Headlines > Low take-up on anti-hate crime fund for places of worship

08 March 2018 | by Megan Cornwell

Low take-up on anti-hate crime fund for places of worship

Less than half the £800,000 designated annually for protective measures for places of worship was used last year

Government funds allocated to protect places of worship against hate crime are going unused, The Tablet can reveal. Less than half of the £800,000 designated annually for protective measures for churches, mosques, temples and other religious buildings, was used in 2016–17 .

Figures seen by The Tablet suggest that the picture is similar for the past 12 months, with just £462,923 approved by the Home Office for security measures in 2017–18, which include CCTV, fencing and intruder alarms. In the last year, 21 churches have applied for funding and just 10 were awarded a total of £108,486, including two Catholic and three Church of England churches. Nineteen mosques, four gurdwaras and three temples shared the remaining £354,437 approved for the second year of the scheme.

A Freedom of Information request revealed that most of the security fund was spent on CCTV. The government defines hate crime as “any crime that is motivated by hostility on the grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity”.

In July 2016, following the EU referendum, police forces recorded a large spike in these types of crimes. Of the 80,393 offences in 2016–17, seven per cent – 5, 949 – were classified as religious hate crimes, an increase of 35 per cent from the previous year. Criminal damage and arson accounted for six per cent of the total number of offences. In response the Home Office announced several measures, one of which was £2.4m over three years to improve security for places of worship.

But figures recently obtained by The Tablet reveal only £849,413 has so far been approved for the scheme, which in April will enter its third and final year.

A source in the Home Office said a lack of awareness about the scheme and applicants failing to read the guidance was contributing to the low take-up. Only 36 of the 57 different places of worship that applied in the past year were successful. The reasons for failed bids included “insufficient value for money and lack of evidence of vulnerability to hate crime”, the Home Office said.

Dr Zubaida Haque, research associate at the Runnymede Trust thinktank, told The Tablet that places of worship were becomingly increasingly vulnerable to hate crime. “This is why it’s so surprising that on the one hand the government would set up a fund to enable worshippers to protect themselves and their places of worship, but on the other hand, fail to raise awareness of the fund and be proactive in their outreach,” she said. “Many of these places of worship are run by volunteers, so the government’s standard bidding criteria can be overwhelming for them. If the government is serious about protecting these faith communities, then it needs to remove the obstacles for accessing these important funds. And in addition to these funds, the government needs to address the causes and motivations of hate crime towards these faith communities.”

According to the Home Office website, applicants must prove that any crime committed at their place of worship was “motivated by hostility or prejudice based on religion or belief”. They must also agree to cover 20 per cent of the total costs. A spokesperson from the Home Office said: “We are cracking down on those who commit horrible attacks on places of worship and helping communities counter the twisted views of those who carry them out. We would encourage places of worship vulnerable to hate crime to apply when the fund opens for its third round of applications this year.”

Synagogues are exempt from the fund as there is a similar scheme for the Jewish community administered by the Community Security Trust, which provides £13.4m a year to protect Jewish schools and synagogues.

The response from the Home Office made clear that “normal rules of government accounting” mean that money not allocated in any previous years cannot be carried forward.

Pic: File photo dated 10/03/16 of police tape as race or religious hate crime jumped by more than two fifths in the wake of the EU referendum. Credit: Yui Mok/PA Archive/PA Images

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