The issue of immigration detention is particularly important to CSAN, which works with the Detention Forum, due to the values Catholic Social Teaching shows us. The two most fundamental principles are Human Dignity, which is an integral tenet of CSAN’s values and the Common Good.

What this means is that we are all equal in the eyes of God and we share the world and therefore share the responsibility for protecting our brothers and sisters in detention. It is this focus on the human side of this issue which pervades our work, where we see those who migrate to the UK as created in God’s image just like you and I. At an address at the Harmondsworth Detention Centre, Emeritus Archbishop Kevin McDonald described this concept as such, “we are closely bound up with one another and we are all closely bound up with the people who are living in Harmondsworth Detention Centre”.

In this way, we see that currently immigration removal centres (IRC) do not respect the fundamental human dignity of those indefinitely detained, especially those with mental health issues and those who have been tortured. Indefinite detention causes severe anxiety and distress, exacerbating the suffering of individuals who have fled their country. Furthermore, the uncertainty of not knowing when detainees will be released enforces unjust conditions which harbour lack of respect and dignity. The International Detention Coalition has found migrants are far more likely to accept and comply with negative immigration decisions if the decision-making process is seen as fair.

Detention Centre rule 35 requires detention centre doctors to report to the Home Office ‘any detained person whose health is likely to be injuriously affected by continued detention or any conditions of detention’.  It is in place to protect vulnerable detainees whose health is likely to be affected, those with suicidal thoughts or someone who’s been the victim of torture. However it’s not effective or cognisant of the fact that unnecessary detention exacerbates mental health conditions. The Jesuit Refugee Service, one of our member organisations, visits people with mental health conditions in detention centres every week. They recognise these people should simply not be detained. JRS serves refugees by advocating on behalf of detainees at Harmondsworth and Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre.

On a recent trip to Calais, a delegation from CSAN met a young Afghan boy who was detained shortly after arriving in the UK. Whilst in detention, he learnt his mother and father had been killed by the Taliban in Afghanistan and being in detention only made his grief worse. As a result, he now suffers from acute mental health issues and was noticeably distant when members of CSAN talked to him about his experience.

Some questions we should be asking ourselves, in the words of Archbishop Kevin McDonald: why do we have a proprietorial and territorial mind-set regarding the privileged lives a lot of us are able to experience in the UK? And how can a system such as ours, where people are indefinitely detained (the only country in the EU with this practice) exist in a so-called civilised British society? Both issues warrant a greater response than the conditions the government is currently imposing.

Importantly, the human cost of indefinite detention far outweighs the financial cost (approx. £36,000) which is more than the costs involved in housing people in the community. As Catholics, we are morally compelled to preoccupy ourselves with the indignities faced by people in detention and to address the injustices faced by thousands whose only ‘crime’ is taking the chance to live a happy, safe and dignified life.

The problem of food poverty and hunger in the UK is a long standing one, exacerbated in recent years. CSAN and its member charities have highlighted a number of factors which contribute to this reality in recommendations to the recent ‘Feeding Britain’ report published last Thursday.

The primary root cause of the growing reliance on food banks by thousands of people daily to meet their basic needs. An All Party Parliamentary Group inquiry into Food Poverty and Hunger called ‘Feeding Britain was created in April 2014, made up of a consortium of over 100 NGOs, community, faith and civil society groups, is the result of this broad consensus to achieve zero poverty in the UK.

The recommendations we made affect vulnerable children and adults alike and centre on addressing complex difficulties within the system, which lead to service users and clients in our network to often go without food. However the problem which affects children is most startling and is often hidden.

3.9 million children live in income poverty (defined as 60% below the average income) according toMagic Breakfast. And 1 in 4 children have one hot meal a day – their school lunch, according to research by Child Poverty Action Group.

A child’s education is affected by the impacts of child food poverty and hunger.

Catholic Children’s Society conducted research into hunger in primary school children and all head teachers reported there were children in their schools whose educational attainment was affected by hunger.

Catholic Children’s Society Westminster set up a crisis fund so that any teacher can apply to finance extra school meals, which priests can also apply for if a child suffering from food poverty is known to them.

