In the Open Public Services White Paper, the Government declared their intention to make public services more open, transparent and efficient by bringing in outside providers. From employment training to drug rehabilitation, an increasing number of services once delivered by the public sector have been outsourced through the commissioning of private sector and charitable organisations. Yet faith-based providers have seen little uplift in opportunity, often being overlooked due to local authorities’ fears that they might discriminate or proselytise to service users.
Faithful Providers argues that local authorities stand to benefit both financially and through improved community relations if religious groups are brought into service delivery. The report investigates 20 faith-motivated organisations across a variety of policy areas, finding little evidence to justify fears over aggressive preaching. Faith is an important part in the lives of staff and volunteers, but it does not adversely impact on their service provision, instead leading some volunteers to go the extra mile. In fact, faith-based providers are especially effective in areas like drugs and alcohol rehabilitation, where a ‘holistic’ approach is valuable.
The report also argues that, if religious groups in receipt of public money are required to work with organisations of other faiths when delivering services, the result could be improved integration, a greater sense of community and stronger local institutions. Local authorities should cease to view commissioning as purely an economic decision, and instead consider the added social value that charitable and faith providers bring.