Faith in Wales: Counting for Communities:
Summary of Findings, County Borough of Merthyr Tydfil
Until now, Wales has lacked statistical evidence about the role of faith communities in the wider communities of which they are a part. The Gweini report, Faith in Wales: Counting for Communities, provides new information on the services provided by faith communities to the wider community, including: the numbers of volunteers they mobilise, the numbers of staff they pay to work with the wider community, the rooms and halls they make available, and their impact on tourism.
The survey on which it is based achieved an exceptional response rate of just over 49%, (just over 48% for Merthyr Tydfil), and this allows summaries to be made for each of the unitary authorities. Here are some of the highlights for Merthyr Tydfil.
Merthyr Tydfil has around 60 active faith communities (individual congregations, or parishes in the case of the Church in Wales). All identified in the survey were churches.
This represents roughly one church or parish for no more than 950 people in Merthyr Tydfil.
Every week, roughly 5% of the population of Merthyr Tydfil is estimated to be present at a religious service. However, this figure understates the numbers who attend over the course of a year. Taking the single largest service in each faith community over a year raises the figure to over 12%. A considerably higher proportion that this must attend one or more religious services over the course of a year.
The range of services churches provide in Merthyr Tydfil is enormous, including many services governments are not well equipped to deliver. The top five are Hospital visiting; Social activities (lunch club, coffee bar, etc.); Children's work (under 14 year olds); Parent-toddler group and Support for bereaved; in which the number of churches involved is estimated to be 27, 23, 23, 19 and 17, respectively.
In addition, a number of churches are already working in areas of emerging need and opportunity; around 10 churches are already working in at least one of the areas of employment training, alcohol and drug awareness, and personal finance issues and another ten hope to work in these areas in the future.
Around three-quarters of the churches in Merthyr Tydfil are active in one or other area of community services, with an average number of around six areas of activity each.
Over 600 volunteers are estimated to work on behalf of the wider community in activities organised by churches in Merthyr Tydfil. This represents around 2,200 hours a week, equivalent to around 55 full-time workers.
In addition, churches in Merthyr Tydfil employ around 13 paid staff to work with the wider community, representing a further 300 hours a week, equivalent to another 8 full-time workers.
Many churches provide accommodation for the wider community. In Merthyr Tydfil, around 10 are estimated to operate purpose-built community centres; around 45 rent out rooms to outside groups; and around 20 supply some accommodation free of charge.
Churches offer support for the Welsh language: 10 churches in Merthyr Tydfil are estimated to be involved in running classes in Welsh, or to be involved in activities for Welsh speakers.
Using standard techniques, the economic benefit impact of just part of the services provided to local communities in Merthyr Tydfil can be estimated at £2.0M per year.
And, of course, this is only part of the impact of churches. For example, 15 churches in Merthyr Tydfil are estimated to be strongly involved in their local Community Strategy or to have been involved in Government regeneration or community or economic development initiatives, or both.