MPs urge government to restore funding to interfaith charity ‘on life support’

Charity

MPs have urged the government to deliver on its commitment to continue funding an interfaith charity, warning that the seven-month delay has put it at risk of “imminent closure” and led to redundancies.

The Inter Faith Network for the UK works with national faith community groups and educational bodies to advance understandings of the teachings and practices of different religious groups in the UK.

In a House of Commons debate last week, Holly Lynch, the Labour MP for Halifax, warned that the IFN was facing “imminent closure” if the government failed to deliver on an offer it made in July to continue funding the charity.

The charity’s accounts for the year to the end of December 2022 show that it had received government funding since 2001.

Since 2006, this funding has come from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, accounting for between 65 and 85 per cent of the charity’s total income.

In the financial year to the end of December 2022, the IFN received £212,500 in government grants. This accounted for 62 per cent of its total income during this period, which was £343,251.

For the period between July 2023 and March 2024, the charity said it applied for £155,000 through the DLUHC’s work programme.

In March, the charity received a letter from the DLUHC saying that funding would not be provided from April onwards.

This was followed by a letter in July that said the department had reviewed its funded programmes and offered the charity funding for use between July 2023 and March 2024.

A spokesperson for the IFN said: “Across April to June, numerous faith leaders, interfaith groups and others wrote in strong support, underlining the significance of IFN’s work. Fortunately, an offer of funding was made on 7 July. Unfortunately, however, that funding has not yet been made available.”

Lynch told MPs: “Despite the best efforts of IFN and its allies, including many of us here in parliament, as things currently stand, the July 2023 to March 2024 grant funding agreement has not been provided and therefore that funding cannot be accessed.”

She said IFN’s staff team, which the charity said consisted of three permanent staff, had all been given redundancy notices.

“​​The Inter Faith Network is about to close – it is on life support – without clarity from the government about whether financial support will be forthcoming,” Lynch said.

Her call was suppported by a number of MPs, including Labour’s Ruth Cadbury, Seema Malhotra and Michael Shanks.

When asked if the government would deliver on its funding commitment made in July, Simon Hoare, the local government minister, told MPs he hoped the secretary of state would make an announcement “in the not too distant future”, but was unable to confirm with certainty.

When pressed further by Lynch, who stressed that staff were already facing redundancy, he added: “I will communicate that through to ministerial colleagues and to officials in the department who are dealing with this matter.”

Closing the debate, Hoare said: “The network is not the only body that provides forums and organisations to deliver inter-community and inter-faith discussions. There are others, but we hope to be able to make an announcement in due course.”

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