Debt, lack of financial management, benefit issues (sanctions, delays, incorrect payments) and chaotic home lives, or a combination of all, can mean parents struggle to provide three healthy meals a day for children.

Unfortunately it is difficult to know how many children suffer in this way, as it’s not currently tracked and often parents are reluctant to admit to their child going hungry due to fear that social services will take their child or children away.

CSAN recommended to ‘Feeding Britain’ that projects should be explored, based in primary schools which often act as community hubs, to provide meals at least once a day during school holidays.

These hubs could also offer wrap around services which help address the root causes of food poverty and hunger. This is because Catholic Children’s Society Westminster also tell us that simply delivering food parcels is not the only way to address the problems of food poverty and hunger.

We therefore warmly welcome the report’s recommendation for a national programme targeted at eliminating child hunger during the school holidays and hope the Government act to tackle this crisis.

This recent report marks a positive development in challenging food poverty and hunger. The people our members work with have the support of Feeding Britain behind them to review progress of the recommendations, so that families don’t have to face the reality of going hungry.

Dr Philip McCarthy is the new CEO of CSAN who took up his post on 1 December

The concept of home and identity is particularly important at Christmas and yet there are still thousands of refugees and migrants risking the journey to Europe, especially as the weather gets worse, to reduce the cost paid to people smugglers.

CSAN has been working on immigration for a number of years. Most recently we sent a delegation to the ‘Jungle’ in Calais in September. The aim of the visit was to meet the people living in terrible conditions on a small strip of land near the French coast, and to hear their stories.

A 42 year old Afghan man named Ahmed fed our delegation with food from a restaurant he set up in the camp and refused to take money for it. This was typical of the generosity shown to CSAN throughout the visit. We hope we showed solidarity with him and the others gathered by sharing food, an act that makes us all equal.

We saw the camp through the eyes of our partners in France, Secours Catholique, who work every day to help make life a little bit more safe and dignified for more than 6,000 people who live in the camp. For instance, there were recent reports that asbestos has been discovered in the ‘Jungle’, used as building materials and surfaces to eat food from. With Doctors of the World, Secours Catholique have since successfully lobbied the French government to install standpipes for water, toilets and to arrange rubbish collections in the ‘Jungle’.

The stories we heard and lives we saw have laid the basis for our policy work on migration. Our advocacy work has centred on writing submissions to the Immigration Bill, which will be discussed in the House of Lords on 22 December.

At the recommendation of Seeking Sanctuary (a new charity working in Kent and headed by our member Ben Bano together with J&P Kent) and Caritas France, we’ve raised £7,000 which helped buy a new van to safely transport women and children and goods in the camp.

The Church values everyone’s right to live free from persecution and lead a productive life. Cardinal Vincent Nichols recently spoke out about the UK government’s response to the refugee crisis by saying “progress is slow, but the plight of refugees cannot wait.”

Catholic Social Teaching (CST) views the family as the basic cell of society and speaks of its sanctity. As Christmas approaches, it is significant to remember how Pope Benedict spoke of the Family of Nazareth in his 2007 address on ‘The Migrant Family’ and see the parallels with the fragility of the contemporary migrant family.

We look to CST to argue that asylum claims should be managed based on the human dignity of the migrant during the process of having a claim heard and in seeking integration into a new community. CST suggests a right and duty to enable migrants to have access to full social, economic, civic, political participation.

Immigration detention for purely administrative purposes and without time limit also frustrates human dignity through isolating the human person from the basic network of relationships (family, legal, work-based, spiritual) necessary for fostering basic human dignity. Pope Francis has made repeated visits to sites of detention to highlight his solidarity with those detained and to make these facilities more visible.

So, this International Migrants Day, let’s value the dignity and sanctity of the migrant family and welcome those who journey to our communities with open arms.

