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 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
Church vicars are increasingly being asked for help by hungry parishioners, the Bishop of Durham has claimed.
The Right Reverend Paul Butler spoke out as ministers sought to brush off new figures revealing more than 900,000 people turned to foodbanks for emergency relief in the past 12 months – a near three-fold increase on the previous year.
Bishop Butler, a former social worker, said: “Clergy have told me of increased requests directly from parishioners struggling to make ends meet.”
And, having joined dozens of bishops and hundreds of faith leaders in signing an open letter demanding the Government take urgent action, he urged: “This is a reality and not a problem that will easily be solved – but solve it, we must.”
The Trussell Trust, which runs 400 foodbanks nationwide, reported a 463 per cent year-on-year rise in demand across the North-East.
Bishop Butler said that many families were facing the “terrible reality” of empty cupboards was deeply challenging and raised acute moral, social and political questions.
Speaking of a recent visit to a Hartlepool foodbank, he said the number of children in need was shocking.
One foodbank user from Brandon said she had asked for help having been forced to leave a stable life and move to care for her father and his partner.
“We have now been housed by Durham County Council, found help and guidance through places like foodbank. Without this help until benefits are resolved and wages for new jobs are paid, we would not be able to survive,” she added.
The faith leaders’ letter, published today, calls food poverty a “national crisis” and comes just two months after 27 bishops said Prime Minister David Cameron had a moral duty to act on the growing number going hungry.
Source – Northern Echo 18 April 2014