We want England and Wales to be places where every person can flourish in their families and communities, living with peace and human dignity. We strive especially for the voices of the poor and wounded to be heard and acted upon.
With Christian social action at its heart, Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) is an inclusive, effective and cohesive network of charities grounded in Catholic Social Teaching and the Catholic dioceses of England and Wales.
Caritas Social Action Network shares in the mission of the Catholic Church in England & Wales. We animate and co-ordinate our network of social action charities and dioceses, working in collaboration with them to help poor, vulnerable and marginalised people find their voice and to enable them to improve their lives.
Caritas Social Action Network is an agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee. The Bishops’ Conference appoints a Bishop as the Chair of Trustees, appoints two other episcopal Trustees and approves other Trustee appointments. We are a national member of the Caritas Internationalis confederation within the Caritas Europa group. England and Wales have two distinct Caritas national members: the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), and CSAN for domestic social action. Caritas Social Action Network is registered in England and Wales as a charity (number 1101431) and a company limited by guarantee and not having a share capital (number 4505111). Network member organisations have their own trustees and governance.
Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN) was launched in March 2003 to help raise the profile and voice of Catholics involved in social justice. CSAN was a new organisation which incorporated the functions of three former social welfare bodies of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales:
The Social Welfare Committee was established in 1984, when a new committee structure replaced a former system of commissions. It was one of several committees in the Department of Christian Responsibility and Citizenship. Its purpose was to advise the bishops on matters concerning social welfare and social policy, and to assist dioceses and parishes by providing advice on the pastoral care of people and groups with particular needs. Following the establishment of CASC (see below), however, the Social Welfare Committee focused more upon pastoral concerns, leaving social policy matters more to CASC.
The Social Welfare Committee produced several reports and publications on a range of themes including the pastoral care of offenders and people with a homosexual orientation, dementia and spirituality, volunteers and substance misuse.
The Catholic Agency for Social Concern was set up as a new agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales in 1995. CASC’s role was to support a wide range of Catholic caring organisations and networks by providing opportunities for collaboration, facilitating the sharing of information on best practice on issues such funding, staffing, training, monitoring and evaluation and raising awareness of social justice issues.
CASC produced a number of publications relating to social care policy and on social justice issues. In 1999, CASC released an influential report entitled ‘Women in Prison’ which made a significant contribution to the establishment of the ecumenical criminal justice network, the Churches’ Criminal Justice Forum. The report drew attention to moral questions over the imprisonment of women and on care for children of female offenders. In 2000, CASC and the Social Welfare Committee issued a joint report on the extent of Catholic involvement in community care for vulnerable and marginalised people in the wider community.
The Catholic Child Welfare Council was an umbrella body for Catholic Children’s Societies, other diocesan welfare agencies, and some religious congregations that provided social care services for children and families in England and Wales. It was an agency of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, though it also had links with the parallel Catholic children’s agencies in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The CCWC enabled the agencies to pool expertise, identify national needs and take appropriate action, often jointly, and to offer assistance through advice, guidance and training in order to encourage high standards of professional practice. Its origins were in 19th century “rescue societies”. It took on a more formal role in the 1970s when a Child Care Secretary was needed to liaise with Government following the 1969 Children and Young Person’s Act which produced a major reorganisation in residential child care provision by the introduction of the Community Homes system. Many of the diocesan Children’s Societies were also adoption agencies and became highly regarded in this field.
CCWC was at the forefront of early work with former child migrants in the mid-1990s. It contributed to two Australian state/government inquiries and the British government inquiry into the welfare of former child migrants, and in response to the Inquiry’s recommendations CCWC established its Australian Child Migrant Project which offered family tracing, counselling and reunification services.
The functions of these three bodies were amalgamated to enable the Church to have a greater impact in public discourse and policy on social care. CSAN’s first Director, Sarah Lindsell (formerly Director of CASC), said at the time of the launch that amalgamation of the three agencies was ‘born of the need for the Church to make a stronger impact and to have a national presence in a more structured and strategic way’. With the establishment of CSAN also came a new international dimension. Like CAFOD, CSAN became a formal member of Caritas Internationalis, the worldwide confederation of Catholic relief, development and social welfare organisations, and began liaising with Caritas Europa, the European network of members of Caritas Internationalis.