Select Committee on Office of the Deputy Prime Minister: Housing, Planning, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by South Yorkshire Churches Together for Economic and Social Regeneration (GRI 39)

  Please find enclosed a submission regarding the Urban Affairs Sub-Committee of the House of Commons Select Committee on ODPM into the effectiveness of Government Regeneration Initiatives.

  South Yorkshire Churches Together for Economic and Social Regeneration (TfR) was established in partnership with Industrial Mission in South Yorkshire, as a department of the Sheffield Diocesan Board of Finance in 1999. Its aim was to support church groups from all Christian denominations, within the most disadvantaged areas of South Yorkshire, to play a significant role in the economic and social regeneration of their communities.

  TfR is a capacity building project, which enables local people to make a difference to their lives. Significant achievements have already occurred with churches across South Yorkshire. However, many church groups have just begun to make an impact and could contribute so much more to the regeneration of their communities. Others have yet to become involved. TfR Phase Two will learn from previous experience and ensure that, by 2006, churches across the most disadvantaged areas of South Yorkshire will have played, and will continue to play, a key role in community regeneration. TfR is funded in part by Objective One to support Community Action Planning processes in Priority 4a Communities.

  I recently invited some key practitioners to respond out of their experience of regeneration to the questions being asked by your Sub-Committee. The following pages are what they wrote. Although I have not sought to edit or amend their words and do not present them as a collective view, representative of TfR as an organisation, their reflections carry the weight of many years of working with people in some of the region's most deprived communities.

Iain Cloke

Sheffield Adviser

  An Anglican Priest grapples with the questions posed by the Urban Affairs Sub Committee of the House of Commons on ODPM based on many years of engaging with "Regeneration Initiatives" in his Urban Priority Area Parish . . .

  Some questions about "Regeneration . . ."

Area-based initiatives?

  Doesn't it depend on the area? Can you really "regenerate" "deprived" areas without addressing the larger context—like those who hold power there, political, economic, social?

  This calls into question the whole nature of "regeneration" as it is currently understood. Is it really something "done" to people (the whole thing about "capacity building" them)? You really can't empower people unless they want empowering!

  To expect local communities suddenly to engage with a process they've been excluded from for so long is daft. And "democratic accountability" is a myth a large part of the electorate has ceased to believe in. (And to a large degree have ceased to believe in the elected, and the system that is perpetuated, where power is actually held by professional officers . . .)

  Most "regeneration" has much too short a time scale. It doesn't take into account how disengaged people are when they begin, or how slow the journey is. "Arrangements" gives the clue—it's what is done to people, not something they are encouraged to have any responsibility for, any stake in..

  I could go on, but all I would say is more of the above.

  I believe that it's the whole question of what "regeneration" is—whom it involves, who controls it, whose agenda it follows etc.,—that needs to be looked at.

  What does "effectiveness" mean? Effective for whom and in doing what?

  I don't apologise for this. It is cynicism born of sad experience. Yes, some initiatives are making a difference. But it's too little, for too short a time, and without making the real connections that are the only source of the sort of change that will really "regenerate" our cities.

Rev Mike Fudger

Darnall Church of Christ LEP


  . . . a Methodist Minister comments on the difficulties and injustices that she continues to face because of the competitive nature of area based initiatives and the development of the LSP which has not so far delivered real improvements in people's quality of life . . .


  I work as a Methodist minister in Sheffield serving two areas eligible for regeneration schemes. The two are very different, one is mixed in ethnicity and religion, terrace housing in the shadow of a football ground. The other is a largely white social housing estate still in council control. The schemes they have been eligible for have also been different, the former benefiting from SRB the latter only coming into Objective Two schemes and now both under Objective 1 Priority 4a although the latter missed out on pioneer status narrowly.

  The last sentence introduces one of my major problems with such schemes—they are competitive. Pioneer status communities were set alongside each other with enormous cash inputs and development worker time available as a prize. No sane person could deny that each community would benefit from this but they had to compete, we lost to our neighbouring estate. We cannot deny their need but nor can we deny ours. In four years since the council's community work service was discontinued we have had no development workers in health, in community work, in youth work, in any area until in the last six months the community forum has succeeded in gaining funding for a development worker. How can area based working succeed if there is no on-going development work to help areas like this estate produce evidence to compete for funding. We are told you get development workers by proving the need but who is to do this; professionals holding case loads in health above average, social workers who we never see and who do not participate in meetings to gain evidence with other professionals? Mostly we have found it is a combination of over-worked highly committed professionals, a few local people and the churches. Then we compete with areas which have already been playing the game for years, have development workers in every field, can raise cash relatively easily and have large community trusts, led by professionals who have often lost contact with the real local people.

  Regeneration will never be a level playing field and choices always have to be made, but account needs to be taken of the professionals available to submit bids not just of the glossy bid itself.

