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Clergy Support Trust expands mental-health provision under new strategy

09 September 2022

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THE Clergy Support Trust has promised to expand its mental-health support for clergy and their families as part of its new strategy, launched last week.

New caseworkers will be appointed and a programme of training resources for dioceses and theological colleges created alongside online resources for clergy households. The existing grants and services programme is also to be expanded.

In 2021, the trust helped more than 5000 people, including clergy children and separated partners — more than any previous year on record. It also processed and approved 3534 grants, up 45 per cent on 2020. Between 2020 and 2021, the biggest proportional increase was in well-being grants, which made up more than one third (36 per cent) of its annual spending, which also reflected an increased demand for talking therapies.

Esther (not her real name) was at crisis point. But when she saw a domestic-abuse poster in the lavatories of the church in which she was a non-stipendiary assistant priest, she could not call the helpline, because it was a church number.

“I believed it would get back to my husband, that it would get back to my bishop. . . When I tried to talk to my Rector about the crisis I was in, his response was: ‘Oh, I really like your husband. He should come to church more.’

“I felt like I was shouting through soundproof glass. . . The church was scared of messy authenticity, and they didn’t know how to cope with it.”

She later became a paid hospital chaplain during the pandemic. The “painful” and “brutal” experience led to burnout, she said, and she was on the point of breakdown. “I reached out to the Church again — this time to my archdeacon — and, finally, I was heard. They offered me emergency housing and told me to call Clergy Support Trust. . . I am now working elsewhere and thriving.”

The trust’s chief executive, the Revd Ben Cahill-Nicholls, said: “We are seeing ever-increasing numbers of applications, and I am fortunate to lead an exceptional team of people working hard to meet that need. We exist purely to support clergy and their families; everything in our new strategy is focused on doing that in new ways, and in direct response to the stories and ideas our applicants share with us.

“We will continue to work impartially, inclusively, and confidentially to serve those who serve others, so they can thrive in their own ministry and lives.”

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