Porsha Nunes-Brown, Network & Communications Officer

Black Britons have contributed enormously to Britain and the wider world. To honour Black History Month, I have highlighted the achievements and work of 6 Black British icons, but there are many more notable individuals that could have been included in this blog piece.

Quote on Mary Seacole

  1. Mary Seacole – Born in Jamaica in 1805 to a Scottish father and Jamaican mother. Seacole travelled to Crimea War in the 1850s to open a treatment centre for injured soldiers. She referred to it as “a mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers”. She was rejected four times from joining the official nursing ranks, which led to her travelling individually. For many years Seacole’s contributions were largely overshadowed by the work of Florence Nightingale. However, Seacole has received increasing recognition with a statue in the grounds of St Thomas Hospital and being named the greatest Black Briton in 2004.
  2. Sir Trevor McDonald – A career in media lasting over 50 years, McDonald was born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1939. He started his career at BBC Radio working as a producer. He moved to Independent Television News (ITN) in 1973. He has interviewed a number of high profile individuals including Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Tony Blair. In 1999, he received a knighthood for his career in journalism and he was awarded a BAFTA fellowship at the 2011 British Academy Television Awards. In 2015 with an interview with the Daily Express, he shared his biggest regret was the amount of time he spent abroad, stating he “you become so single-minded and I couldn’t wait to get on a plane to the next big story. I missed out on a lot of time with my family and friends”. 
  3. Margaret Busby OBE – The youngest and first black women to become a book publisher, born in Ghana with Caribbean roots. In 1967, she co-founded Allison and Busby and served as the Editorial Director for 20 years. The company published several authors including CLR James, Same Greenlee, Alexis Lykiard, Andrew Salkey and many more. She has written for The Guardian, New Statesmen, The Sunday Times and The Independent. Busby has been awarded numerous accolades and awards from an OBE in 2006 to an honorary fellowship from the University of Queen Mary.
  4. Benjamin Zephaniah – Born in Birmingham to Caribbean parents, Zephaniah wears many hats including poet, novelist, playwright, musician and television presenter. His career spans over thirty years with many highlights including, his first children poetry book ‘Talking Turkeys’ staying at the top of the children’s’ book list for months. He has commanded the respect of his peers and the people, being described as “a one off. He seeks no prizes, doesn’t much like awards, and is suspicious of authority. He has never had a person or team promoting him, his popularity has come from the people he has inspired”. According to BBC national poll, he was voted the nation’s third favourite poet of all time.
  5. Arthur Wharton – The world’s first black professional footballer. Born in Ghana in 1865, he went on to play as an amateur for Darlington and Preston North End, and professionally for Rotherham Town and Sheffield United. Shaun Campbell, an artist spearheaded a nationwide campaign to celebrate the achievements of Wharton, gaining support from Stevie Wonder, Rio Ferdinand and Sepp Blatter. The Wharton Foundation was created to promote racial harmony, equality and diversity.
  6. Stuart Hall – Born in Jamaica, was referred to as the “godfather of multiculturalism”. He won a scholarship to Oxford University in 1951, later becoming one of Britain’s top political and cultural intellectuals, having started off his career as a research fellow at Britain’s first centre for cultural studies at the University of Birmingham. He held many positions including a Professor of Sociology at the Open University and in 2005, he was made a fellow of the British Academy.

Do you have any favourite Black British icons?

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Katherine Milne, Parliamentary, Policy and Communications Assistant

For today’s generation, digital literacy is second nature. But for older people, the world of online GP appointments, banking and social media is far removed. A lack of digital inclusion for older people is an emerging and growing problem; a campaign launched by Friends of the Elderly raised the concern that the internet may alienate over 700,000 people over the age of 60 by 2030, as shops and service providers continue to place their focus on the online domain. The development of a digital divide between the younger generations and older people is visible within the context of a Digital Britain, leading to the necessity of intervention that ensures the equal equipping of society with digital skills, and therefore the avoidance of a technologically disadvantaged segment of the population.

