Historic Churches 2021

BCD SPECIAL REPORT ON HISTORIC CHURCHES 28 TH ANNUAL EDITION 7 RECENT DEVELOPMENTS The House of Good used a standard unit of measure called a ‘WELLBY’ to put a price on the nonmarket value of the activities taking place in church buildings. This is a new tool and its name is derived from the Wellbeing Guidance for Appraisal. In 2020, our report used a very conservative rate to reach a total of £12.4 billion a year for the social value of church buildings in the UK. In July 2021, HM Treasury adopted the WELLBY as its primary measure for wellbeing in its guidance (see Wellbeing Guidance for Appraisal: Supplementary Green Book Guidance ). But it recommended that the unit be given an average monetary value of £13,000. This official value is more than five times higher than the average figure used in The House of Good. In short, by using HM Treasury’s figures, in late 2021 we find that the yearly social value of churches in the UK and the activities that take place in them is about £55.7 billion. That is twice as much as local authorities spend on adult social care. For every £1 invested in a church, the return is over £16. Conservation work at the parish church of St Just in Penwith, Cornwall: the conservation and repair of the UK’s church buildings makes sense, particularly when you consider the economic arguments. (Photo: David Osborne-Broad) to help keep church buildings open but demand far outweighs the ability of the trust to provide grants, and the trust has to turn down 75 per cent of the churches that need support. Perhaps the most disturbing result of a shortage of funding is that the social value that church buildings provide is often most at risk exactly where it is needed most. If churches cannot remain open because they need repairs then they cannot provide help. Covid-19 made the need for the social value provided by churches even more important. Despite church buildings being closed during the lockdown, we found that 89 per cent of churches rapidly re-focussed their efforts to help the community through the pandemic. Cost-benefit analysis shows that for every £1 invested in church buildings there is a ‘social return on investment’ (SRI) of £3.74 using the most conservative methods, which can go up to £18.10 when alternative wellbeing valuation methods are used. There is no question that church buildings provide a strong, positive SRI on every £1 invested. Churches are a ready-made, efficient, responsive network of social value and Christian care. We cannot let these buildings crumble. Not only are churches our heritage and treasures of our past, they are integral to our futures. Without significant help, we will lose these ‘houses of good’ and we will all be poorer as a result. EDDIE TULASIEWICZ is Head of Communications and Public Affairs at the National Churches Trust, eddie.tulasiewicz@ nationalchurchestrust.org .