Interfaith charity reports facing closure amid threats to 20-year government support

17 Jan 2024 News

The Inter Faith Network logo

An interfaith charity has warned that it is likely to close if the government withdraws funding for its work after more than 20 years.

The Inter Faith Network (IFN) said it has received statutory grant funding since 2001, with 62% of its £342,000 income coming from one government grant in 2022.

In March 2023, the charity received a letter from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) stating that further funding would not be given from April 2023 to the charity. 

However, organisations, individuals, MPs and peers protested this decision and in July 2023, IFN received a letter stating that DLUHC would provide funding following a review by ministers. 

But the funding, which was set to be used from July 2023 to March 2024, is still yet to be provided and accessed by the charity. 

Last week, MPs discussed the charity’s future in an adjournment debate in the House of Commons.

Holly Lynch said the charity is at risk of “imminent closure” if the government does not provide the funding it pledged to it last July.  

She said that staff have been made redundant at the charity and are working their notices. 

IFN told Civil Society that three members of permanent staff had been made redundant so far. 

Criticisms of charity

During the debate, Lynch said: “It will be such a devastating tragedy if the money comes too late and, because of government inaction, it is forced to close.”

Bob Blackman, Conservative MP for East Harrow, said that there had been criticisms of the IFN “about the way it has been run”. 

The Telegraph reported in December that DLUHC officials thought that IFN should have called out the 7 October attack in Israel by Hamas, in which 1,200 people were killed.

However, the Charity Commission told Civil Society it had not fielded any complaints about the organisation.  

‘Survival of IFN’s work is unlikely without some government support’

Founded in 1987, IFN works with member bodies to promote good relationships between people of different faiths. Muslim Council of Britain, Buddhist Society and Hindu Council UK are among its members.

Government grant funding has “been a vital component of funding” alongside its other income streams, IFN said. 

IFN said that the agreed funding is “vital to the planned and budgeted for work”.

In a statement, IFN said: “When the present offer of funding was made last July, the letter said that funding would not be given beyond March 2024.

“While IFN continues to fundraise, the survival of its work would be unlikely without some government support.”

Its latest accounts ending December 2022 show a total income of £342,000, with one government grant contributing £213,000 to this, and a deficit of  £47,100.

Government to make announcement 

Speaking at the debate, Simon Hoare, faith minister in DLUHC, said he was not able to confirm when the government will supply the funding pledged for the current financial year.

“The department hopes to be able to make an announcement in pretty short order,” he said.

“The government are fully persuaded of the importance of developing and maintaining strong relationships across faiths and beliefs. That is crucial to the fabric of our nation.”

Labour MP Stephen Timms said: “Is it not clear that the kind of dialogue across faith divides that the Inter Faith Network facilitates is more needed at this moment than ever?

“Unless the government keep their promise to provide funding for this financial year, we are going to lose that capacity entirely. Would that not be a terrible tragedy?”

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