.
Yet, partly because of this support by government, faith-based social action has numerous critics. As previous themed debates on Public Spirit have highlighted, while some see charitable work carried out by faith organisations as an ‘essential buttress’ for state welfare, others have suggested the increased involvement of faith groups in care services is a potential threat to equality and to secular public life.
Often missing from these debates are the voices of those who are actually involved in faith-based social action. In this series therefore Public Spirit hosts articles from a wide range of individuals with direct experience of faith-based community work.
The series begins with a short article by Warwick Hawkins, who heads the Faith Engagement team at DCLG, which outlines some of the support that Government currently offers to faith-based organisations: Faith in Government.
In two longer articles, Daniel Singleton (FaithAction) in The view from halfway, and David Barclay (Contextual Theology Centre) in Why we need to be open to faith if we want to make multiculturalism work address the wider politics of faith-based social action, looking at how faith-based social action can help build ‘political friendships’ and what can be done to make it more successful.
Finally, Riaz Ravat (St Philip’s Centre, Leicester) in Social action and solidarity and Husna Ahmed (Green Pearl Consulting), in Islam and social action: a personal account, speak about their own experiences of and motivations for engaging in faith-based charitable work.
 Sayeeda Warsi, ‘Inter Faith Week and A Year of Service Speech’, Gov.uk, 27 November 2012, https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/inter-faith-week-and-a-year-of-service-speech.