• Faith-based Organisations and UK Welfare Services: Exploring Some Ongoing Dilemmas

      Furness, Sheila M.; Gilligan, Philip A. (2012)
      Faith-based organisations (FBOs) have delivered services to vulnerable people for many years. They are frequently characterised by values also to be found within social work, notably a commitment to social justice. In the context of recent attempts by governments, notably in the USA, United Kingdom and Australia, to ‘roll-back’ the state, to ‘marketise’ and ‘privatise’ welfare services, FBOs are increasingly called-upon to tender for and volunteer to provide public services, including ‘social work’. In the United Kingdom, as elsewhere, religious beliefs are central to how many people conduct themselves, especially in response to personal crises and challenges. The authors’ previous research indicates that religious beliefs and traditions may have a profound impact (for good or ill or for both) on the actions of both individual service users and practitioners, but that social workers and agencies (whether faith-based or not) are often ill equipped to respond appropriately. They acknowledge both the positive contributions to public welfare of many faith-based organisations and the potential dangers inherent in relying on such agencies for services to vulnerable people. The authors argue that evaluations need to consider the effectiveness, appropriateness, ‘costs’ and ‘benefits’ of individual faith-based services in their particular contexts, and that their contribution needs to be analysed in relation to the varied nature and variable impact of such services. Social work has often struggled in its aim of challenging and addressing the structural causes of inequality as its efforts have been channelled towards meeting the needs of the individual. Current policy proposals provide potential opportunities to review and assess the contribution of neo-liberal approaches to welfare and to promote alliances amongst those members of different FBOs and other welfare providers to agree more collective, community-based approaches with an agreed agenda of creating a fairer society.