Places of worship across Birmingham are being urged to sign up to a Charter for Faith Settings – a commitment to operate within Covid-19 controls – which was launched today (18 March 2021).

Birmingham City Council has worked closely with faith leaders since the pandemic began last year to develop a programme that would support all faith settings in meeting legal requirements.

It aims to help faith settings protect their congregations, ensuring they are supported in understanding legislation and guidance, and able to put that into practice to reassure worshippers.

A range of measures – including a Covid-secure tool kit to help risk assess venues, fortnightly online meetings and a mentoring system to support venues working towards compliance – were developed by the council’s Environmental Health and Public Health teams

Cllr John Cotton, Cabinet Member for Social Inclusion, Community Safety and Equalities, said: “Faith plays a vital role in the lives of so many citizens and I know just how difficult they have found the closure of places of worship for long periods during the pandemic.

“Since the doors of our places of worship reopened, our officers have been working closely with faith communities and Birmingham Multi-Faith Partnership to develop and implement this programme – designed to keep people safe wherever they worship.

“Seeing the charter certificate displayed in faith settings across the city will provide confirmation of best practice in reducing the risk of the spread of Covid-19 as restrictions are gradually lifted. I very much welcome and endorse this important initiative.”

The Birmingham Multi-Faith Partnership – which brings together representatives from the West Midlands Faith in Action, Muslim Council of Britain, Church of England and the Nishkam Centre in Handsworth – was formed to help support faith groups and settings across the city to be able to interpret, communicate and execute current restrictions and become Covid compliant.

Reverend Maxine Douglas, Director of West Midlands Faith in Action – which brings together Black, African and Caribbean churches – said: “The Birmingham Multi-Faith Partnership represents some of the largest faiths based in the city, so we felt best suited to reach other faiths in collaboration with Birmingham City Council, which would encourage the expression of faith in a safe and lawful way.

“The Birmingham Multi-Faith Partnership has been instrumental in sharing best practice and helping to shape this Covid-19 Charter for Faith Settings. We all agree that safeguarding the public against Covid-19 is everyone’s business, including the places of worship. This charter will give communities reassurance that places of worship are Covid-19 compliant and demonstrate the efforts faith settings have put in to help rebuild public confidence.”

A pilot scheme involving 10 places of worship found six already complied with requirements. Officers supported the remaining four to enable those to achieve Charter status.

In order to achieve Charter status, venues must have:

  • Completed a Covid-19 risk assessment
  • Display Covid-19 safety signage
  • A system is in place for checking Covid-19 symptoms of worshippers and faith workers
  • A cleaning regime in place
  • Hand washing facilities
  • Taken steps to maintain 2 metre social distancing – if not possible, implemented risk mitigations
  • Ensure all staff wear adequate Personal Protective Equipment
  • Ensure all attendees wear a face covering
  • A contact tracing system in place to collect visitors details
  • An internal early outbreak management procedure.

Officers will visit venues to ensure compliance with these requirements, and those which meet them will receive a certificate, to be displayed to show worshippers the venue has met an approved standard.

To find out more about the Covid-19 Charter for Faith Settings, visit https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/info/50231/coronavirus_covid-19/2336/covid_charter_for_faith_settings

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