Multi-faith communities to benefit from new £3 million grant

February 27th, 2014

DCLG LogoMulti-faith communities in Greater Manchester to benefit from new £3 million grant

Near Neighbours programme expands to Bury and Rochdale


More people than ever will benefit from the opportunity to transform and improve their local communities as £3million was today announced by the Department for Communities and Local Government to expand the successful Near Neighbours programme across 9 new areas of the country – including Bury and Rochdale.

 Launched by the Communities Secretary in 2011 in partnership with the Church Urban Fund, Near Neighbours provides small grants and support to grassroots groups and multi-faith communities, recognising that local groups know what works best in their area. Funding is given to those communities which have significant religious diversity to help them run projects that will bring about lasting benefits to their neighbourhoods.

This new funding will enable projects to expand into Bury, Rochdale, Dewsbury, Leeds, Nottingham, North and West London, Luton and the Black Country. It will also further equip people with the skills, relationships and confidence to improve their local communities, building on the achievements on the first phase of Near Neighbours.

Some successful Near Neighbours projects to have already benefitted from the small grants include an interfaith choir in Burnley and the Oldham Play Action Group – a youth programme in Oldham which has brought people together from different backgrounds to take part in a project that includes dance, music and drama to help them better understand each other’s lives.  The programme has helped counteract racial and religious tension by encouraging families to mix with people from other cultural and religious groups, and to listen to and learn from each other.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said:

“It’s been terrific to see Near Neighbours go from strength to strength over the past three years, helping grass roots groups to improve the lives of those around them through practical action.

“These fantastic projects have been met with huge amounts of enthusiasm, creating a sense of lasting community spirit, and helping to transform neighbourhoods in the process.

“This extra money is a real investment in our shared future that will enable Near Neighbours to reach many more communities so they can become even better places to live.”

Faith Minister, Baroness Warsi said:

“We developed the concept of Near Neighbours many years ago – using the existing infrastructure of the Church to bring together people of all faiths. It was ambitious and it was challenging. But after three years, hundreds of small grants, and thousands of volunteers, this programme has proved one thing: that faith can make a real difference at the heart of our communities.

“So today I feel immensely proud to see Near Neighbours reaching out to more people, having more of a local impact, and showing more and more that faith is a positive force in our society.”

To date over 500 groups have received Near Neighbours grants of up to £5,000 and the impact of these projects has been far reaching as:

–       89% of those who have received Near Neighbours grants consider their projects to have lead to a greater sense of togetherness or community spirit;

–       Over 280,000 people are estimated to have benefitted from the Near Neighbours programme;

–       97% considered that their projects had developed relationships with neighbours from different religious backgrounds.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, welcomed the additional funding and said:

“We are delighted that the Department for Communities and Local Government has shown its commitment to local inter faith work for the common good by renewing its funding for the Near Neighbours programme. This means that Near Neighbours can continue for another two years, expanding into new areas of the country.

“This renewed funding is a recognition of the hard work and prayer put in over the last three years by hundreds of people from local faith communities supported by the national church and inter faith groups. That work has touched thousands of lives, strengthening the fabric of our society at a time and in neighbourhoods where many face real hardship. We have heard some great stories from Near Neighbours over the last three years and we look forward to many more.”

Further information

–       NN was set up in 2011 in partnership between the Church Urban Fund and the Archbishop’s Council and is funded by DCLG

–       Near Neighbours was originally targeted in four areas: the M62 “mill towns” corridor  of Bradford, Burnley, and Oldham; Leicester; and selected boroughs and wards in East London and Birmingham.

–       The Rockingham community centre is home to many local groups including a Bengali women’s group, a Somali support group, and the African and Caribbean Health Foundation

–       The Near Neighbours Small Grants Fund final impact report was released in February 2013

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