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
> So bad news for church sunday schools, C. of E. schools and other Christian organizations who push religious dogma at kids ? Probably not…
The Bishop of Durham has backed plans to ask nursery staff to look out for radicalised families in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.
Speaking in a House of Lords debate on the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, the Right Reverend Paul Butler also welcomed moves to intervene more in the lives of people at risk of being drawn in by extremism.
But he warned more needs to be done at a “grassroots” level to tackle the issue long term, and that breaking up families could help create future terrorists.
“I share with every other reasonable person a horror of the evil actions and effects of terrorism, grief for the suffering caused by terrorist acts and a heartfelt concern for those whose lives are lost or wounded through it.
“Events in Paris last week clearly illustrated this to us all. However, those events also highlight the need to ensure that we keep a global awareness and perspective, as the fresh Boko Haram attacks in Baga and its surrounding villages last Friday show us. Around 2,000 were killed.
“As we consider the latest set of government moves to strengthen the laws which guard our people against terrorist acts, we have to hold our nerve in our convictions about liberty, equality and fraternity, and look steadily at the changes being proposed,” he added.
“These matters are too serious for us to polarise or politicise issues beyond what is justified in legitimate debate.”
Praising the work done by the faith groups in Sunderland, Gateshead, and South Shields, to build strong community relationships – “the most powerful force against radicalisation, especially among young people” – the bishop said however that there is a fine line to be trodden between ensuring security and encouraging community cohesion.
“Some have mocked the idea of nursery staff being obliged to report any signs of extremism in a family,” he said. “I do not share the mockery, as terrorist behaviour is abusive behaviour.
“Nevertheless, the placing of such an obligation adds to the risks of creating a culture of suspicion and the sense that every citizen is expected to be on the look-out to report on their neighbour rather than build good relationships with them.
“Great care needs to be taken not to overburden schools or erode their capacity to build diversity and trust among pupils, staff and parents.
“Breaking up a family, as could occur, could also create longer-term harm even, at one extreme, sowing the seeds of the next generation of terrorists in young children.”
The bishop said that continuing community work would be “fundamental to long-term prevention” as it “does not carry the risks of fuelling narratives of persecution and heroic resistance.”
“Countering radical terrorism is a long-term grass-roots matter. Long-term support for good community development will reap the best long-term rewards.
“This is not so much a matter of draining the swamp by immediate legislation as tilling the ground.”
The debate heard from the former head of MI5, Lord Evans of Weardale, that the threat of terrorism in the UK is rising at the same time as the ability of the security services to combat it has decreased.
In his maiden speech in the upper house, Lord Evans, who retired as director general of the agency in 2013, said that the Edward Snowden leaks had made it harder to tackle the terrorist threat.
And he said the Government needed to tackle the “unfinished business” of giving the security services greater powers to access communications data.
Lord Evans told peers:
“When I left MI5 in 2013, I felt cautiously optimistic that we were over the worst as far as Al Qaeda and Islamist terrorist attacks were concerned in this country.
“It seemed to me that we were making significant progress. Regrettably, subsequent events have proved that judgment to be wrong.
“The atrocious killing of Fusilier Rigby in May 2013 demonstrated the reality of the threat we face in this country and the brutal murders in Paris last week demonstrate that this is a European and international problem, not one we face alone.”
> One man got killed in the street by two other men. This happens all the time, all over the country. You’ve got a far higher chance of getting done in by a couple of indigenous thugs than you have by an Islamic terrorist.
All the Islamic terror attacks in Britain – as 9/11 in the USA – appear to be isolated one-off events, and although they may spark copycat attacks I don’t really believe that there is a highly organized terror organization. But the government cynically encourages belief in one in order to erode our rights.
In any case, who are the real terrorists ? More people have died in Britain as a result of current government welfare policies than at the hands of terrorists.
Anyone who has had to deal with the Jobcentre and other agencies might consider that governmnent/terrorism are merely two sides of the same coin.
Lord Evans, who sits as an independent crossbench peer, said events in Syria and Iraq had given extremist networks in the UK a “jolt of energy”.
> Not half as much a one as our continued poking our armed forces into other countries business (the ones with oil, at least…)
He said at least 600 people had gone as would-be jihadists to fight in Syria and Iraq, and he had no doubt that number would increase “significantly” in coming months.
And he warned the situation put him in mind of the Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan before 9/11 which “drew would-be jihadists from across the globe”.
“On their return, many of them were even more radical than they had been when they departed,” he said.
“They had experience of combat and had been trained in violence and they had an international network of support on which they could draw.
“Those circumstances led to a series of attacks internationally and over a long period, and I fear we may be facing the same situation as we go forward from today and we are starting to see that.
“At the same time, the revelations made by Edward Snowden, whatever you think of what he did, have clearly led a reduction in the ability of the security agencies both here and overseas to access and read the communications of terrorists internationally with the result that as the threat from terrorism has gone up in the last two years, the ability of the security agencies to counter those threats has gone down.
“The result of this can only be that the overall risk of a successful terrorist attack in this country has risen.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 14 Jan 2015
The Bishop of Durham has urged people in the North to provide evidence to a Parliamentary inquiry into food banks when it visits the region next month.
Members of the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty will visit South Shields on July 4 to gather evidence into the causes and extent of hunger in Britain and what can be done to alleviate it.
Bishop Paul Butler, who is a long-time supporter of food banks and has clashed with the Government over them, said: “The group is anxious to hear from those who find themselves in food poverty and also from groups and volunteers who are working to try and help through the provision of food assistance.