I was pleased to be at the well-attended event, ‘The definitive picture of poverty in the UK’ early on Monday morning at Central Hall Westminster where the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and New Policy Institute’s report ‘Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion’ was discussed. It seemed there’s a pattern of poverty running from childhood right through to supposed home buying age and that the lack of affordable homes is the main problem. Tom Mac Innes, Research Director at the New Policy Institute, gave a good overview of the top-line findings. Average incomes are only 2% higher than a decade ago; 21% of people are living in poverty this year after housing costs; and there are more under 25s in poverty than over 65s.

Tom also discussed how the term ‘in-work poverty’ has become well recognised and 21% of children are at risk of poverty in this category, even though unemployment is down to 2008 levels. Furthermore, children from families living in temporary accommodation will have their education affected by not getting at least five good GCSEs.

The problem doesn’t improve as young people reach working age as youth unemployment is also long-term problem which isn’t taken into account in recent employment figures. The trajectory of poverty continues after the first job you get says Julia Unwin, CEO of Joseph Rowntree Foundation. If you start working on a low wage, you’re more likely to stay in that bracket, especially if you work in a certain sector such as hospitality which doesn’t always pay employees the Living Wage. Shiv Malik, Investigative Correspondent for The Guardian, spoke about changing our strategy on asset building as under 45s won’t be able to buy homes like our parents did. Peter Kenway, Director of the New Policy Institute, added that people born after 1983/1984 are more likely to follow their great-grandparents who most likely didn’t own their homes either. That means I’m not likely to be able to afford my own home anytime soon!

Mark Littlewood, Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs, told the audience about how some families spend up to 50% of their income on rent or a mortgage.  His most memorable quote was about how the UK’s cities are some of the most unaffordable cities to live in and that it’s “more affordable to live in Seattle than Swansea”. He continued that people need to go to foodbanks because of the knock on effects of the high cost of housing.

Dr Peter Kenway highlighted the social effects of poverty not captured in the report such as the stigma of simply being poor. As such, we live in a world where you’re expected to work your way out of poverty yourself. What’s more there’s an assumption in the government that if you work hard, you won’t be poor and can buy your own house. Unfortunately, the report highlights the levels of in-work poverty and the increasing number of people who cannot afford a mortgage.

One of the solutions Mark Littlewood points to is to liberalise the use of green-belt land, including who currently owns it, as there’s enough in the vicinity of tube and Overground stations in London to build one million new homes according to a report by the IEA. Shiv Malik said “to rent here is like being a third class citizen”, referring to the fact that after six  months of living in a private rented property in the UK, the landlord can throw you out, even if you haven’t committed a fault. He suggested turning current legislation on its head by creating private rental contracts which could not be broken if the tenant does not cause fault, for example by not paying the rent. He also pointed to building on new tracts of land to create new cities so “people don’t have to be poor and pay through the nose for Victorian housing”. Mark Littlewood added the impacts of the cost of living such as the tax on low-cost alcohol should be taken into account in government policy.

The discussion was so interesting we ran over time and I know I could have sat and listened to the panel and interesting questions raised for much longer. For tweets and comments from the day, use #MPSEUK15 on Twitter.





Sharon Forbes is the Service Manager for Adults with a Learning Disability & Older People at Catholic Care Leeds. 

All the groups and activities we run at Catholic Care Leeds are inclusive of all denominations and welcome people who live with dementia. People whose lives are touched by dementia attend the Harrogate luncheon club (with support from a family member and carer), two ladies attend the exercise class in Normanton with their husbands who then leave to do other things – one gentleman said he goes home to catch up on the housework and in his words,  “enjoy a cup of coffee on my own”. This respite time for carers is incredibly important.

We are aware that people with dementia can have difficulty with: remembering what they are doing, finding the right word for something, recollecting names and faces, understanding instructions, getting around in new and confusing environments.

With these things in mind, we welcome people when they arrive and wear badges that remind people who we are and will make it easy for people to know who can help them. Everyone is greeted warmly and with a smile, ensuring we make eye contact; we use a friendly tone of voice, speaking clearly and slowly so allowing people time to understand what is being said. We listen carefully to what people say and give plenty of encouragement, we have the room set out in a welcoming way, make it easy to get around and where possible we try to keep things the same because we are aware that change can be confusing. We also have somewhere people can sit that is quieter if they need a break, we support people in a non intrusive way, encouraging ability whilst it is still present, but ensuring that any support given is not overtly obvious.