  The move to LSP ought to simplify my work as both communities come under one LSP, which proclaims itself as inclusive. Unfortunately as a member of the faith community I fail to see where I can link and input to it. I am told "through the local community forum" but it does not communicate with the faith communities unless forced to. I am told there is a real place for faith communities in this process by national government but fail to find it in the LSP although at local level in our community we are active and real partners involved in many of the newest initiatives. The LSP's seem to be doing the opposite of what we had hoped and creating a new level of bureaucracy, which is un-elected and unaccountable. Local people have not heard of them and even the Community Fora seem unsure of how they work. Regeneration is about people not structures, the process ought to change people's lives and life experience in local situations, allow experiment and failure—not tie any active community members into committees and discussions for which decisions already seem to have been made by an executive, appointed by whom?

  Regeneration should be exciting, risky and begin in local experiences. All too often local experience is twisted to fit the policy initiative in order to win the money. This does not improve the quality of life in a community—it addresses what we can get money for not what local people really need.

Rev Louise Carr

Gleadless Valley Methodist & Highfield Trinity LEP


  . . . a Baptist Minister of an LEP in one of Sheffield's most deprived neighbourhoods perceives a gap between the rhetoric and the reality of regeneration . . .

  The focus of our concern is the perceived `gap' between the expressed strategy and the reality experienced at ground level by those committed to relational regeneration.


  Burngreave, as you are aware, is one of the 284 "poverty wards" (out of a total 9000) featuring in the top 5 per cent of the most deprived wards in the country, with the highest incidence of social exclusion and poverty measured across a range of indicators[25].

  Burngreave is one of 12 such wards selected for special study by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Centre For Analysis Of Social Exclusion (CASE)[26]. Burngreave, out of the 12 studied poverty wards, uniquely qualifies for six regeneration initiatives and special funding programmes.
New Deal for Communities SRB Round 4
Sure StartHealth Action Zone
Education Action ZoneExcellence in Cities

  In addition the area could also be included in Sheffield's funding through the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund and qualifies for Objective 1. With the exception of Sure Start and New Deal for Communities these programmes have largely been determined by existing statutory services.


  Tony Blair writes in the introduction to Preventing Social Exclusion[27]: "The Government has made a start on a big programme of change. Preventing exclusion where we can, reintegrating those who have become excluded, and investing in basic minimum standards for all. And we have worked in a new way—developing partnerships around common goals with the public services, communities and charities, businesses and church organisations that have been struggling with the causes and symptoms of poverty for so long."[28]

  Regeneration minister Hilary Armstrong has said that the urban white paper provides a regeneration "toolkit" for local communities and that community involvement was "key to the whole process".

  On the ground: the Government's "new way" fails to listen clearly and carefully to the voices of people on the edge, choosing instead to listen to those who have louder voices and support existing statutory service providers to deliver a bit more of the "old deal". Dick Atkinson, chief executive of the Balsall Heath Forum and a member of the "Urban Sounding Board"[29] said the government and partner agencies had "talked the talk" of resident-led regeneration and "must now walk the walk". Dr Atkinson said. "Too often, with the best will in the world, people who represent larger agencies will feel that they can help—and too often they unintentionally hinder."[30]

  It has been our experience that the machinery of the major funding mechanisms, even at local level remains inaccessible and remote from people on the edge and those walking with them at their pace as they bravely take first steps into new possibilities.

  It is also our experience that the current trend for insisting on sub regional strategies becomes a further barrier to the development of relational community development initiatives engaging in bottom up regeneration around the needs of people in deprived neighbourhoods. Sub regional strategies should energise and invigorate local activity by encouraging the development of local partnership working between statutory and voluntary sector groups. Instead small initiatives are handcuffed to regional agendas and the process becomes a drain on its resources and human capacity.

  The Neighbourhood Renewal Fund, being targeted chiefly at core services, risks underwriting statutory agencies to provide more of the same that ends up pushing more people to the edge.


  Government rhetoric as well as the details of many government reports and strategies for implementation of neighbourhood renewal point to the positive impact of faith communities, like ours, who engage with community needs for renewal and regeneration.

  A key recommendation of the Social Exclusion Unit's Policy Action Team PAT 9 is that "Central and local government and other funders should recognise the vital role of faith communities in regeneration and involve them at all levels"[31].

  Faith Communities and voluntary organisations are listed as potential participants in the Government's vision for Local Strategic Partnerships[32].

  The Prime Minister addressed an interfaith meeting organised by the Christian Socialist Movement, along with Ms Armstrong. He focused on how faith communities could encourage people to gain the skills and confidence to regenerate their areas[33].