“This has become a major issue for society and I urge North East people to provide evidence to the inquiry. The group is keen to meet with those who have needed food assistance and those who provide this practical support.
“This is a chance for the North East to inform national decision-making on this crucial issue.”
On July 4, the group will visit the South Tyneside Churches Together Key Project at St Mary’s Centre, Tyne Dock, which provides assistance to young people and those under 25, and also the New Hope Food Bank in South Shields
Later in the afternoon there will be a chance people and groups involved in food banks to provide evidence to the group, which is being chaired by veteran MP Frank Field and the Bishop of Truro, the Right Revd Tim Thornton.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 09 June 2014
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
Living wage campaigners have hit out after it emerged a third of people in some North East towns are not earning to enough to get by.
Unions, politicians and even the new Bishop of Durham have called for more firms to take up the Living Wage, currently set at £8.80 in London and £7.65 across the rest of the UK.
Just 20 North East firms pay the higher than minimum wage to their lowest paid staff, a move the unions say has to change.
Latest figures show more than one in five people receiving less than the living wage, with some parts of the region faring much worse.
Darlington tops the region’s blackspots with 37.6% of people paid less than the living wage, with Blaydon at 34.2% and Berwick 31.7%.
Northern TUC boss Beth Farhat said the unions were looking to see more support for their pay battle: “Extending the living wage is a vital way of tackling the growing problem of in-work poverty across Britain.
“Working families are experiencing the biggest pressure on their living standards since Victorian times. Pay has been squeezed at all levels below the boardroom and it’s costing our economy dear.
“The number of living wage employers is growing rapidly and unions are playing their part in encouraging more employers to sign up and pay it – but Government must show equal initiative.
“We need to see a far greater commitment to pay the living wage from Government and employers, and modern wages councils which could set higher minimum rates in industries where employers can afford to pay their staff more. During Fair Pay Fortnight we’re asking workers to back our call to MPs to get all political parties to put decent pay at the top of their agendas in the run up to the election.”
The TUC campaign is today backed by Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham, who said: “The Living Wage is good for everyone: good for the employee and their family – they have enough to live on; good for the employer in recruitment, retention and morale of their staff; good for us all.
“The Living Wage makes sense for everyone. It makes sense economically, socially, morally and spiritually. It helps us all build better lives and a better society.”
Union research suggested that for working women the picture is even bleaker.
The campaign has been backed by Hexham’s Conservative MP Guy Opperman, who has said he supports the need for firms to voluntarily take on the wage increase.
He said: “I have long been a supporter of the Living Wage. The campaign has really taken off in London and the South East, but what I hope to do today is to bring the campaign right here to the North East.
“I understand the concerns that business has, but I really want to explain the benefits it can bring. As many people will be aware, I am a huge advocate of the regional banking system we see in Germany. There are lots of things we can learn from our Germanic neighbours, especially around productivity.
> Is this guy (sic) really a Tory ? He won’t get far with opinions like those.
“Paying the Living Wage can have a hugely positive impact on things like productivity, quality of work, reduced absenteeism and retention of talented staff.
“In a recent independent study 84% of businesses believed paying the living wage led to increased productivity.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 01 April 2014
> Yes, you did read that headline correctly…
A broken benefits system is causing people to turn to food banks, an aspiring Conservative politician has said.
In comments more normally seen from Labour politicans, Berwick Tory Anne-Marie Trevelyan has said the number of people needing handouts to eat may be as a result of changes to the benefits system.
Mrs Trevelyan is bidding to take the seat from Sir Alan Beith when the Liberal Democrat steps down in 2015.
Much of her campaign has focused on the jobs potential of dualling the A1 north of Newcastle.
But last night she said that after visiting a Northumberland food bank, the evidence put to her was that those dependant upon benefits were suffering the result of changes to the system.
The Conservative-led coalition Government has come in for criticism from a variety of sources over its cuts to benefits.
Reductions in benefits have been criticised as indiscriminate while changes to the way benefits are handed out has seen delays as a result.
Mrs Trevelyan said: “All users of food banks in Northumberland have been referred by social services, Citizens Advice Bureaux or other groups like Sure Start. The reasons given are often delays in benefits being paid or other financial pressures leaving families with no money to buy food.
“I am concerned by the recurring message from the volunteers who run our local food banks, that the majority of those who come to them do so because the benefits payment system is not working.
“It should be there to support those who need a safety net while they find work or arrange long term support.
“There seems to be a serious breakdown in the effective management of the payments system. I am going to be talking in more detail with our job centre teams to try to find out what they need to solve this issue effectively.”
> Oh bugger – don’t ask them ! They’re a major part of the problem.
The Conservative candidate said that a rapid rise in the number of food banks began under Labour in 2006 when there were 3,000 nationally. This rose to more than 40,000 by 2010.
In addition to this leading food bank provider the Trussell Trust has been expanding, inevitably leading to more hard-pressed families making use of their services.
Mrs Trevelyan’s comments are similar to many of those expressed by Northern Labour MPs, though of a far less critical nature.
Also adding their concerns to the growing number of food banks was former Bishop of Durham Justin Welby. Now Archbishop of Canterbury, he has called for a greater level of awareness from the Government on the causes behind the growing number of food banks in the UK.
Senior Tories have tried to play down the rise of food banks.
Education Secretary Michael Gove came under fire for saying that financial mismanagement was the reason many people were going to food banks.
And Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, the man ultimately responsible for changes to the benefit system, refused to meet the Trussell Trust and accused it of being politically motivated.
Source – Newcastle Journal 15 Feb 2014