Single men account for 75% of homelessness in the UK

Watching How to get a Council House on Channel 4 is tough.  When you hear statistics such as: “Single men account for 75% of homelessness in the UK and on average rough sleepers don’t survive above the age of 47” it breaks your heart.

More than three times as many homeless young people a year are estimated to be relying on charities and councils for a roof over their heads across the UK than officially recorded by the government, according to new research by the University of Cambridge, commissioned by the youth homelessness charity Centrepoint.

CentrePoint homeless stats

An estimated that 83,000 homeless 16-24 year-olds relied on the support of councils and charities in the UK in 2013-14, the last complete year of available data, compared to just 26,852 recorded by statutory homelessness figures compiled by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and authorities in the devolved nations.

A candidate’s leaflet urges voters to get out on ‘Erection Day’

This has to be one of the best copy editing mistakes made!  A Conservative Party leaflet for the General Election was prepared for ‘Erection Day’!

erection-day

It was tweeted by James Duddridge so it doesn’t look like the standard photoshopping we normally see on social media.  While the leaflet wasn’t distributed — election day is May 7 in the UK — it’s pretty astounding that the image made it through the printing stage!

Archbishop John Sentamu criticises UK food poverty

John Sentamu

Archbishop John Sentamu in a speech at General Synod has called for “more equitable, more caring world” and questioned the effects of government’s welfare reforms:

In a long and often angry address to the Church of England general synod on Tuesday, John Sentamu said static salaries and rising prices had left nine million people living below the breadline at a time when the chief executives of the UK’s 100 biggest companies were earning on average £4.3m – 160 times the average national wage.

Sentamu, who chairs the Living Wage Commission, said politicians needed to stop referring to “hard-working” families and recognise that they were instead “hard-pressed” families struggling to survive despite their best efforts.

“Once upon a time you couldn’t really be living in poverty if you had a regular income,” he said. “You could find yourself on a low income, yes. But that is not longer so. You can be in work and still live in poverty.”

Reports of malnutrition and food poverty in Yorkshire “disgrace us all, leaving a dark stain on our consciences”, he said. “How can it be that last year more than 27,000 people were diagnosed as suffering from malnutrition in Leeds – not Lesotho, not Liberia, not Lusaka but Leeds?”

The effects of the government’s welfare reforms, Sentamu said, were “beginning to bite – with reductions in housing benefit for so-called under-occupation of social housing, the cap on benefits for workless householders and single parents, and the gradual replacement of the disability living allowance with a personal independence payment”.

“This is the new reality,” he said, “Food banks aren’t going to go away any time soon. Prices are rising more than three times faster than wages. This has been going on for 10 years now. And for people slipping into poverty, the reality is much harsher.”

If governments were powerless to do much more than “tinker” with the current economic trends, he added, the church would find itself doing even more.

Reflecting on Christianity’s long commitment to fighting poverty – from Saint Francis of Assisi to John Wesley, and from Gustavo Gutiérrez, the Peruvian priest and father of liberation theology, to the current pope – Sentamu said the Church of England had once again found itself compelled to speak up for the poor, and urged Anglicans to follow the example of the architects of the welfare state.

“They had a clear vision as to how things could be different,” he said. “In part, they were also tapping into the spirit of the immediate postwar years in which there was a great hunger to rebuild a more equitable, more caring world. It is that vision which we need to recapture today, but remoulded in a way which is realistic for the circumstances we face now.”

Poverty, the archbishop concluded, was “costly, wasteful and indeed very risky”. He said: “We in the church must make the argument that losing human potential at a time when we need all the capacity we can gather is hugely wasteful; that paying people below the level required for subsistence fractures the social contract and insurance, and that this is risky.”

Child sexual exploitation report – “It couldn’t happen here, could it?”

The sexual exploitation of children - it couldn't happen here, could it

The government has recently produced a report into child sexual exploitation entitled “It couldn’t happen here, could it?“.

The report evaluates the effectiveness of how local authorities’ have responded to the challenge of child sexual exploitation.  The report draws on evidence from inspection and case examination in eight local authorities and from the views of children and young people, parents, carers, practitioners and managers.  A number of other inspection reports of children’s homes and children’s services and reviews of Local Safeguarding Children Boards contributed to the findings.

If you’re a children’s or youth worker this is essential reading so go and download the report here.

Charity chief urges Prime Minister to create CSE national inquiry

Charity 4Children is calling for a stand-alone national inquiry into the extent of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the wake of the Rotherham abuse scandal.

