Religion and Beliefs

The United Kingdom has a more diverse faith community than any other country in the European Union.  Overall, in the UK, the largest belief practiced after Christianity - is Islam followed by Hinduism and Sikhism.  Hertfordshire follows this national trend with one exception.  Due to a significant Jewish community, the practice of Judaism makes it the third most practiced religion in Hertfordshire.

Increasingly we are also seeing more people not practicing any religions which can range from atheism to humanism.

Personal belief and observance of traditions and rules of faith, is an important part of many people’s lives:

  • When people and relatives are unwell, religion often becomes more important. Prayer or other rituals can provide comfort and can make recovery faster.
  • It is very important to make sure that information on religion is collected and noted.
  • Religion may be linked to diet, fasting, medication, times of day when the person may wish to pray or other matters, such as when a child is born or at a death. 

It is unwise to ‘guess’ a person’s religion from their appearance.  Some people wear particular clothes or symbols - such as the Sikh turban (not all Sikhs wear these).  Muslims are found in every ethnic group but most Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and those from North Africa are Muslim.  People from South Asian origins (including India) may also be Christian, Buddhist or Hindu.  Believers in many faiths like to start their day with early prayers and this may include washing to purify themselves.

It is also important to acknowledge that many people have strong beliefs and moral values that do not relate to religion.  One example of this is the belief in Humanism.  This is the belief that people can live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. Humanists make sense of the world using reason, experience and shared human values and seek to make the best of the one life they have by creating meaning and purpose for themselves. They take responsibility for their actions and work with others for the common good.  Although very different in many respects, Humanism encompasses atheism and agnosticism for many people. Wider beliefs such as these are often overlooked when talking about religion and spirituality and it is important that they are treated with the same dignity and respect as other beliefs.

The 2001 census asked people in Hertfordshire to classify their religion. 

The census asked only for religion and did not include wider beliefs.  It is important that as a service working with vulnerable people that we are able to identify specific needs in relation to religion & beliefs.  The following points should be considered:

  • Do service users and staff (where appropriate) have access to chaplaincy and pastoral support?
  • Does the service have a sacred/quiet space that anyone can use for reflection, prayer, group support etc?
  • Does the service support its users to access local places of worship?
  • Have service users been asked about their religion/beliefs and what help they may need to practice this?

These simple points can make a significant difference to an individual’s recovery as well as helping staff feel more supported in the workplace.

What is the Trust doing?

Employment Example Staff attend training on a monthly basis that discusses issues re: spiritual care and how they can improve support offered to service users.  The trust also is clear around what provision is needed for staff to practice their religion or belief at work.

Service Provision Example In October 2008 the Trust employed a Spiritual Care Coordinator to ensure that staff and service users had appropriate spiritual support available to them, whether through chaplaincy, pastoral care or education and training for staff on spiritual issues.  This post also identifies volunteers and existing pastoral support available within the community for staff, service users and carers.