Actions to combat the cost-of-living crisis, health inequalities and homelessness will be top of the agenda when dozens of faith and community leaders gather with public sector officials at a key summit next week.
Around 200 people are expected to attend the 2022 Faith in Action Summit at the Bescot Stadium in Walsall on Wednesday (30 November) to help drive forward new ideas and projects aimed at tackling some of the most critical issues currently facing communities across the West Midlands.
The Summit aims to build on the close relationships that were forged during the height of the Covid pandemic when the public sector worked closely with faith and community groups to communicate vital health messages, dispel misinformation and fake news, and even turn places of worship into vaccination centres.
Now, with many communities facing soaring fuel and food costs and experiencing on-going health inequalities, the Summit will look to refocus that spirit of collaboration to give faith and community leaders the opportunity to shape policy at a regional, strategic level.
But local government and public sector leaders also recognise the invaluable role that faith groups play at a grassroots level with their ability to reach deep into local communities. These include initiatives like Warm Welcome Spaces at several places of worship where people struggling with the soaring cost of living are offered a safe haven to visit for food and warmth.
The Summit has been organised by the region’s Faith Strategic Partnership Group, which was set up two years ago by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) and Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, to help improve local lives.
The Mayor, who will open the Summit with a key note speech, said: “During tough times, many people turn to their faith leaders and communities for help and guidance. We saw that very keenly during the pandemic when local faith groups made an incredible contribution to the work of the region in tackling Covid-19.
“Now, as communities face new issues, it’s important that our faith groups continue to help steer our region. The Summit is open to everyone to attend and I would urge people from all our communities to come along and have their say. This is a time when we urgently need to hear their voices.”
The Summit will discuss a number of key issues including:
- Feeding the hungry
- Providing warmth and welcome
- Homelessness and rough sleeping
- Raising understanding about mental health
- Building healthy communities
- Engaging and developing young leaders
Amrick Singh Ubhi, chair of the Faith Strategic Partnership Group, said: “Throughout the pandemic we saw fantastic collaboration between faith and community organisations and the public sector. This summit will look at how we can build on those collaborations and move forward with new networks and opportunities, galvanising and co-ordinating actions.
“The Summit offers the chance to hear first-hand the experiences of our faith groups and I hope it will leave us with clear ideas and actions we can take to serve our communities, places and region.”
Cllr Kerrie Carmichael, WMCA portfolio lead for inclusive communities and leader of Sandwell Council, added: “With the current economic pressures facing many across our region, this is an opportunity not only to hear from our faith and community leaders but ensure they are able to collectively contribute to the strategic dialogue.
“As we bring together faith and community organisations alongside civil leaders, local government, and public sectors bodies our focus will be on action. We want to share best practice, encourage fresh thinking, and build collaboration.”
Those wishing to attend the 2022 Faith in Action Summit can register at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/faith-in-action-summit-2022-tickets-444530100497