  Further to the issue of supporting faith communities another document states: "Faith organisations often play a vital role in leading voluntary action within their communities. Government should recognise the potential of faith organisations to contribute to social inclusion and that this is distinct from the promotion of religion. A failure to understand this distinction could lead to faith groups being incorrectly assessed as ineligible for funding."[34]

  The role of faith communities is seen as particularly significant in reaching socially excluded groups in the Black and Minority Ethnic Sector "as many minority communities identify themselves as much by their faith as by their ethnicity."[35]

  From the ground: we observe that all of the above appears to create a positive environment for the flourishing of community led, locally owned neighbourhood regeneration strategies. However, in view of the gap that we perceive between the stated strategies and the process from ground level, we would value your response to the question:

  Given that locally focused initiatives,

    —  growing out of relationships with the most disadvantaged and excluded people,

    —  having a proven track record, meeting many of the criteria for neighbourhood renewal

are not able to access major Government and European regeneration funding to sustain initiatives and to exploit new opportunities with local people . . .

    —  where is the vision and the mechanism by which the resources can reach people on the edge?

Rev Jane Grinonneau

The Furnival LEP


  . . . And an invitation from a URC Minister who has worked alongside local people to develop a pioneering speech and language initiative with Sure Start in Burngreave and Fir Vale.

  Dear Urban Affairs Sub-Committee,

  I am living and working in a culturally and linguistically diverse community in inner city Sheffield. The churches I work with are involved in a number of local regeneration initiatives. Here's what it's been like for us:

1.  Bottom up means top down

  There's lots of language in regeneration about it all being "bottom up". Mostly it isn't though. Mostly it is still top down. Take Sure Start (we're involved in that) and the way in which programmes have to measure speech and language development in two-year-old children. Instead of taking local advice about this the Sure Start unit commissions a university department in London to propose a scheme which then doesn't work in our culturally and linguistically diverse area. We wonder why there is talk about "bottom up" when there is little or no intention of actually doing it that way.

2.  How many people finished the course?

  Most of the outcome stuff is still dominated by numbers. Who's concept of "course" was it we were supposed to use: yours or the participants? For some people the first engagement with community based education is not about "finishing the course" whatever "course" means. Of the people who recently engaged with our Sure Start parenting group: most came every week; most realised that, as time went on, they could do the other things that stopped them coming each week on other days instead of missing the group; a lot started coming on other days because they wanted to see each other—and at the end four women got jobs for the first time since coming to the UK.

3.  Fitting our work to national objectives

  We struggle to make the two different agendas converse with each other. The faith community is about building up individuals and groups to share a fuller life experience. National objectives don't reflect these things. When a home visit to measure language development turns into the need to support someone who can't speak English to get the water board to deal with a leaking sewerage pipe, what objective should we put it under? We have a category called "other" to log all the things not covered by objectives. We wonder why the tally under this category is larger than under all the others?

  Don't get me wrong. We like Sure Start and we think it is important. We called it "wobbly start" for a long time because it did seem very wobbly to begin with. Now we've got used to the wobbling and realise that it is probably just a part of the huge vulnerability that we all engage with when we live and work in this situation. We wonder yet what you in the Urban Affairs Sub-Committee have learned about living and working with vulnerability and whether it would help you to come and visit us and see what it is like.

  In anticipation of your visit,

Janet Lees

St James' URC and Shiregreen URC


25   Glennerster H, Lupton R, Noden P and Power A (1998), Poverty, Social Exclusion and Neighbourhood: Studying the area bases of social exclusion. CASEpaper 22. London: London School of Economics. Back

26   Lupton R (February 2001), Places Apart? The initial report of CASE's Areas Study. CASEreport 14. London: London School of Economics. Back

27   Social Exclusion Unit (March 2001), Preventing Social Exclusion: Report by the Social Exclusion Unit. London: Cabinet Office. Back

28   Social Exclusion Unit (March 2001), Preventing Social Exclusion: Report by the Social Exclusion Unit, Page 4, Foreword by the Prime Minister. London: Cabinet Office. Back

29   There are 18 members of this Urban Sounding Board which includes Bob Kerslake, Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council. Back

30   NEWSTART Magazine, page 5 "Blair puts faith in religion to empower residents", March 30 2001. Back

31   Social Exclusion Unit (2000), Towards a National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal: Community Self-Help, Summary of the report by Policy Action Team 9. London: Cabinet Office. Back

32   Social Exclusion Unit (2001), A New Commitment To Neighbourhood Renewal: National strategy Action Plan. London: Cabinet Office. Back

33   Christian Socialist Movement conference "Faith In Politics", Thursday 29 March 2001. Back

34   Compact on Relations Between Government and the Voluntary and Community Sector, Section 1, Para 6.8. London: HMSO (2000). Back

35   Compact on Relations Between Government and the Voluntary and Community Sector, Section 2, Para 8.1. London: HMSO (2000). Back

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