Faith in Practice: A Mixed Method Study Exploring the Impact of Faith Based Organisations in Delivering Voluntary and Community Sector Activities in Cornwall
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Throughout history faith based organisations (FBOs) have played an important role in delivering welfare provision. They were often the original founders of much of the welfare we see now, however, the establishment of the Welfare State in 1945 encouraged centralised delivery of welfare provision and FBOs were seen to withdraw. A re-emergence of delivery of welfare by FBOs has been observed in the last three decades since the most recent British Government’s austerity measures prompted ‘Big Society’, encouraging a shift of responsibility from central government back to local communities. The aim of this study is to examine the impact of FBOs in delivering voluntary and community sector (VCS) activities in Cornwall, seeking to understand the value FBOs bring to their communities and the benefits they present. It is then possible to identify the distinctiveness of FBOs, and furthermore, to draw implications to develop a clear understanding of their activity and motivation. The research was conducted using a mixed methods approach consisting of a county-wide survey of FBOs, the first of its kind, and semi-structured interviews with key individuals associated with the work of FBOs from four different perspectives; faith group leaders, volunteer project coordinators, service users and VCS consultants. This study focussing on Cornwall in South West England provides important new insights from service providers and service users demonstrating that FBOs make a significant economic contribution to the county through the average value of volunteer hours, which can be estimated to be in excess of £20million. The average volunteer profile was found to be 50-69 years old, volunteers up to 2 hours per week and is a member of a FBO. Furthermore, it is estimated that 19% of the population in Cornwall use activities delivered by FBOs weekly. To extend the research further, a national mapping exercise to include all faiths would provide further insights on a larger scale for comparison. Finally, studies into barriers to sustainability of FBOs and how to address them would be encouraged.
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