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Clergy families feel isolated and lonely, survey suggests  

17 February 2023

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A SIGNIFICANT proportion of clergy families suffer from isolation and loneliness, a new survey suggests.

A survey of 550 partners of Church of England clergy found that 44 per cent of the respondents reported experiencing “issues with isolation/making friends”, and 12 per cent said that they did not have anyone to contact if they had a problem.

‘So, sympathy but no tea, Vicar?’

Almost 30 per cent said that they would not seek help through the Church, and 11 per cent said that they wanted more support. Seventy-one per cent said that they would turn to friends for help; 19 per cent would approach an archdeacon; and 15 per cent a bishop.

The Clergy Family Network (CFN) commissioned the research in 2021, after a Crowdfunding appeal, to gain “a true picture of life in the clergy household and the unique challenges we face”, and to provide appropriate support.

“Once we know the big picture, we can set up our registered charity and be sure that our work is the best support it can be to clergy households,” a statement on the CFN website says.

Other issues reported included difficulties in creating time off (referred to by 43 per cent) and managing the expectations of the clergy partner (35 per cent); housing challenges (32 per cent); and difficulties with personal circumstances (29 per cent).

Thirty-one per cent of respondents reported the impact of vicarage life on their children: specifically, parenting in a clergy context (28.5 per cent); the current church not meeting family needs (25 per cent); and the need to move frequently (24 per cent).

Twenty-four per cent of respondents reported “not being heard by the diocese”; and 16 per cent mentioned issues over money.

To the question “How do you like being a clergy spouse?”, respondents gave an average score of 6.7 out of 10.

“There is clear evidence that clergy families have unique needs to be met,” the report concludes. “We want others to join us in supporting clergy families, including the Church of England at a national and diocesan level.”

The CFN lists organisations that already provide support in this area, including Sheldon and Broken Rites.

The organisers have also published pledges: to become a national charity, available to all clergy partners, children, and household members; to communicate directly with partners, especially at times of transition; to provide online information and signposting; to build and share a picture of the pre-existing support; to encourage the setting-up of specialist support; and to provide information and support to anyone setting up a local support group.

clergyfamilynetwork.co.uk

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