By Andrew Dubock, Viva communications manager


FIVE years ago, the “Building Better Neighbourhoods” survey looked at the contribution of faith communities to life in Oxfordshire and found a high percentage of activities focus on children and young people, including work with local schools and with the most disadvantaged.

Statistics show that almost one in four children in Oxford are growing up in poverty. It’s a city still reeling from the findings of Operation Bullfinch and a series of arrests since, with young girls groomed and abused by traffickers.

Nationally, 50 children are taken into care every day. One in five 16-year-olds have a diagnosable mental health disorder and 1.6 million children are growing up in households where no-one is in work, leading to a rise in the use of food banks. It is clear that more needs to be done. Over the past year, the international Christian charity Viva has been drawing on two decades of overseas experience with children at risk to research the situation in Oxfordshire, and how churches are currently responding.

After gathering data from more than 200 adults and young people, the study, entitled Doorsteps, found the five major issues facing local children, young people and families to be: unstable family life and struggling parents; low self-esteem; lack of vision or aspiration for life; difficulty entering employment and household poverty.

The research highlighted a mismatch or gap between churches’ aspirations and what they are actually doing.

Considerable time is spent on activities with young people who already come to church, and are not generally as vulnerable as some others in the local community. However, three quarters of churches surveyed want both to make an informed response to the needs of children and young people, and to have a more meaningful connection with those doing similar work.

Action needs to follow. After the report’s public launch in May, a peer network of active churches is forming with a challenge to the public sector to consider pilot project ideas.

Viva has put together a five-point action plan for churches: 1. Research local needs and identify critical gaps in provision.

2. Review your activities, resource allocation and budget, and check safeguarding practices.

3. Connect with the community by offering support to local schools and children’s centres.

4. Use existing agencies and resources and link with community action initiatives.

5. Begin collaboration, peer learning, and sharing good practice and information with other churches.

The Christian Church has a long history of playing a positive, relevant and active role in the local community.

Today, in light of the increasing need in this current age of austerity, the Church needs to step up and step out even more in action, justice and compassion.

To find out more about Doorsteps, call Viva on 01865 811660 or email