At the Houses of Parliament today, Rt Rev Terence Drainey, Bishop of Middlesbrough and Chair of Caritas Social Action Network, launched a new report, Abide in Me. The report deepens Catholic social thought on the ‘housing crisis’ in England and Wales. It calls for co-ordinated action on housing challenges in England and Wales from 2018-30, at local, regional and national levels in the social mission of the Church. The twelve-year timescale is aligned with international Catholic Church engagement on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It reflects the need for a long-term approach to deep social and economic roots of the crisis.
The report is the result of a pioneering collaboration between the national team of Caritas Social Action Network and the ecumenical Centre for Theology and Community, with its strong local connections in East London. Abide in Me addresses the underlying causes of the crisis, through fresh theological reflection, and in conversation with people living in different housing situations, charities and experts in various fields. Among the causes of the current crisis highlighted are the common treatment of housing and land as financial assets, and strong links between modern housing development and increased social isolation. The report emphasises the need for the Government and all citizens to address the concentration of the power for change in the state and markets. A more sustainable approach would favour more authentic community participation in decisions that affect the shape of the places we live in. Bishop Drainey called on politicians to use their influence in reforming housing, planning and land regulation, to be at the service of promoting human dignity, participation and solidarity in communities, for the long term. He encouraged politicians to give greater preference to housing developments that are community-owned and led, and to tackle practices in public sector contracting that were reducing the agency of local people:
‘Charities that have deep social connections in local neighbourhoods have been increasingly forced to compete for public funds, often for short-term payments with more strings attached, and against larger, remote organisations. This further erodes trust and participation in communities, and the priority of labour over capital. I encourage you to take further measures that support local enterprise and the long-term future of local amenities.’
In conjunction with the report, the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have issued an open letter to senior leaders in Catholic charities and related institutions. The bishops encourage these leaders to work together, making renewed action on the housing crisis in these parts of the UK a shared priority within the Church’s social mission.
While there have been earlier reports on homelessness from the Bishops’ Conference, Abide in Me is believed to be the first dedicated mainly to housing, planning and land.
The launch took place in Caritas Social Action Network’s (CSAN) annual reception in the Houses of Parliament yesterday, hosted by Lord Browne, and addressed also by Canon Dr Angus Ritchie, Director of CTC. Among the attendees was the Archbishop of Southwark, Most Rev Peter Smith, the Bishop of Salford, Rt Rev John Arnold, together with Peers, MPs, representatives from many organisations and dioceses that are part of CSAN, and from further afield. The new Secretary General of Caritas Europa, Maria Nyman, gave a brief address expressing her appreciation of the report and the work of Catholic charities.
For more information, and to download a copy of the report, please visit the related advocacy page on this site.