Research is required to identify the barriers to the digital exclusion of older people. One barrier is the major lack of understanding surrounding how the internet actually works, and another remains a dismissive attitude based on the conviction that the internet is not necessary. In a world where anything from the sharing of resources to discount deals is heavily reliant on the internet, it is increasingly important for the active communication of the benefits of being online to older people.

CSAN members recognise how essential it is that the digital divide is decreased. Caritas Salford, Catholic Care Leeds, Nugent and Irish Chaplaincy work with older people which includes encouraging older people to explore and develop digital literacy. While these charities are working at a grassroots level to counter the problem of digital illiteracy, Get Online Week (17-23 October) highlights this issue on a national scale. This year marks their 10th campaign aimed at overcoming the digital exclusion of older people by helping communities across the UK to discover the advantages of the online world. The Get Online website offers a range of services, including a map of campaign events taking place in places across the UK, such as in community centres and libraries, which aim to teach older people how to use and make the most of laptops, smart phones and tablets.

To take part in this year’s campaign, you can register as a Get Online Week Event Holder to gain access to marketing resources and the training needed to reach out to people in a community to demonstrate how digital skills are vital to overcoming unemployment, staying in touch with family and friends, and helping with healthcare problems. Please visit https://www.getonlineweek.com/take-part/ for more information.

If you are looking to help an older relative or friend to get online, then you can also read this informative news article by the Telegraph for a concise guide to breaking down barriers to the digital world.

How do you think we can encourage older people to get online?

Let us know your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

A guest blog from Kathleen O’Brien, Faversham parishioner, on her trip to Calais

I’ve visited the camp in Calais twice now and seen men queueing by the roadside to receive food and clothes. I was struck by how much more dignified it was for them to be greeted, welcomed and given time to choose shoes that fitted. Before they left, each man was asked whether he needed a blanket or sleeping bag and was handed one from the stack by the far wall.

“Where do the donations come from?” “All over France,” replied Christine, “and some from Belgium and some from the UK.” She estimated the blankets would all be gone by the end of Saturday. Léa explained that, in the months it had taken to gain the necessary permissions to open this facility, donations had built up. Now that it is open, they will soon disappear.

“Where do the donations come from?” “All over France,” replied Christine, “and some from Belgium and some from the UK.” She estimated the blankets would all be gone by the end of Saturday. Léa explained that, in the months it had taken to gain the necessary permissions to open this facility, donations had built up. Now that it is open, they will soon disappear.


Through Léa, Christine explained that Caritas France (equivalent to CAFOD in England and Wales) is the Catholic Church’s overseas development agency and assists with international emergencies, while Secours Catholique is a bit like CSAN in the UK – dealing with social needs within the country.  “Because the refugees are here in Calais, we (Secours Catholique) are helping them.”

“What will happen if the camp is destroyed?” Léa shrugged, “They will disperse and make new camps. They don’t know where to go, where to live. Most want to live in the UK. It is a complex problem. The UK cannot accept everyone.”


Outside, I asked whether anyone spoke English. A tall young man stepped forward and introduced himself as Ahmed from Sudan.

Ahmed had lived on the streets in Italy for a month before hearing that things were better in France. I asked how he had been able to afford a train ticket. “No ticket, no money”, he told me. When the inspector asked for his ticket, then for money, he explained that he had none. The inspector put him off the train at the next station, and Ahmed simply waited for the next train.

He had been in Calais two months and thought that numbers in the camp were growing. He said that there was more food here than in Italy, “lots of organisations for food”, but that there was still not enough. Sometimes it might be two days between meals, but he had eaten last night.

I asked whether he thought that the camp would be destroyed. He said he hoped that the ordinary people would fight the government and it would not happen.

Ahmed told me he had left Sudan because it was not safe for him to be there. “My parents are still in Sudan. I ring them sometimes when someone gives me a phone.” Ahmed said, “If I could I would stay in France.” He had begun the application process for asylum but said it was not easy: “I just want protection”. He concluded: “If my country became peaceful, I’d go to my country.”

