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Some 49 unidentified places of worship in England and Wales will get £1.6m from the Home Office funding for physical security against hate crime attacks – 27 mosques, 13 churches, five gurdwaras and four Hindu temples.
Also announced on March 15, the one-year anniversary of the Christchurch terror attack in New Zealand, was a new consultation for faith groups to say what more can be done to protect faith groups from attacks.
Home Office Minister for Countering Extremism Baroness Williams said: “No one should be fearful about practicing their faith. Whether it is a church, a mosque, gurdwara or temple, any place of worship should be a space of reflection and safety. The places of worship scheme provides that physical security. However, we can always do more, which is why we want to hear from worshipers about how we can better protect them from these terrible attacks.”
The Places of Worship Protective Security Funding scheme provides funding towards such as CCTV, fencing, gates, alarms and lighting – not day to day guards – to places of worship and associated faith community centres. That £1.6m is the largest amount in a year since the scheme was set up in 2016. Next year’s will double again, the Home Office says, with £3.2m earmarked for 2020 to 2021. In a new system for applicants, a central contractor will install physical security. All applications were assessed, and funding was provided to those who were most vulnerable to hate crime attacks, the Home Office says.
In 2018 to 2019 police in England and Wales recorded 103,379 hate crime offences, an increase of 10 per cent on the previous year. According to the Home Office this is largely due to improvements in the police recording and more victims feeling able to come forward and report these crimes.
The consultation, for eight weeks to May 10, being launched by the Home Office will ask faith groups what else should be done to help them feel safe and confident while practicing their religion. As the Home Office says, some members of congregations, such as women or the elderly may feel more vulnerable than others. As Home Secretary Priti Patel says in a foreword to the consultation document: “Places of worship
are designed to be prominent, but this visibility makes them clear targets to those who wish them harm.”
The Jewish community receive a separate fund – the Jewish Community Protective Security Grant – which is administered by CST (Community Safety Trust). That charity’s annual Antisemitic Incidents Report last month showed 2019 as the worst year on record, with a total of 1,805 incidents deemed antisemitic by CST; 7pc higher than the 2018 total of 1,690 incidents.
Picture by Mark Rowe; outside York Minster, which like other landmarks in the 2010s had anti-ram bollards added.