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East Northants Faith Group

Working to see faith at the heart of your community”

The East Northants Faith Group (ENFG) is the working name for the body representing all faith based groups in East Northamptonshire District Council area seeking to present issues of faith as they relate to our wider community. At present ENFG represents 70 faith-based groups from all branches of the main line Christian denominations and has a core membership of around 15 participating and supporting church groups. ENFG is affiliated to Faithworks as a national body.

Origins

The ENFG was formed in October 2005 because of a desire both by faith groups and East Northants District Council to have a real and effective faith component and voice involved in the government's Local Strategic Partnership framework. The contact developed to the point that a group of faith based bodies was meeting regularly and having input into the local situation.

Funding then became available from the Welland Partnership to fund a community audit of faith-based activities in the region. During this process, Government 'Change Up' funding became available which enabled the setting up of the Faith Group as a formal group in October 2005 and the employment of a part-time Development Worker.

The vision is to see ENFG develop into an effective and sustainable network to support and promote social action and community development initiatives undertaken by faith-based organisations.

In 2010 ENFG adopted the name East Northants Community Services to cover all the faith sector community services. The purpose of developing this was to:

1. Offer a corporate image for the social action component of the Faith Group.
2. Profile the individual and joint working of all groups within the Faith sector.
3. Increase cooperation and partnership within the wide diversity of projects offered to the community by all faith groups active in our region.
4. Become a faith based network of services united together in purpose as we interact with others in the voluntary or statutory sector or local government.
5. Become together a core group of social services offering the highest standards of service and building on and learning from each other’s individual services.

EFNG activities

The work then developed and grew to incorporate all active churches in our region and identify key projects that EFNG could facilitate.

· Street Pastors in East Northants set up in 2008 (now spreading to all areas in the county).
· Rushden Night Shelter established in 2007/08.
· A link with Christians Against Poverty established in 2008/09 saw five local churches adopt and use the Money/ Debt management process and offer training and support course in our region.
· The setting up of the joint churches’ counselling service was facilitated in 2009.
· An autism awareness and support project was established in 2010 in conjunction with the Diocese of Peterborough.
· Arising out of the Rushden Night Shelter has now sprung a community café and client support scheme, a supported housing moving on project, a food distribution scheme and a recycling project helping people back into housing.

ENFG has developed a number of resources for groups to use including documents on:

· Equal opportunities and diversity;
· Risk assessment;
· Safeguarding children;
· Faithworks six-point plan for community development.

Impact of ENFG

In 2009, a follow-on 5 year audit survey of faith communities was carried out to assess the impact of the ENFG and to gain greater details from the original survey and to monitor the impact of community endeavours by the faith sector. It showed:

· The 11 respondent churches identified 1172 volunteering opportunities;

· The estimated value of volunteering across the whole faith sector in the area (on the basis of the minimum wage) was put at £7.3 m per year.

· The 11 churches had a total of 2,894 people making use of their services.

· The main areas of concern were poverty issues (38%); children’s/youth provision (18%); family support (10%); school-related issues (8%); health care issues (4%).

The survey indicated that EFNG had brought various benefits. It had:

· given a platform for representation to local government and the wider Voluntary and Community Sector.
· fostered links with other community groups in the district.
· raised the profile of the whole faith sector in the district.
· brought concrete results to congregations.
· benefited unity and the expression of faith across the district.


Revd Mark Lees
http://www.enfg.org.uk/aboutus.htm