Some 1,000 Church of England parishes are directly involved in debt advice, sometimes working with debt counselling organisations such as Christians Against Poverty. In my hon. Friend’s county of Leicestershire, the diocese of Leicester chairs the Fair Finance Group, which tackles financial exclusion, working with local councils, the Department for Work and Pensions and credit unions.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer, because financial difficulty is a really difficult problem. I was lucky enough to visit St John’s in Hinckley, at the request of the Rev. Gary Weston, where he showed me their food bank and the food parcels that they deliver to provide support locally. One of the questions that he wanted me to ask today was about better joining up with local government and raising awareness of what churches can do, because they can respond very quickly to provide support for local people in need. What steps is my hon. Friend taking to ensure that that can happen?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question, which leads on directly from the previous question from our hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Danny Kruger), and he is absolutely right to raise it. I am very aware of the good work of St John’s in Hinckley. He might know that it is benefiting from £800,000 of further investment in mission and ministry, provided by the Church’s strategic development funding. Churches such as St John’s have been quietly getting on with essential work in the community, as is happening up and down the country, and I am hugely grateful to all of them. He is absolutely right; they need to work hand in hand with local authorities, and local authorities need to be aware of what churches are doing in their areas.