Bishop James' week in parliament

Bishop James highlights social care challenges for prisons, and the role of Churches in South Sudan as part of his week in parliament

Bishop James was on duty in the Lords throughout the whole of last week (2 to 6 July), and read prayers at the start of each sitting day. He also contributed to several significant debates, including those on South Sudan and on social care funding

South Sudan

Discussion on the current humanitarian crisis in South Sudan raised questions around what the Government was doing to support the delivery of a lasting peace settlement and longer term economic and social development.

Bishop James spoke of the particular reach’ and ‘credibility’ that the Churches and other faith-based organisations have on the ground there.

He also spoke about the long-standing connections between English dioceses and parts of the Church overseas that should be ‘encouraged and fostered.’

He therefore asked for an assurance that Her Majesty’s Government would continue to engage with Churches and faith communities and especially with the office Archbishop of Canterbury, who now has on his staff at Lambeth Palace a South Sudanese bishop, who ‘brings personal knowledge and awareness to that place’.

Responding on behalf of the Government, Lord Bates confirmed that they would: “We confirm that the UK will continue to engage with them. The UK recognises the vital role that the Church has to play in establishing peace in South Sudan.”

Read the Bishop’s full contribution here

Social care funding

In a week which saw celebrations to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the NHS, a debate was raised on what steps the Government were taking to ensure that social care in England is adequately funded.

Bishop James brought his experience as Bishop to Her Majesty’s Prisons to the debate by highlighting the challenges brought by an aging prison population:

Some 17% of the prison population is now aged over 50…people in the prison population by and large age 10 years in advance of the general population, so it is a serious issue.”

Having visited one prison where some of the young prisoners were offering informal care and support to older, infirm prisoners, Bishop James invited consideration of whether prison training programmes might be extended to include training and qualifications in care therefore:

“[This would have the effect of] enabling properly trained prisoners formally to support those prisoners who are their neighbours and in need of some care…it would give those prisoners a qualification which would enable them to find employment on release from prison.”

Invaluable partnerships

Bishop James spoke of the invaluable partnerships between the voluntary, community and faith organisations with statutory and other agencies in relation to social care.

Work like that already underway within the Diocese of Rochester around the pastoral care of those living with dementia and that of their carers. This is being supported through the development of Anna Chaplains and Anna Friends through a partnership with the charity, ‘The Gift of Years’, with funding from the Henry Smith Charity.

His contribution came as General Synod over the weekend called on the Government to set up a Royal Commission on how health and social care can be funded and delivered in the next two decades.

Bishop James said he hoped that as government policy develops in this area and a Green Paper brought forward that some attention might be given not just the voluntary and community sector in its big institutional forms but also to the role of local initiatives and how the relatively modest funding that is needed for them might be provided in various ways, possibly by means of grant funds for which people could apply.

Read the Bishop’s full contribution here

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