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Drops into an Ocean by Juliet Barker

16 February 2018

Leigh Hatts learns about a charity’s work in Leeds

THIS is a slim paperback by the biographer Juliet Barker, whose other titles include The Brontës. This time, she looks closely at a 30-year-old charity, Caring for Life, based in Yorkshire.

It started as the result of a conversation at Leeds Reformed Baptist Church between Esther Smith and the minister, Peter Parkinson. Both had been associated with a children’s home and knew that discharged residents often started sleeping rough. The charity now runs two homes and a farm, with café and shop, for abandoned and abused adults.

Examples of incredibly generous donations of time and money, and four visits in six years by the Countess of Wessex, are recounted in an easy-to-read narrative that includes insights into the past and present lives of residents. Barker writes as an admirer, and some readers will respond to the appeal for supporters and donations in the final “What Can I Do?” chapter.

The author does not, however, shy away from some very worrying trends. One is the admission by the co-founder Peter’s son Jonathan that he “can’t see the need for this work diminishing in any way”. The mention of Christianity in the mission statement has now become a reason for some grant-making trusts to refuse help.

Outreach to those attempting independent living has recently required an extra worker to help vulnerable people affected by the “bedroom tax” and worried by having to reapply for benefits on a computer that they do not have and cannot operate. How many know that Universal Credit causes problems for charities? Policy-makers need to read this book.


Leigh Hatts is a writer and online journalist.


Drops into an Ocean
Juliet Barker
Canterbury Press £7.99
Church Times Bookshop £7.20

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