stronger partnerships between different faiths to tackle social
exclusion, according to a report launched today by regeneration
minister Sally Keeble.
The report A More Inclusive City: Birmingham and its Faith
Communities, follows an extensive period of consultation with
Birmingham's diverse range of communities, from Sikh and Buddhist to
Zorastrian and Christian.
The overwhelming response to the consultation was a call for a new
community forum, providing people of all faiths in Birmingham with a
platform to make their views heard by local agencies and the city
Speaking at the Handsworth Gurdwara, the minister welcomed the
'Faith communities have played a major role in providing services in
the inner cities as well as giving a clear voice to the needs and
aspirations of minority groups. Birmingham's faith communities have
helped create community cohesion. This report shows how a Faith Forum
can take this important work forward.'
Birmingham City Council's Muhammad Afzal, cabinet member for
equalities and human resources, said religion occupied a very
important place in the lives of many communities:
'We see faith-based community organisations - there are over 800 in
the city - playing a vital role in the improvement of deprived and
disadvantaged areas. A faith forum would bring representatives of
different religions together to help forge these links between the
council and the community.'
The minister also visited Birmingham's largest post-war housing
estate at Castle Vale, where she launched the Castle Vale Housing
Action Trust's neighbourhood management board. The board will ensure
people's quality of housing, and quality of life in Castle Vale is
sustained for the long-term. She also visited the recently opened
86-bed Berwood Court nursing home where the Minister stressed the
importance of addressing health inequalities through regeneration.
Ms Keeble said:
'Castle Vale Housing Action Trust demonstrates to us all how
community-led regeneration can make a real and lasting difference to
our deprived neighbourhoods. People in Castle Vale now have better
life chances than previous generations. We must ensure that these
hard-won improvements are a legacy for Birmingham's future
generations. The neighbourhood management board will be instrumental
in achieving this aim.
'Health is a fundamental indicator of quality of life in our
communities. The renewal of our run-down neighbourhoods must be about
people as well as the places where they live. Improving people's
health lies at the heart of our commitment to neighbourhood renewal.'
The minister concluded her visit to Birmingham with a visit to the
Smethwick Bangladeshi Youth Forum at the North Smethwick Resource
Centre, and the King's Norton New Deal Community (NDC).
1. The report, A More Inclusive City: Birmingham and its Faith
Communities is available from Birmingham City Council. The
consultationprocess for the report involved members of the
Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish, Buddhist, Baha'i, Humanism,
Jang and Zorastrian faith communities. Birmingham has been described
as the second most multi-cultural city in Europe. Current estimates
put the number of faith-based community organisations at some 800,
across all faiths. The Birmingham Council of Faiths (BCF) was
established in 1974 and has been an advocate of the virtues of
co-operation between the city's different faiths.
2. Castle Vale is home to almost 11,000 people, and is the largest
post-war estate in Birmingham, comprising of almost 5,000 homes on
1.5 square miles. Built in the 1960s, the estate formally transferred
from Birmingham City Council to the HAT in March 1994 following a
ballot, which saw 92% of the residents vote in favour of a transfer
to the HAT. Castle Vale HAT is now in its ninth full year of a
twelve-year regeneration programme ending in 2005.The programme is
one of the largest in the country which, by 2005,will have involved
around£270m of public and private investment. The scheme,
when finished, will include the building of 1,400 new homes, the
refurbishment of some 1,500 low-rise homes and the development of a
range of health, economic, social and environmental programmes to
improve the long-term quality of life in Castle Vale. Since its
inception the HAT has helped 1,274 people into jobs and trained
2,471. In October 2000 Castle Vale HAT won the prestigious Secretary
of State's Partnership in Regeneration Award.
3. The Smethwick Bangladeshi Youth Forum started delivering
small-scale projects in 1996. Since then the organisation has managed
to raise£850,000 from government grants and regional authorities and
has converted a disused church into the North Smethwick Resource
Centre. The Centre provides a wide range of skills development and
support services aimed at encouraging local people to take a more
active role in the community. Working in partnership with a wide
range of agencies, the Centre provides IT courses, employment
support, careers advice, on-site childcare, health improvement
activities, homework support and youth development projects such as
4. The King's Norton New Deal Community (NDC) is one of 39 NDCs in
the UK and has received£50m for neighbourhood renewal projects. New
Deal for Communities is a key programme in the Government's National
Strategy to tackle multiple deprivation in the most deprived
neighbourhoods in the country, giving some of our poorest
neighbourhoods the resources to tackle their problems in an intensive
and co-ordinated way. The aim is to bridge the gap between these
neighbourhoods and the rest of the country.
A press release from Birmingham City Council follows.
Keeping faith with local communities
Sally Keeble, under secretary for housing, planning and regeneration, will
visit the city this Thursday to launch a Birmingham report* on the promotion
of social inclusion by encouraging dialogue with the faith communities.
The conference will be hosted by Muhammad Afzal, cabinet member for
equalities and human resources. Special guests will include Mohammad
Naseem, from the Birmingham Central Mosque, Bishop John Austin, Brian Pearce,
Director of the Interfaith Network and Rev. Richard Tetlow from the Birmingham
Council of Faiths.
Cllr Afzal said: 'This report brings together the results of our consultation
with various faith communities on how they could be more involved in the
Council's policy-making and service-delivery processes. Religion occupies a
very important place in the lives of many communities, and we see faith-based
community organisations - there are over 800 in the city - playing an
equally vital role in the improvement of deprived and disadvantaged areas. To
this end, we hope to set up a faith forum, to bring representatives of the
different religions together help forge these links between the Council and