Partnership Between Baptist Church and The Children's Society Supporting Marginalised Families in Birmingham
Marginalised migrant families in Birmingham are being helped thanks to a partnership between a Baptist church and the Children's Society
Birmingham Central Baptist Church is the venue for a volunteer-led project that gives destitute families a warm and safe place to meet each week and get advice. It's also a space for their children to meet with other children and have time to play and learn.
The partnership came about as the Children's Society is expanding its work to meet growing need, and is increasingly working with churches. The families come to the church after being referred to the Society's Helping Further Project.
The Baptist church, which has close links with the charity because member Andy Jolly is the Helping Further Project Coordinator, was only too happy to volunteer its hall as a venue each week.
The families who attend can use the church's equipment (it runs a toddler stay and play session on Tuesdays) and a volunteer from the congregation is there too, working alongside a Children's Society representative.
'We have a heart to provide a safe space for asylum seeker families,' explained the Revd Paul Tyler, who is joint minister alongside wife Elisabeth.
‘We have been exploring what it means to be Good News. The Bible has a strong emphasis on a welcoming community, helping the marginalised, and ensuring that justice prevails.
'As a church there is very little we can do in terms of advocacy, but by working alongside the Children's Society, we can be part of making a difference.’
The Children Society's work with destitute families began in 2008 in response to growing numbers of families who were presenting themselves to churches and charities in Birmingham without food or shelter.
It commissioned a small piece of research called "Living on the edge of despair" which looked into the reasons for destitution, and interviewed families, young people, and employees working with these families. This resulted in a pilot project trialling a way of working with the families to help them out of destitution.
Although at the time most were asylum seekers, it now works with any family who is not able to access employment, mainstream benefits or homelessness assistance because of their immigration status.
The partnership with Birmingham Central Baptist Church has therefore come about through 'a growing need', Mr Jolly said.
'We are currently in a process of expansion to meet growing need, and are producing guides for churches on rights and entitlements for migrant families, and good practice in working with destitute children and families.
'We were keen to develop links with churches in areas where there are lots of migrant families, and BCBC were keen to use their hall during the week for community purposes.'
The general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain the Revd Jonathan Edwards heard first hand about the new centre during a visit to Birmingham in December, and praised the Children's Society's desire to work with Baptists.
'I have known about the Society for many years and always assumed that it was an exclusively Anglican organisation. However, I have been delighted to discover that there is a great eagerness to work with Baptists.
'The needs of refugees are enormous and with huge cuts in Social Service provision there has never been a more crucial time for us to act. It is brilliant to hear about this new initiative in and I am thrilled that Baptists are right at the heart of it.'