<<Find out how to donate to the Migrant Relief locker room>>


Clive Chapman, Policy Officer

16 November 2016 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the BBC’s first broadcast of ‘Cathy Come Home’, highlighting conditions of compounding seriousness in which people with housing difficulties could find themselves (one thing leading to another); the stigma and scapegoating associated with poverty and homelessness, and a chronic shortage of housing support from public services, if families and friends were unable to bear the burden.  On first watching the film this year, I was stunned by the familiarity of issues and attitudes.  Many seemed unchanged in 21st Century Britain.

Over intervening decades, numerous ‘policy solutions’ to various types of homelessness have been tried.  Average life expectancy rates for people with a history of rough sleeping have improved over time.  But so has average life expectancy overall.  The gap between these rates remains large.  In addition, over the next 15 years, gaps in life expectancy for the whole population are expected to widen on socio-economic lines, reflecting increased income inequalities for example.

Despite creation of what some term a ‘homelessness industry’, with innumerable campaigns, celebrity patrons, large-scale professional organisations, the invention of ‘pathways’, and the injection of vast sums of public money, there is remarkably little evidence that any of these solutions have directly improved future life chances for new generations of people, whose histories are most likely (statistically) to predict housing challenges.  Too often, specialist analysis degenerates into questions of retrospective attribution, blame, or chicken and egg.  While there is plenty of finger-pointing about inadequate housebuilding and the impact of welfare reforms, it seems almost taboo to ask whether emerging family structures and social patterns of behaviour will exacerbate homelessness in future.

For me, one of the striking features about ‘Cathy Come Home’ is the way in which family and neighbours try, with varying degrees of will and capacity, to help her manage the initial situation.  The play shows how good will can dry up even where there is a foundation of social capital, a network of support in times of crisis.

It has become fashionable to say that ‘homelessness is not inevitable’.  But what does this mean in terms of mutual responsibilities within families, communities and organisations?

First, perhaps it implies that every individual has a choice to ignore or close the door on someone who faces difficulties with housing.  If only it were so simple.  It might be more accurate to say that the soundbite reveals a more informed uncertainty following policy approaches of the last fifty years.  Where centred on statutory support, these approaches have delivered a clear message: a professionalised pathway for tackling homelessness is ultimately a temporary solution – it is limited by annualised budgets, the supply of skilled staff, maintaining professional boundaries, and avoidance (of fraud, being sued, or other risks to the provider).  In 21st Century public services it is further limited by quasi-science and contracting.  By this I mean that not only is the person without a home a person to be labelled by category of need, but she/he becomes part of an artificial group – which is certainly not a community – valued not for the gifts and strengths of the individuals within it, but by being assigned ID number(s) within a ‘vulnerable group’, and then to receive a pre-defined ‘intervention’ from a database of ‘what works’.

I’m pleased that the CLG Select Committee has been inquiring into homelessness, but concerned that the ‘next generation’ solution seems like more of the same.  I am concerned not only about the effects of these approaches on individuals’ lives, but about their effect on building the kind of society anyone would want to live in.  These legalistic models appear by their very nature to be eroding the irreplaceable social capital that, in its very vulnerability, makes us more human.

What do you think of the current response to solving the housing crisis?

What do you think should be done to make affordable and quality housing a reality for all?

Let me know your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram


The fact that the Traveller community experience hate crime is one thing – but what is shocking is that it is not addressed.

The authorities are, at best, indifferent and, at worst, hostile to the Traveller community. In the experience of the CSAN member charities, who work with Travellers if an incident of hate crime is reported, there is a very slim chance that the police will act – and an even slimmer chance that there will be a prosecution or some kind of retributive action.

Naturally, this fosters a relationship of disappointment and mistrust between the victims of hate crime and the authorities – what is the point of reporting abuse if you do not expect that you will be listened to, or that the incident will be properly logged, or that there will appropriate action taken?

The Traveller Movement, a charity which campaigns for the rights of the Traveller community, conducted a Discrimination Survey in 2016. Although 98% experience hate crimes, only 27% seek some form of redress. This means that the vast majority of the Traveller community are experiencing abuse or discrimination because of their ethnicity, and the majority do not feel that they can do anything about it through the channels of the criminal justice system.

