A key message emerging from the study concerns the significance of infrastructure support to projects.
A few of the project stories include comments on support requirements:
· One specifically cites the challenge of “Making the leap to an organisation with an employee and increased funding to manage. We shall have to consider governance and may have to become a registered charity. We may require support to make this transition.”
· “It would be good if there was some co-ordinated help for PCCs wishing to set up businesses or employ staff to save the angst of reinventing the wheel.”
· “Having advice available on human resources and payroll support.”
· “Being put in touch with and sharing experiences with other church groups working in a similar field.”
· “Opportunities to reflect theologically with others and deepen our understanding between faith and our practical work.”
Others underlined the importance of support. For this reason, several different types of infrastructure organisations have been included in the study (section 4.4). But support also comes in various forms from diocesan officers. This can be simply in the form of asking appropriate questions when parishes or other groups are thinking about embarking on a project, for instance, about evidence of need for the activity being considered or about capacity to meet that need It can be supplying neighbourhood data or information about potential sources of funding. It can be help with funding applications.
Once up and running, there is often still an important role. In one example, the leader of a youth work project said:
“The Diocesan Youth Officer is a trustee. The Church and Community Development Officer attends management group meetings and has helped us access funding and sometimes looked over funding applications. More generally, the Diocese has given invaluable Human Resources support in relation to issues such as Child Protection and CRB checks.”
Without outside support in ancillary roles such as this, the leader would scarcely have had time to do her ‘proper’ job.
Organisations also take advantage of strategic support and training from various secular as well as faith-based bodies both locally and nationally. Sometimes this will be on general topics, such as strategic planning, managing volunteers or marketing, using organisations like Councils of Voluntary Service. Sometimes it will be specific to the sphere of activity, such as the Trussell Trust in relation to food banks, Refugee Action and NACCOM, the ‘No Accommodation Network providing accommodation for destitute asylum seeker or the Arthur Rank Centre and Plunkett Foundation on rural issues. For many, too, the Church Urban Fund (CUF) has been a major source of support as well as funding (see 4.2).
In addition to practical support, having connections with national organisations can not only provide opportunities for exchanging information and sharing experience, it can also be good for morale especially when the work seems very much an uphill struggle.
Where work is being done for, or in partnership with, agencies such as the local authority or primary care trust, that body will supply administrative help and support with recruitment of volunteers, such as CRB checks. One concern is that, with the public spending cuts, there is less of this sort of help available.
Infrastructure organisations like others in the voluntary sector are suffering from the austerity measures, despite their importance in underpinning the ‘Big Society’. However, it is also evident from the study that resources for social responsibility (under whatever name it appears) and related activities have already been shrinking in some dioceses. Although the job title may still exist, it is sometimes only an appendage to a full time incumbency or one role amongst many in an individual’s wide ranging portfolio.