Govt: we need to tap into Christians’ huge potential

Everyone loses out if Christians are barred from getting involved in the community, a Government Minister has said.

Speaking to a group of church and charity leaders Eric Pickles said Christians have been viewed as “‘weird'” in recent years.

And he warned that some councils are reluctant for Christians to provide services or receive public money.


But he said the Government wants to “tap into” Christians’ “huge potential to do good”.

Mr Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, warned that some have recently asked Christians to be silent about faith – or not get involved in their local communities.

If that happens, he said, “everyone loses out”.

He continued: “Because we know that you can make a difference. Raising money for social causes. Looking after your neighbourhood. And reaching people in their darkest hour – when they are suffering with debt, divorce, drugs or despair.


“We want to help you fulfil it to the best of your abilities. Not by duplicating. Not by muscling in. But complementing what we find on the ground. And giving you the freedom and encouragement you need.”

The Minister also highlighted a “‘barrier busting'” section on the Communities Department website which he said any groups who are “finding it hard to get things done” could get support.

Mr Pickles commented: “Some local authorities recognise the amazing potential of faith groups – giving them grants, or commissioning them to provide services.”

He highlighted places such as Chester, Trafford and Stoke-on-Trent which have “developed a proper, mature relationship”. However some councils, he warned, are reluctant and “fight shy”.


But, he said, if faith groups are “better placed” to reach different communities and if they have “the networks to influence those who need help most, then councils are missing a trick”.

He added that the Government wants to “change the balance” and give faith groups rights to have a say, instead of “relying on the good will of local authorities”.

In 2007 a Christian care home had £13,000 of public funding withdrawn after staff refused to question the elderly residents about their sexual orientation every three months.

And in 2008 former Government Minister Hazel Blears suggested that Christian groups should only be allowed to provide public services if they keep quiet about their faith.

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