Can you imagine this from any other community? Can you imagine a survey which found 98% of Catholics had experienced hate crime? Can you imagine going to a police officer to report being denied access to services, the vandalism of your property or physical or verbal abuse and seeing them do nothing about it?

This is the reality of what the Traveller community faces. In particular, abuse online and in the media is completely tolerated. Recent examples include One policeman vs 30 TRAVELLERS: Invasion of caravans and vehicles; Travellers are evicted from London park after getting in through gap in the fenceposts; £3m taxpayer-funded gypsy camp housed a giant cannabis plantation. I cannot help but think that if the media talked about any other ethnic groups in this way, it would not be accepted.

A reciprocal relationship of trust and respect needs to be built, in which the Travellers contribute to and live in harmony with their communities – communities which welcome and respect them in turn.

One side needs to reach out and end the cycle of animosity – and as the majority of Travellers are Catholic, perhaps the Catholic community is best placed to open our Church’s doors, literally and metaphorically, to this community – so that racism against them is eventually condemned as racism ought to be.

This week, for Hate Crime Awareness week, the Gypsy Roma and Traveller communities should not be forgotten.

Did you know that discrimination against the Traveller community was a major issue?

Let us know your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Find out what else is going for National Hate Crime Awareness Week on Twitter with  #NHCAW 

Faith Anderson
Public Affairs Officer


Today marked the beginning of the 40th Prisons Week, an annual week of prayer for all those affected by prisons and crime, run by the Christian community and this year especially inspired by Pope Francis’ Year of Mercy. The shared common prayer of ‘Lord, have mercy’ captures the crux of a campaign that aims to break down barriers between estranged prisoners and the judgement of the outside world. Faith Anderson (Public Affairs Officer) and I saw first-hand the fruits of this prayer when we visited HMP Pentonville today to sit amongst prisoners, parishioners, and church and charity leaders. The punishment, condemning and despair of prisoners was not the focal point, for the message of forgiveness of prisoners proved to be refreshingly persistent. A memorable moment was hearing a former Pentonville inmate give a spoken word performance which expressed the urgent need to centre prayer on the difficult journey many prisoners have found themselves on, and to avoid the passing of judgement and shame. The poem was especially moving when, mid-performance, he held his arms out in surrender  – serving as an emotive prompt for the congregation to say ‘Lord have mercy’ together.

Throughout the rest of this week, Prisons Week will continue to hold events for other groups affected by prisons and crime, including victims, families, communities, and for those working in prisons and in the criminal justice system. At the event today also, organisers drew attention to Prison Hope. As a year of prison focus for churches, Prison Hope aims to improve the connection between local churches in and outside of prisons during 2017.  This may be achieved through encouraging many more churches to pray for their local prison and developing a volunteering network to carry out great work within the prisons themselves. Essentially, the power of hope in inhibiting despair is the overriding message of the campaign, and it is largely facilitated by the sharing of stories about the hope Christianity can instil within all those affected by prisons.

The following prayer for Prison Hope reveals the pressing need for the development of the relationship between prisoners and communities, while also providing meaningful prayer:

Gracious Lord,

who told us to look for you

in the isolated and the excluded,

bless, we pray, the efforts of Prison Hope

to stir up your Church.

Give us wisdom to restore the fallen,

encourage the fainthearted,

welcome the stranger

and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour –

even the redemption of our debt

through your grace and mercy.


To find out more about Prisons Week visit www.prisonsweek.org for information and prayer resources. In November, www.prisonhope.org.uk will be going live as a hub for ideas for the campaign and the sharing of hope stories. To receive the weekly Prison Hope Prayer and regular updates email info@prisonhope.org.uk

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Katie Milne
Parliamentary and Communications Assistant

Mental health is a major issue in the UK, with one in four adults and one in ten children experiencing mental health problems every year. Today, it’s World Mental Health Day which aims to raise awareness of mental health issues and to discuss what needs to be done to make good mental health a reality for everyone.

