Faith in Wales: Counting for Communities:
Summary of Findings, County Borough of Blaenau Gwent
Until now, Wales has lacked statistical evidence about the role of faith communities in the wider communities of which they are a part. The Gweini report, Faith in Wales: Counting for Communities, provides new information on the services provided by faith communities to the wider community, including: the numbers of volunteers they mobilise, the numbers of staff they pay to work with the wider community, the rooms and halls they make available, and their impact on tourism.
Blaenau Gwent has over 80 active faith communities (individual congregations, or parishes in the case of the Church in Wales). All identified in the survey were churches. This represents roughly one church or parish for no more than 800 people in Blaenau Gwent.
Every week, roughly 6% of the population of Blaenau Gwent is estimated to be present at a religious service. However, this figure understates the numbers who attend over the course of a year. Taking the single largest service in each faith community over a year raises the figure to almost 25%. A considerably higher proportion that this must attend one or more religious services over the course of a year.
The range of services churches provide in Blaenau Gwent is enormous, including many services governments are not well equipped to deliver. The top five are Marriage preparation; Social activities (lunch club, coffee bar, etc.); Children's work (under 14 year olds); Hospital visiting and Arts/music education/appreciation; in which the number of churches involved is estimated to be 45, 45, 45, 43 and 34, respectively.
In addition, a number of churches are already working in areas of emerging need and opportunity; around 15 churches are already working in at least one of the areas of employment training, alcohol and drug awareness, and personal finance issues, and ten hope to work in these areas in the future.
Almost 85% of the churches in Blaenau Gwent are active in one or other area of community services, with an average number of around six areas of activity each.
Over 1,200 volunteers are estimated to work on behalf of the wider community in activities organised by churches in Blaenau Gwent. This represents around 1,800 hours a week, equivalent to around 45 full-time workers.
In addition, churches in Blaenau Gwent employ around 70 paid staff to work with the wider community, representing a further 1,200 hours a week, equivalent to another 30 full-time workers.
Many churches provide accommodation for the wider community. In Blaenau Gwent, around 20 are estimated to operate purpose-built community centres; around 40 rent out rooms to outside groups; and around 35 supply some accommodation free of charge.
Churches offer support for the Welsh language: 3 churches in Blaenau Gwent are estimated to be involved in running classes in Welsh, or to be involved in activities for Welsh speakers.
Using standard techniques, the economic benefit impact of just part of the services provided to local communities in Blaenau Gwent can be estimated at £2.6M per year.
And, of course, this is only part of the impact of churches. For example, 7 churches in Blaenau Gwent are estimated to be strongly involved in their local Community Strategy or to have been involved in Government regeneration initiatives.