Bishop of Durham ‘surprised’ by North-East poverty

The North-East’s top churchman says he has been surprised at the depths of poverty within some areas of his new patch.

Speaking ahead of the first anniversary of his enthronement as Bishop of Durham this weekend , the Right Reverend Paul Butler said he had been aware there were “serious levels” of poverty in the region but he had been surprised by its “depths”.

Having spent much of his first year in the job touring the area and meeting its people, Bishop Butler said the economic recovery was beginning to reach the North-East but only slowly and there were still a “disturbing” number of people out of work.

He said some communities had still not fully recovered from the demise of coal mining, a discovery which had surprised and saddened him.

> Which suggests it’ll be another 30 years before they catch up following the current situation !

However, he praised churches, councils and businesses working to combat the problems.

Whilst I knew there were serious levels of poverty, I’ve been surprised by the depths of it and the slowness with which the economic recovery is impacting our area,” he said.

“I’m glad to see it is beginning to. We now have more people employed in the North-East than ever in history, but we still have a disturbing number of people out of work.

> More people employed than ever before ?  I find that hard to believe.

“There are some communities that have never fully recovered from the closure of the mines. There’s been lots of inward investment but there are communities still to find their purpose. I’ve been surprised by that.

“I’ve been saddened by it, but impressed by the way churches are seeking to engage with their local communities in helping individuals and communities find that purpose and reason for being.”

The Bishop was speaking as Labour and the Conservatives announced plans to tackle youth unemployment; Labour pledging a compulsory jobs guarantee for the young unemployed
> workfare…
and David Cameron saying the long-term young unemployed should have to do unpaid work to access benefits.
> or workfare. Its always nice to have a choice.

The patron of the Darlington Foundation for Jobs, Bishop Butler said youth unemployment was a “particular concern” and not enough businesses were creating apprenticeships to address it.

Source – Durham Times, 18 Feb 2015

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