Claire Walker

 

In September 2020, the National Churches Trust published The House of Good. This report quantified, for the first time ever, the social value of all church buildings in the UK. Not just the bricks and mortar but the welfare and wellbeing they create in our communities.

In 2020, our researchers estimated that the total social value of UK church buildings is around £12.4 billion a year. That's about what the NHS spent on mental health in 2018. The statistics in The House of Good are underpinned by figures established by HM Treasury to evaluate policies and put a financial value on things that cannot be bought and sold. For example the benefits derived from a foodbank run by volunteers or the satisfaction that comes from a moment of quiet reflection at the back of a church.

The methods used by the Treasury to assess policies and determine their values are published in The Green Book. This is the nationally recognised standard for measuring such hard to quantify values and these methods have now been revised. They enable us to say that the economic and social value of church buildings is much higher than we thought.

One change to The Green Book adjusts the way the Treasury supports policy interventions and prioritises those that areintended to address regional economic disparities. It is intendedto "enable ministers and other decision makers to fully understand what investments they need to make to most effectively drive the delivery of the levelling up agenda. The other change determines how wellbeing is valued.

The prioritisation of policy interventions that support the government's levelling up agenda effectively confirms what The House of Good made crystal clear, namely that church buildings provide massive social support for people and communities throughout the UK. Furthermore, many of the most socially active
churches are in deprived areas. They make a particularly important contribution towards achieving greater equality.

Bringing people together for the common good

Provision of services ranging from drug and alcohol counselling to youth groups offers benefits to the volunteers who run them as well as to those who use them. They bring people together for the common good and strengthen communities. In short, church buildings help to level up every single day: it's what they do and
always have done.

Besides prioritising efforts to create a more equitable society, The Green Book has changed the way the government measures wellbeing. This new guidance was published in July 2021. The House of Good used the WELLBY to put a price on the non- market value of the activities taking place in church buildings.

This is a new tool and its name is short for Wellbeing Guidance for Appraisal. Our report used a very conservative rate to reach the total of £12.4 billion a year for the social value of church buildingsin the UK.

In July 2021, HM Treasury adopted the WELLBY as its primary measure for wellbeing. But, it officially recommended that a unit of wellbeing, a WELLBY, be given an average monetary value of £13,000. This is more than five times higher than the average figure used in The House of Good.

In short, by using HM Treasury's figures, we find that the yearly social value of churches in the UK and the activities that take place in them is about £55.7 billion. That is twice as much as local authorities spend on adult social care.

For every £1 invested in a church, the return is over £16. That's four or five times more than would be expected in other spheres of investment.

As The House of Good makes extremely clear, running food banks, youth services, mental health counselling is what happens in church buildings all the time. Churches provide a vital, ready- made support network to help communities level up.

Churches are vital to their communities

Last year, the National Churches Trust awarded grants of over £1.7 million to help support church buildings and this year, thanks to the support of the Heritage Stimulus Fund, we will be able to provide even more. We contribute to the cost of repairs to the fabric of church buildings and we also help make them fit for the
21st century by supporting the installation of kitchens and toilets.

We know how vital churches are to their communities and we want to help them fulfil their roles.

We cannot do this alone. Investment from philanthropic trusts, individuals and from central and local government is essential to keep churches open and in good repair with up to date community facilities.

Support for church buildings is a vital step towards addressing the inequalities that have developed in the UK and are holding backthe lives of millions of our fellow citizens.