JLC advises on Big Society

The Jewish community has been assured that the Government's Big Society plans will not infringe on Jewish charities' faith-based work, following concerns flagged up in a new report.

The report, The Big Society and the UK Jewish Community, published by the Jewish Leadership Council this week, claims that the Government should "promote" Jewish communal organisations.

On Tuesday, representatives from the JLC, Jewish charities and schools met communities secretary, Eric Pickles, to discuss the report.

It states that Jewish community organisations are a good example of the Big Society in action and can serve as a model for creating and developing civil society institutions. But it also raises concerns that the new Equality Act could hinder the Big Society goals by "creating hurdles" for Jewish charities.

The report states: "Voluntary organisations rely on support from the public. They get this support because people give to communities and causes they identify with. Rather than trying to limit community and voluntary organisations from being able to serve their communities, Government should understand that a major part of their success relies on this relationship.

"The legislative and administrative environment makes it more difficult for charities from religious communities to work effectively. Government should avoid creating more technical hurdles for religious-based charities and should consider whether the current framework, following the Equality Act 2010, may be hindering the delivery of Big Society goals."

It advises Jewish organisation to "spread their benefits as widely as possible" to face this challenge. It also asks the Government to encourage local authorities to protect community organisations from budget cuts.

Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the JLC, said: "The Coalition Government's Big Society agenda presents both opportunities and challenges to those agencies that provide the infrastructure for Jewish life in the UK.

"Charity, citizen service, volunteerism, connected communities, co-operation and collectivism - the entire lexicon of the Big Society could have been drawn from a study of the institutional base of the UK Jewish community.

"However, against the backdrop of spending cuts, drops in donations and a tightening regulatory environment for faith-based charities, the Jewish voluntary sector is working hard to adapt to delivering the Big Society agenda.

"The secretary of state reaffirmed that Jewish organisations do not need to dilute their faith-based element. He said Big Society is a harmony of different voices."

    Last updated: 12:12pm, December 9 2010