For Attila

4Children chief executive Anne Longfield has written to Prime Minister David Cameron to make the case for why a national inquiry is needed following the publication last week of the Jay report that found 1,400 children and young people had been victims of systematic sexual abuse over 16 years in Rotherham

The government has vowed to incorporate the findings from Rotherham into its recently announced historical child abuse inquiry, but Longfield argues this gives a “false impression” the issue is in the past when many believe CSE is a growing and widespread problem.   4Children is also concerned that the full extent of systemic neglect and agency failings identified in the Jay report will not be fully scrutinised or addressed if it is part of a wider inquiry.

In her letter, Longfield says the extent and severity of the Rotherham abuse merits a “high-level, time-limited, Prime Ministerial-led inquiry” that should focus on what went wrong in Rotherham; the extent of CSE across the UK; what needs to be done to tackle the problem; and how agencies and communities need to change in order for allegations of CSE to be taken more seriously.  

Longfield said:

“We are calling on the Prime Minister to establish a stand-alone inquiry to reveal the true extent of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and other areas and answer questions about how and why services continue to fail our children. Adding it to the remit of an historical abuse inquiry misses the point. This week alone a number of potential new victims have come forward.  

“Perpetrators of these horrific crimes were allowed to continue their abuse for decades because nothing was done to stop them. Yet the key findings from the report – agencies not working together and children not being listened to – are not new ones and government must act now to ensure that children’s voices are never ignored again when abuse of this kind is reported. 

“The full scale of this systemic failure may never be known, but government must act now to carry out an urgent and transparent investigation to listen to and protect children and make sure this never happens again in Rotherham or anywhere else in the UK.

 

Is the UK a Christian country? Archbishop Justin Welby responds.

Archbishop Justin Welby

There has been lots of debate in the last couple of weeks surrounding the issue of whether or not the UK is a Christian country, following David Cameron’s article in the Church Times.  Following various responses, Archbishop Justin Welby has written a thought provoking and humorous response to the debate:

History provides as many uncomfortable facts as science. Neither can be ignored if anyone is going to talk sense. Last week, the Prime Minister wrote rather movingly in the Church Times about his sense of this as a Christian country.

It followed up other comments from Cabinet Ministers saying similar things, and finished on Tuesday with a very measured intervention by the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, whose own Christian faith is well known.

Judging by the reaction, anyone would think that the people concerned had at the same time suggested the return of the Inquisition (complete with comfy chairs for Monty Python fans), compulsory church going and universal tithes. More than 50 leading atheists wrote to the Telegraph in protest.

It’s all quite baffling and at the same time quite encouraging. Christian faith is much more vulnerable to comfortable indifference than to hatred and opposition. It’s also a variation on the normal “Sword and Grail discovered” stuff that seems to be a feature of Easter week news.

Yet the Prime Minister and other members of the Government have not said anything very controversial. It is a historical fact (perhaps unwelcome to some, but true) that our main systems of ethics, the way we do law and justice, the values of society, how we decide what is fair, the protection of the poor, and most of the way we look at society ……  All have been shaped by and founded on Christianity. Add to that the foundation of many hospitals, the system of universal schooling, the presence of chaplains in prisons, and one could go on a long time. Then there is the literature, visual art, music and culture that have formed our understandings of beauty and worth since Anglo Saxon days.

It is clear that, in the general sense of being founded in Christian faith, this is a Christian country. It is certainly not in terms of regular churchgoing, although altogether, across different denominations, some millions attend church services each week. Others of different backgrounds have also positively shaped our common heritage. But the language of what we are, what we care for and how we act is earthed in Christianity, and would remain so for many years even if the number of believers dropped out of sight (which they won’t, in my opinion).

The atheist protesters are wrong to argue that expressing confidence in the country’s Christian identity fosters alienation and division in our society. Indeed, it is significant that non-Christian faith leaders – among them Anil Bhanot of the Hindu Council UK, Farooq Murad of the Muslim Council of Britain and Lord Indarjit Singh of the Network of Sikh Organisations –  have spoken out in support of Mr Cameron. Mr Murad said: “No one can deny that Britain remains largely a Christian country, with deep historical and structural links with the established Church. . . We respect that.”

I know from personal experience that what Mr Murad says is entirely true. And I know that, as Iain Duncan Smith pointed out, the influence of a moderate and careful and generous Christian faith has enabled us to be welcoming to other faiths. That sense of generous hospitality provides the basis for tough discussion, and it is a hospitality that protects atheists as well, and so it should.

So why the fuss? As I say, for all of us, in the church, of Christian faith, of any tradition or set of beliefs, history makes for some uncomfortable reading. Its facts are awkward for all of us, but it is no use pretending they do not exist. The PM is right on this.

