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A conference held on 15th October 2013 and organised by Faith in the Community (Wokingham Borough) has provided the opportunity for crucial dialogue between representatives of statutory organisations and churches and faith groups in Wokingham Borough. The event was attended by 60 members of churches and representatives from Wokingham Borough Council, Health agencies and Thames Valley Police.

Speakers outlined their own perspectives in relation to issues and priorities on both a local and national level. Josie Wragg - Head of Community Sustainability at Wokingham Borough Council - explained some of the pressures on the local authority along with areas in which they have had to make savings. She explained that they were exploring various options for collaboration and the conference was a vauable opportunity to begin this dialogue. Dr Stephen Madgwick - GP Lead of Wokingham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) - explained the new structures within the field of health following the phasing out of PCT's. Groups of local GP surgeries (CCGs) are now responsible for paying for local services and Stephen explained the way in which this will work in coming months.

Chief Inspector Robert France - Wokingham Local Policing Area Commander - provided information on the prevalence of various crimes across the Borough and highlighted that, relative to many other areas, the borough has a very low crime rate. Robert expressed his enthusiasm to look into ways in which faith groups can help to address crime and anti-social behaviour in local communities.

Adam Dyer
Two further speakers provided a more national perspective during the day. Adam Dyer - Leader of Yeovil Community Church and Champion of the Cinnamon Network - summarised the way in which his church were now delivering a key initiative called 'Yeovil4Families' which engages with some of the most challenging families in Somerset. The contract with their local authority has come as a result of several years of community engagement by the church as well as the development of trust and mutual respect with members of the local authority. Daniel Webster - Parliamentary Officer from Evangelical Alliance - spoke about a recently produced report called 'Faith in the Community' which was based on research asking local authorities about their perception of and partbership with local churches and faith groups in their areas. The report revealed some areas of concern in some instances but also found that many local authorities had a positive working relationship with churches and faith groups.

Workshops in the afternoon of the conference focused on a number of issues including children & young people, older people, family support, substance misuse prevention and education, crime and anti-social behaviour and community development responses to local needs. 

Following feedback from the workshops, key actions were noted and working groups will be set up on specific issues to continue the discussions. Anyone interested in participating in these working groups can contact Jeremy Sharpe on 07970 100131 or jsharpe.fitc@gmail.com

For a further report of the event, go to Xn Media Website

* Photo used with permission from Xn Media