We have experienced great acceptance from other groups members who have become, for want of a better word, quite ‘protective’ of the person.

All our activities are supported by the Domiciliary Care Team who are on hand to support either the person living with dementia or their carers. We also work closely with professional agencies who can offer additional advise and support where necessary.

Edward De Quay is a Development Worker for Caritas Westminster.

As a society, it is important that we are confident to respond to the needs of those with dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, “how others respond to the person, and how supportive or enabling the persons surroundings are … greatly affect how well someone can live with dementia.”

Dementia commonly affects people over the age of 65. Pope Francis has been uncompromising about the need to cherish the elderly in our society. He has stressed the need to care for and respect older people, saying that a society without this commitment has no future.  In 2012, Pope Benedict stated that “the quality of a society, of a civilisation, may also be judged by how it treats its elderly and by the place reserved for them in communal life. To give space to the elderly is to give space to life!”

Dementia can also affect younger people, with over 40,000 in the UK under 65 affected. Regardless of age, Catholic Social Teaching clearly states that we have a duty of care. “Every human person – no matter how vulnerable or helpless, no matter how young or how old, no matter how healthy, handicapped or sick, no matter how useful or productive for society – is a being of inestimable worth created in the image and likeness of God (Pope John Paul II).”

Building awareness and understanding are the first steps to an effective response. We would like to encourage you to engage in this Dementia Awareness Week, and to reflect on how your parish community can reach out to families and individuals facing the challenges of living with dementia. In your family and beyond, for those with dementia and for those who are engaged in their care, your support is precious.

Ben Bano is Director of a Community Interest Company – ‘Welcome Me as I Am’ – which is a member agency of CSAN and provides training and support for staff and volunteers in person centred approaches to dementia care 

CSAN’s campaign in Dementia Awareness week is right to focus on the importance of working conditions and training for those working with people whose lives are touched by dementia. It’s only through providing the best possible care and support that we can focus on two of the most important aspects to caring for the ‘whole person’ – promoting personhood and dignity.

The term ‘personhood’ has been developed to counter the stereotype of the person with dementia gradually losing their physical and mental functioning and their personality as dementia advances. The concept of personhood reinforces the image of the person with dementia as someone who is able to experience emotions, both positive and negative, as well as the ability to share these emotions to those who are able and willing to be present in what might be a bewildering and confusing situation. It is at the root of all the work with people whose lives are touched by dementia and is a core value for my own organisation – ‘Welcome Me as I Am’ – as well as for CSAN’s member agencies working in the field of dementia care.

The promotion of dignity and empowerment has a natural place in dementia care as well as a special place for CSAN’s member agencies whose work is underpinned by Catholic Social Teaching. This is because dignity and empowerment are linked inextricably linked with our view of a person with dementia as a person who can and should lead a full life in spite of their diminishments.

 The well known author and columnist Daniel O’Leary speaks movingly of the ‘power of presence’ in promoting dignity as dementia advances:

‘The role of your body in revealing presence is central; the graciousness of your eyes – windows out and windows in; the touch of your hands – extensions of your heart; your body – the dignity of composure; your body betrays the inner state of your soul; the dignity of your voice, a radiance from your physical presence, a reverence for the Presence of the other.  Then you release a healing Presence in the other.’ 

For those close to a person in the advancing stages of dementia, diminishments need to be put in the context of a person whose life story needs to be seen in the context of lifetime of achievement and fulfilment. As a person with dementia loses their sense of reality, visual and other memories are needed to remind them – and even more importantly, their loved ones, of the person that they have been and will continue to be. The promotion of spiritual needs, which is a focus for the CSAN member agencies working with dementia, becomes particularly important.

This is the challenge before us and it is why we need to support, train and nurture those involved in providing care and support in person centred care.  This work is an act of compassion, sensitivity and humanity.




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