Bishop of St Albans asks Government about support to address self-harm by young people


stalbans190117-bOn 9th February 2017 the House of Lords debated a motion from Baroness Massey of Darwen “to ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they plan to take in the light of the Association for Young People’s Health briefing There for you which discusses the role of parents in supporting young people with mental health problems.” The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, there are few more urgent issues in modern Britain than the state of mental health among our young people, and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for tabling this important debate. Referrals to specialist mental health services have risen dramatically in recent years as increasing social pressures on our young people threaten the mental health of a generation. Issues around body image are one area of particular concern, fuelled in part by the rise of social media. I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester for her important work around body image and self-worth. Continue reading

Bishop of Durham calls for more joined-up approach to tackling child poverty


durham-230117On 24th January 2017 Baroness Lister of Burtersett asked the Government “why they have abolished the Child Poverty Unit which was sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Education and HM Treasury.” The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, asked a follow up question:

The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, I know the Minister will agree that no child chooses to live in poverty, so when a child is hungry or lives in poor housing, will the Minister and the Government recognise that these are our children, as a society, and that that means we must have good joined-up structures which tackle these issues? Does he also recognise that the abolition of the CPU does not hint at good joined-up structures? Continue reading

Bishop of St Albans raises concerns about self-harm by young people


stalbans190117On 19th January 2017 Labour Peer Lord Hunt of King’s Heath asked Her Majesty’s Government “what is their assessment of Young Minds’ analysis published on 21 December 2016 that 64 per cent of Clinical Commissioning Groups are diverting new funding for children’s mental health services to other areas”. The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a follow up question:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, this is a very serious and growing problem. Recent research has shown over the last five years that the number of hospital admissions associated with children’s self-harm has grown by 93% among girls and 45% among boys. It seems extraordinary that when money is announced for mental health services it is then not spent. First, how many years will we wait until we need to ring-fence that money, because this is a really important issue? Secondly, to pick up on the previous but one question, will the Government commit to producing guidelines for schools and colleges about preventing and responding to self-harm, so that we have some practical things put in place? Continue reading

Bishop of St Albans questions Government about underage online gambling


St Albans 2On the 12th January 2017 the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith asked a question in the Lords about underage gambling online. Lord Ashton of Hyde responded for the Government. Those exchanges and the follow-up questions of Peers are reproduced below:

 The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take to tackle the prevalence of underage gambling online, in the light of the Gambling Commission’s report Young People and Gambling 2016.

Bishop of St Albans raises serious need to address self harm amongst children and young people


On 6th December 2016, the Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, spoke to a question he had tabled to ask the Government “what assessment they have made of the rise in the number of children and young people being treated for self-harm.” Lord Prior of Brampton responded for the Government. The Bishops’ follow-up question and those of Peers are reproduced below. 

StAlbans171115The Lord Bishop of St Albans To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the rise in the number of children and young people being treated for self-harm.

Lord Prior of Brampton My Lords, the Government are aware of the appalling rise in self-harm in children and young people and the misery this reflects. The Government are also acutely aware that self-harm is a leading indicator of risk of suicide and recognise that much more needs to be done to address this issue.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans I thank the Minister for his reply. The research from the World Health Organization shows that around 20% of British 15 year-olds report some sort of self-harm. In the past five years, research shows that hospital admissions associated with self-harm have gone up by nearly 93% among girls and 45% among boys. Having recently visited the outstanding charity selfharmUK, in Luton in my diocese, I have seen what a concerted and systematic approach to this problem can have on a very difficult issue, and we need something similar at a national level. Will Her Majesty’s Government commit to publishing guidelines for schools and colleges about preventing and responding to self-harm?

Bishop of Gloucester on building strong local communities of shared values


On the 2nd December 2016 the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, spoke in the debate led by the Archbishop of Canterbury on shared  values and their role in shaping public policies. She highlighted the compassionate hospitality which this country has shown generations of refugees alongside the work she is undertaking in Gloucestershire to build community, standing ‘with’ rather than ‘othering’ people to promote human flourishing. 

gloucesterThe Lord Bishop of Gloucester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury on his foresight in tabling this debate on shared values. I also add my own congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord McInnes of Kilwinning, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bertin, on their poignant and insightful maiden speeches.

In the diocese of Gloucester, I have recently been talking to young people about body image and reflecting with them on how their true worth begins deep within, the place from which true values emerge and are lived. Last Saturday, I hosted a huge community party in Cheltenham to publicly launch our new vision for the diocese of Gloucester. The vision has emerged from conversations in local communities, urban and rural, involving about 6,000 people, churchgoers and otherwise, discussing what sort of church they want to see in their communities.The vision is one of human flourishing and transformation, emanating from those words of Jesus from the gospel of John:

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”.

That is a good starting place when it comes to talking about values. Continue reading

Bishop of Ely highlights role of church schools in fostering shared values


On the 2nd December 2016 the Bishop of Ely, the Rt Revd Stephen Conway spoke in a debate led by the Archbishop of Canterbury on shared values and their implications for public policy making. The Bishop of Ely spoke about the importance of character education in developing values and the role played by church schools in fostering good links between children of all faiths and none.

ElyThe Lord Bishop of Ely: My Lords, I thank my friend the most reverend Primate for securing this timely and essential debate. I applaud the noble Lord, Lord McInnes, on his excellent speech, not least on drawing together our concern for values with opportunity for our children and young people. When we talk about British values, we should be aiming not at the lowest common denominator but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, said, at the highest ideals that we want to promote for and with our children.

Character education is all set to be the foundation for the kind of person we want each child to become: a member of society who not only understands the world, but cares about it, is equipped to continue in the good and recognise and challenge the bad and is courageous enough to bridge divides and extend the hand of friendship. The Church of England vision for education actively seeks to provide an education that fosters this. Character education is about educating children not only to become efficient economic units, but to flourish in all areas of their lives, and enjoy life in all its fullness, as Jesus says in the Gospel of John. Fundamental to this is the nurturing of virtues as the intrinsic building blocks of a rounded human life with concrete outcomes in behaviour and service. St Paul takes the life of virtue beyond what had previously been categorised when he wrote in the Letter to the Galatians about the “fruits of the spirit”: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.