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FAITH IN OUR COMMUNITIES

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Communities in Birmingham are calling for a faith forum to build ...
Communities in Birmingham are calling for a faith forum to build

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

council.

Speaking at the Handsworth Gurdwara, the minister welcomed the

report:

'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).

Notes

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

music workshops.

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

the community.'

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