The education admission system is broken

School Admissions

Today was one of the two big dates for parents in the education calendar.  Today is national offer day for primary school places.  Parents around the country having been receiving emails notifying them of their child’s place of education for the next few years.  Earlier in the Spring, on 3rd March, parents received notification for secondary school places.

The news has a big impact on the family’s day to day life, and if we believe the media the decision will have long lasting effects on our children’s life chances.  These days, even for primary or infant and junior schools parents do incredible amounts of research.  When I was a child everyone just went to their local school – choice only kicked in for secondary school and beyond.

Now everyone scours league tables, reads OFSTED reports, goes to several open days/evenings, and look very carefully at the class sizes, specialisms and facilities.  Today’s report from the National Audit Office is official confirmation of what many parents have known – or feared – for the last few years: the shortage of school places is reaching alarming levels. The report said one-in-five primary schools was full or near capacity with London accounting for more than a third of all extra places needed.

The current education admission system is broken.  We see families buying that house in the ever-shrinking catchment area to make sure their children get in?  Others employ tutors so their children can pass entrance exams or the 11+?  Others sign in at church every Sunday when they have no sense of faith.

Every parent wants the best for their children.  Whilst most schools within the UK will provide a good education to all children it is hard to avoid the facts – we know that public school educated people dominate the upper echelons of UK society; politics, sport and the arts (The Guardian).  Then there’s selective state schools. 29% of Labour MPs went to grammar schools (The Sutton Trust).

As a children’s and youth worker, and a school governor, I still believe that education is more than just pure academics.  We need to develop well rounded adults, and whilst it is now near impossible to find employment without a GCSE grade C in English and Maths it is important that the education system supports children’s interests, support friendships between different social, economic and religious backgrounds.

Today for me is a reminder that education has become too focussed on a narrow band of results and league tables that cause stress both for parents and teachers.  We need an education system that truly values and encourages children rather than allowing economically affluent parents to in effect gain priority over other parents.

Blessed are the Peacemakers

Two months into an uprising that has claimed at least two lives and brought thousands to the streets, Ukraine’s political crisis still seems far from any resolution. President Yanukovych has refused to declare a state of emergency, though by all accounts the protests are escalating.

Amidst burned buses, tear gas and barricades, however, there is another sight that stands out on the frontline: The strong numbers of Orthodox priests who have turned out, not to protest, but rather to pray.

Earlier this month, Ukraine’s government threatened to ban prayer services at the protests, but even that didn’t keep the priests from showing up with their robes and crosses and holy books.

As one priest said about the proposed ban, “It is illegal. It is immoral. Nobody can forbid people to pray.”

Check out these incredible photos:

Church in CAR gives shelter to Muslims fleeing Christian militia

central-african-republic-priest-xavier-fagba-said-he-will-not-turn-away-muslims-or-christians-seeking-refuge-from-the-fighting-within-his-church

A Christian church in the Central African Republic is currently providing shelter to a group of 700 Muslims, who are attempting to flee the vengeful “anti-balaka” (anti-machete) Christian militia.

For months, violence between Christians and Muslims has ravaged the country, leaving more than 1 million displaced from their homes. Following a series of atrocities committed by the Muslim Seleka rebel group targeting Christian communities, Christian “anti-balaka” militias have undertaken retribution attacks against Muslims in the country.

The pastor of the church in the city of Boali, which is currently being guarded by about 70 French troops, however, wants an end to the violence.  He told France 24 news,

“I am not going to let anyone hurt the people inside my church, it doesn’t matter whether they are Christians or Muslims,”

and encouraged his congregation to greet their Muslim neighbors with a “kiss of peace.”

Church and local officials are working on an evacuation plan for the Muslim families taking shelter at the church.

The World’s 85 Richest People Have as Much Money as the World’s Poorest 3.5 Billion

India - Agricultural Scale Up - Samarpan

You could read that headline every day for the rest of your life, and it’d probably never fully sink in.

Here are some truly staggering numbers from Oxfam, who released a study on the world’s income disparity that is absolutely eye-popping.  Just a run down of the bullet points is incredible:

  • Nearly 50 percent of the world’s wealth is owned by one percent of the world’s population.
  • The richest one percent of people in the world are worth about $110 trillion—65 times the sum total of wealth owned by the world’s poorest fifty percent.
  • 7 in 10 people live in countries where income equality has decreased over the past thirty years.
  • The total wealth of the world’s poorest 3.5 billion equals the wealth of the richest 85 individuals.