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Bishop of Norwich decries poor investment in former industrial communities

15 March 2024


Tees Transporter Bridge, in Middlesbrough

Tees Transporter Bridge, in Middlesbrough

THE decades-long failure to invest in former industrial communities “is a form of discrimination” that must be put right, the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, has said.

Bishop Usher spoke in the House of Lords on Thursday of last week during a debate about the regeneration of industrial areas.

He spoke about his experience as Vicar of Holy Trinity, North Ormesby, in Middlesbrough, where he “learned about poverty and the impact of damp houses, as well as about health inequalities that meant that, if you lived six miles away, on average you lived another decade”. The church had been “at the centre” of the community’s “long-term regeneration”, he said — but he also learned that regeneration was “complex” and took time.

“However, none of that is a substitute for investment — for money — which both signals our priorities as a society and makes up for chronic under-investment over time. We see that money can be found for some parts of the country, but often not for the north, the south-west, the coastal towns that I serve in Norfolk, or our poorest communities. Levelling-up is about valuing the flourishing of all people, made in the image of God, valued in God’s sight, and created for a purpose.”

He said that “the decades-long failure to invest in our former industrial communities is a form of discrimination that we must commit to putting right together, across government and this House.”

On the same day, the Archbishop of York asked Lord Douglas-Miller, a junior minister at the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, what steps the Government was taking to improve access to green spaces, which brought physical and mental-health benefits. “It is estimated that ten million people in this country may not have ready access to green space,” the Archbishop said. “What steps are being taken to address this?”

The minister said that the Government was “committed to everybody being within a 15-minute walk of a green or blue space”.

Speaking in the Lords on International Women’s Day, last Friday, the Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, drew attention to the plight of unpaid carers, most of whom were women. “Research carried out last year by the Trades Union Congress found that women are seven times more likely to be out of work than men, owing to caring commitments — approximately 1.46 million women compared to about 230,000 men. In addition, Carers UK has found that 59 per cent of people caring for someone with a disability are women.”

He called for the Government to implement the “new deal for carers” proposed by the Archbishops’ Reimagining Care Commission (News, 27 January 2023). This new deal would include restorative breaks, increased financial support, and more proactive advice, he said.

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