Health visiting and how to support it
From the Revd Steve Cook
Sir, — I write to bring to your attention the current position in relation to health visiting in England. Becoming a health visitor requires a period of post-qualification study, often to Master’s degree level, following the completion of training as a nurse or midwife.
Health visitors have a statutory duty to make a visit to mothers and babies in the weeks after the birth, and to support and promote the health of children under five years, and their parents or carers. In practice, this involves health visitors in a wide range of public-health activities and liaison with social services, with a particular focus on vulnerable families, including safeguarding, parental mental health, and domestic abuse. They are a vital part of the maintenance of public health in this country.
Since 2015, however, there has been a 31-per-cent decline in the numbers of health visitors in the UK, despite an initiative by the Government to increase their numbers between 2011 and 2015. In Westminster Hall the week before last, there was a debate examing the current state of health visiting in the UK. The Public Health Minister, Jo Churchill MP, gave a positive response to the questions raised regarding the recruitment, training, affirmation, and funding of health visiting.
I would like to encourage local churches and church leaders to support the work of the health-visiting service by familiarisation with the current situation and the new proposals, by engagement with their MP on this matter, and by making links (where possible) with the team of health visitors in their area, who will usually be operating out of a health or children’s centre near by.
449 Rochester Way
London SE9 6PH
Experience of Labour’s leader and his approach
From the Revd David Haslam
Sir, — Your cavalier dismissal of the Leader of the Labour Party as “an ideologue masquerading as a pragmatist” may have matched neatly your description of Boris Johnson as a “pragmatist directed by ideologues”, but was unacceptably cynical (Leader comment, 1 November).
Having worked with Jeremy Corbyn in the past on a range of human-rights issues — the struggle against apartheid, opposing deportations of families with children born and brought up in the UK, raising awareness of caste discrimination in the Indian sub-continent, championing the rights of the Palestinian people — I know the values of the man. None of them were issues that a pragmatist would get involved in.
And, indeed, Mr Corbyn is ideologically a socialist, the first we have had as a leader of the Labour Party for some time. And the first Christian Socialists were Anglican — Charles Kingsley, F. D. Maurice, John Ruskin, and others — because they could see that the fairest way to organise society was socialism. R. H. Tawney also springs to mind.
In terms of my own Methodist denomination, we were integrally involved in founding the early trade-union movement, Joseph Arch and the Agricultural Workers Union, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the mineworkers, and in working-class education, like the Stockport Sunday Schools. If socialism is an ideology, its roots are deep in Judaeo-Christian thought and faith.
If readers take the time to study the policies now emerging from the Labour Party on poverty wages, social care, the climate crisis, taxing wealth, and reducing the need for foodbanks, they will find they too align with prophetic and gospel teaching: ideological, but also pragmatic, if you want a just society.
59 Burford Road
Evesham WR11 3AG
Survey assessing the Clergy Discipline Measure
From the Ven. Christopher Laurence
Sir, — I welcome the announcement that a new survey is to examine the effects of the Clergy Discipline Measure (News, 1 November), but regret that only clergy may take part. Surely the congregations involved should also be heard?
In our case at Lincoln Cathedral, where three senior members of staff have been placed in internal exile, we wish for better information about the process that has affected us so deeply. I wonder, for example, who the anonymous members of the core group that has responsibility for oversight are, and to whom that group is accountable.
I hope that the survey will also review the Measure in the light of Article 6 of the Human Rights Act, which provides for “a fair hearing within a reasonable time”. The lengths of time which respondents apparently have to endure in suspense seem to me not just unreasonable, but unconscionable.
5 Haffenden Road
Lincoln LN2 1RP
Christian Syrians and Home Office policy
From Susan Patterson
Sir, — I was surprised to read that Lord Carey intends to obtain a judicial review of an “effective Home Office bar” on accepting Christian Syrians under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (News, 1 November). There are small numbers of Syrian Christians accepted for resettlement in the UK, but correlation does not equal causation.
I have looked at the Home Office asylum and resettlement data sets, which give no information about religion. I can find no Freedom of Information requests on the Home Office website about the religion of Syrians seeking to settle in the UK, and so am curious to know where he got his information from, and the veracity of it.
The Courts and Tribunals website says that a judicial review “is a type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body”. As he says that this is an “effective bar”, it is not clear what he actually seeks to have judicially reviewed.
With this in mind, I am left wondering what a man of Lord Carey’s stature and intellect hopes to achieve with this proposed action.
Migrants’ deaths highlight lack of human feeling
From Fay Wilson-Rudd
Sir, — Paul Vallely’s column “What if the 39 migrants had survived?” (Comment, 1 November), considering how differently the press might have reacted, touched a raw nerve with me.
Chatting to a couple of people after lunch on Sunday 27 October, I was shocked when one person said: “Of course it’s sad those people died in such awful circumstances, but at least we won’t have 39 more immigrants living off the State and taking our young people’s jobs.”
Stunned, I tried to explain that people would not take such drastic action if their living conditions were not so horrific, but my companions were not interested. I was left in despair that even the sympathy of some at this time showed scant regard for the plight of the living.
From time to time, we sing “Brother, sister, let me serve you, let me be as Christ to you”; we also proclaim “We are the Body of Christ.” How can these aspirations become a reality for all who call themselves Christian?
Devon EX10 8NW
Baby loss: other organisations that may advise
From Cllr Kate Smith
Sir, — The two pieces on baby loss (Faith and Features, 11 October) are a welcome and timely message that miscarriages, stillbirths, and neonatal deaths are a fact of life. I should like to thank the authors for their leadership experiences and honesty.
Maternity care has improved since the 19th century, but it is still true that grieving parents — and often the rest of the family, too — need sensitive support. The ideas for alternative Mothering Sunday and other liturgy are very good.
I missed two names in the lists of organisations offering information and support. One is the National Childbirth Trust, and the other is AIMS (the Association for Improvements in Maternity Services), of which I am a member.
Of these charities, the NCT is by far the larger, but both have materials that may be useful, at whichever stage the loss happens. (The NCT’s founder Prunella Briance, and the late great Sheila Kitzinger, who joined soon after in the 1960s, both had relevant experience.
With greater population mobility these days, we often don’t know about such early bereavements as we might have in the past, but a parent whose child has died does not stop being a parent.
Derbyshire DE4 5DH
What the Prayer Book Society (still) stands for
From Miss Prudence Dailey
Sir, — I’m afraid Mr Alan Bartley (Letters, 1 November) has got the wrong end of the stick about the Prayer Book Society.
The Society understands “the Book of Common Prayer” to mean the version of the Prayer Book which is authorised for use in the Church of England — namely, that of 1662. While the organisation spans an extremely wide breadth of churchmanship, and while it is undoubtedly true that some of its more Catholic members may personally prefer other versions, such as 1549 or 1928, the Trustees have always been quite clear that these versions do not formally fall within the objects of the Prayer Book Society.
The Society simplified the wording of its charitable objects in 2012 because the old objects (of which Mr Bartley quotes only a small portion) were considered to be excessively long, and were not a fully accurate reflection of the Society’s activities. This clarification of the objects was not intended to signal any change in the aims or purposes of the Prayer Book Society, as was clearly recognised when the amendment to the wording was approved unanimously at the annual general meeting, following consultation with the membership.
The Prayer Book Society
The Studio, Copyhold Farm
Goring Heath, Reading
Berkshire RG8 7RT