Sarah Atkinson, head of corporate affairs at the Commission, said the funding, which will come from the Department for Communities and Local Government, was separate from the £1m the Commission was given by the Treasury last month to counter terrorism.
However, it will only part-fund the £1.6m faith unit, so the commission will contribute £400,000 of its own money towards the initiative, despite recent uncertainties over its funding.
The unit, which was announced this morning by communities minister Ruth Kelly, is one of a number of measures her department is introducing to tackle Muslim extremism.
The funding follows a suggestion from the commission. “It is specifically in response to a proposal we put to the Department for Communities and Local Government for a new faith and social cohesion unit,” said Atkinson.
She added that the unit will initially focus only on Muslim organisations, even though Christian organisations make up the largest number of registered faith charities. She said: “We’ll be phasing in work with other faith charities in the future.”
The Commission expects to improve leadership and governance by publishing guidance and making Muslim charities more aware of the support available to them, Atkinson said. The unit will also see the Commission take on a new role trying to bring more Islamic community groups into the “regulatory fold” by encouraging unregistered groups to register.
“There are actually a lot of faith organisations that don’t realise they can be registered, don’t realise that charity status has benefits, don’t realise what support is available and don’t realise what the legal requirements are,” Atkinson said.