We are a multi-faith charity, bringing together people from across Brighton and Hove who find common ground in wanting to help the poor and the persecuted, the hungry and the homeless, the lonely and the vulnerable.
The global economic crisis of 2008 left Brighton and Hove battling an increase in poverty and personal debt. The community was hit by higher unemployment and inflation, coupled with wage freezes and cuts – the challenges of which are still being felt more than a decade later.
Greater demand for social care, as life expectancy increased and the elderly population grew, put the city council under huge pressure to deliver more welfare services to more people – but with greatly reduced budgets.
So what could be done to tackle this perfect storm? In 2012 and 2013, two significant reports highlighted the potential for local authorities to work with faith groups in their areas:
A report by the think-tank Demos that investigates 20 faith motivated organisations across a variety of policy areas.
A report sponsored by the Evangelical Alliance and published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group of Christians in Parliament. Strengthening ties between faith groups and local authorities.
Both reports concluded communities would be better served if councils and faith groups worked together, and recommended studies be carried out to identify opportunities for partnerships which could improve the lives of the most vulnerable.
No existing charity was suitable to carry out the work, so in Brighton Lev Eakins and Rev Martin Poole took matters into their own hands and created one, alongside the trustees of faith groups in the city offering the most help to those who desperately needed it. Its aim was to try to plug the gaps that appear when public services are unable to meet rising demand.
In February 2014, Brighton and Hove Faith in Action – a brand new multi-faith charity – was officially set up.
Over the next 18 months, we gathered information on faith groups offering social welfare services in the community and presented its findings to the council in November 2015.
We completed our registration process with the Charity Commission in March, and three months later launched our first collaboration – the Mental Health Faith Partnership (MHFP), bringing together faith and service providers of mental health care.
In November, we organised our second Celebrating Faith event for Interfaith week.
The MHFP organised mental health awareness training events for 12 faith groups in the Spring, and in May we were given responsibility for leading the city council’s funded Faith Partnership – later rebranded the Faith Council.
In September we elected a new chair, Rik Child, to lead the BHFA forward.
In February the Faith Council created a sub-committee on homelessness, chaired by the YMCA DLG, which helps young people facing crisis.
Two months later, we launched the Combatting Faith Hate Partnership. Led by the BHFA alongside Anglican, Catholic, Coptic, Muslim and Jewish faith groups, its aim is to combat
religiously motivated hate crime in the city.
In May we changed our constitution to allow non-worshipping faith groups full membership rather than associate membership, bringing our number to over 100 for the first time and representing 75% of all known faith groups in the city.
And in November the Faith Covenant – a pledge to work ‘constructively, openly and collaboratively for the good of the city’ – was signed between Brighton and Hove City Council
and the city’s faith community. The agreement was brokered through the Faith Council, led by BHFA. Rt Hon Steven Timms MP, the Chair of the All Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society opened the event.
In the first half of the year, the Faith Council reviewed the work of homeless provision in Brighton and Hove and we continued our work on the Combating Faith Hate Project. We received training from the Faith and Belief Forum in preparation for starting school visits.
We also set up a ‘standing together committee’ of ministers from different faiths to deliver a faith tour, where members of the public, whether of faith or not, can visit different buildings owned and operated by various groups to learn more about the religious community.
In April, we held hustings where all parties sent council candidates to speak to the faith communities about issues that mattered in the upcoming election.
In May, the Mayor held a gathering of faith leaders in the town, the first of its kind, which marked the rising profile of the faith community and the value the civic authorities are placing on both the services offered by faith communities and the diverse communities themselves.
In June, the annual Celebrating Faith event was held in the "public square" at the Open Market and was attended by the Mayor of Brighton & Hove. BHFA attended the Brighton & Hove Iftar meal to mark the end of Ramadan.
During the rest of the year, the Faith Council continued to advance the work of representation of faith communities within the city and the Combating Faith Hate Partnership begun to organise the Faith Tour.
The snap general election of December 2019 allowed BHFA to organise another faith hustings attended by well over 200 people. Hove Reform Synagogue provided the venue and the event received wide recognition.
The year started with further development of the Homelessness Faith Partnership just before the Covid-19 pandemic led to a UK lock down. The Faith Council has moved on line and was meeting every week during the lock down and moved to every other week in July. It focused on co-ordination of the faith based community responses to the pandemic, interfacing with the council, police and wider voluntary sector and has latterly moved to supporting faith groups re-open places of worship safely, providing risk assessments and best practice as well as links to PPE and other resources.
The Faith Tour got underway with a visit to the Bodhisattva Centre in Hove and Middle Street Synagogue in central Brighton. The tour was put on hold in late March 2020 as lock down commenced. Since then a number of videos have been made in the Reform Synagogue, the Coptic Orthodox Church and various projects organised by Muslim and Christian groups demonstrating the work of the communities during the pandemic and introducing these faith communities to a wider audience.
The latter part of the year is dedicated to conducting a survey of all the faith groups within the city, identifying the work being undertaken, all services offered both spiritual and social as well as developing a register of facilities owned and operated by the faith groups. Faith Council will continue and the Homelessness Faith Partnership will be developed to play a roll in what will be a very different offering for the homeless now that night shelters and day centres are likely unable to re-open.
BHFA organises a number of events which are open to the public. The Faith Council welcomes observers although only members can play a full role in the meeting. Information our events can be found to the right. Everyone is most warmly invited whether you are a person of faith or not.