  1. Anyone at any time in their lives can be affected by mental health, but there are some specific groups who face higher risks including children with parents who have mental health or substance misuse problems and looked after children. Concerning adults, those who have been homeless, adults with a history of violence/abuse, refugees and isolated older people face a higher likelihood of experiencing mental health issues.
  2. Traumatic events including road accidents, serious illnesses can result in long last mental health issues – around one in three adults in England have experienced at least one traumatic event which can lead to Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
  3. Different ethnic groups have different experiences relating to mental health – Black and minority ethnic groups are more likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems and more likely to experience a poor outcome from treatment. Research suggest, Irish people have higher rates of depression and alcohol problems whilst African Caribbean people are more likely to enter mental health services via the courts or the police.
  4. Poor mental health has substantial consequences in today’s workplace – 70 million working days are lost each year due to poor mental health, costing Britain annually £70-100 billion. The stigma surrounding mental health creates an environment in which employees do not feel able to discuss openly with their line managers their struggles with stress.
  5. Gender plays a role relating to mental health –Women are 20-40% more likely to develop a mental health problem however men aged 20-49 are more likely to die from suicide than any other cause of death.
  6. There are geographical differences concerning mental health – prevalence of mental health illness in Northern Ireland is 25% higher than England. The North East has the highest suicide rate in England while London has the lowest.
  7. Poverty increases the risk of mental health – during economic downturns, people with no previous history of mental health may develop mental health issues due to having to deal with the constant stress of job uncertainty and the impacts of financial tribulations.
  8. People with mental health issues are more likely to be victims of violent crimes and experienced intimate partner violence – it’s estimated that 60% of female mental health service users have experienced domestic violence.

The prevalence of mental health problems in our schools, workplaces, hospitals and families can no longer be ignored.

How do you think we can better help people affected by mental health challenges?

Let me know on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram 

Porsha Nunes-Brown, Network and Communications Officer

A guest blog from Kathleen O’Brien, Faversham parishioner, on her visit to the clothes distribution centre in Calais.

A short journey

As my parish in Kent is closer to France than London, I feel that the Calais refugees are my next door neighbours. So, this Monday, after hearing that CSAN’s sister agency Secours Catholique had opened a new facility to assist migrants, myself and a fellow parishioner, Marie, set off to investigate.

When we rolled off the Dover ferry in France, our supposedly European sat nav refused to cooperate: “Calais? Would that be in Surrey, Northampton or Wales?” Fortunately the facility at 39 Rue de Moscou turned out to be only two streets from the port.

The Migrant Relief locker room

Secours Catholique has volunteers on hand to receive donations on Mondays and Wednesdays from 2-5pm. We’d chosen to visit on a Monday which also coincided with a distribution of footwear. As we arrived at the warehouse, or ‘Migrant Relief locker room’, men were gathering at the gate.

<<Find out how to donate to the Migrant Relief locker room>>

We passed a small van parked in front of the open doors and two volunteers unloading boxes of donations. Inside, others were busy sorting clothes into organised-looking piles in different parts of the space. There was a sense of efficiency and purpose. We added our donation to the ‘in tray’ then went through to the far end of the warehouse.

The locker room

Here a rudimentary free ‘shop’ had been set up. Four volunteers stood behind a counter made of two tables. Behind them, shoulder height racks of footwear, mainly trainers, were arranged by size. Beyond the glass entrance door, we could see a number of young men on a row of chairs in the courtyard, patiently awaiting their turn.

The volunteer manager, Christine, a small, softly-spoken woman with a quiet authority, stood by the entrance. When we apologetically asked, “Do you speak English?” she called over her granddaughter, Léa, a lively young woman in her twenties. Léa speaks very good English and told me that she is a law student, helping at the warehouse until term starts next week.

As we watched migrants and refugees having their feet measured and being handed shoes to try on, Léa told me that they were expecting about 100 people today but on Saturday, when clothes are distributed, there will be 300—400 people. Even with today’s comparatively small distribution of footwear, Léa believed that the warehouse would have run out of some sizes by the end of the day.



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