Evaluation of Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund
The evaluation of the Roof Repair Fund has now been published (click on the link, and look under ‘Programme Evaluation’ at the bottom of the page).
We think this is an important document.
It evaluates the Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund which ran for two rounds in (2015 and 2016) and awarded grants totalling nearly £50m to just over 900 listed places of worship.
The report shows how a scheme designed just to help with major repairs to a place of worship has unintended and very positive community benefits.
There is a summary of the outcomes and impacts of the project in paras 8.19-8.23 of the evaluation. Below we bring out some highlights, including discussing the community benefits which were an unintended consequence of repairing roofs. Our comments are in italic.
This was a simple scheme: the money was for repairing roofs, nothing else. And the evaluation shows it did this, with buildings made watertight and weatherproof and the work bringing a halt to further deterioration. In some cases the buildings had been dangerously close to closure prior to being awarded the grant. As the report rather primly puts it, in some cases without the support of the programme ‘the use of the building would have been further constrained’ (paras 7.5-7.13).
In some cases the grant allowed places of worship to undertake additional repair works or other work on the fabric (e.g.modernisation, or alterations to improve accessibility). This occurred by the direct freeing up of finances, and also through the cost saving achieved by using the scaffolding for multiple purposes, or doing a big job ‘in one go’ rather than by a piecemeal process. The momentum of the project has sometimes acted as a catalyst for congregations to pursue further improvements (7.34-7.42).
This is good news for these important buildings – a very positive evaluation – but perhaps not unexpected.
Sometimes too the project enhanced the skills, capabilities and confidence of those who received grants; who sometimes acted as mentors to other places of worship, and the scheme may have raised awareness of ongoing maintenance requirements (7.43-7.45). This is more good news.
There was also positive feedback about the relative simplicity of the process compared to other grant schemes (paras. 3.2, 5.7). An important benefit of a simple scheme.
Although not its intention, the scheme also provided a range of positive community impacts.
In fact, wider community benefits of some form were consistently cited across all regions/nations, faiths, denominations, and grant sizes. The evaluation confirmed that places of worship act as important community hubs, and the fund has allowed them to safeguard or increase the community activities they offer, either because the roof repair means the space is now safe and usable when before it wasn’t, or because funds which would have been spent on repair work can be reallocated to community use. Some congregations have been energised into seeing how their premises can be used to a greater extent as a community resource – overall, places of worship are being used in new ways as a result of the support for the repair of the roof (7.16-7.25).
And there were softer, more intangible community outcomes – a sense of having brought people together, or rekindling a sense of pride. In some cases it created additional interest in the place of worship. There is a strong sense that the momentum generated by the repair projects has given communities something positive to cohere around. In some cases this appears to have translated into a greater willingness to proactively support the place of worship (7.26-7.33).
Overall feedback indicates that local communities (whether they were of faith or not) had been positive about the improvements to the listed buildings (8.21).
All these were unintended positive consequences, emerging naturally from a grant whose objective was to support repairs.
OUR OVERALL COMMENT
The review shows that this was a good use of money, and we think the evaluation strongly reinforces the need for a simple scheme which provides funding for major fabric repairs.