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Posts Tagged ‘local government’

Do come in, but perhaps you won't find what you're expecting...

Not everyone knows the real answer to this question. And sometimes it’s tempting for us to do something worthy but low down on our priority list in order to help people who think the church is really a sort of extension of social services.

That was my temptation earlier today, when local social services telephoned us. The lady calling didn’t introduce herself, but asked if we had a room available for a parent to have contact with their children. They needed two hours, twice a week. I answered that our church hall was available to hire if they were looking for space.

But that wasn’t what this lady wanted. She was after space that was free. Or was there somewhere else? Perhaps the Vicarage? ‘Because churches want to support families staying together.’

Well, obviously, that is something the church wants to support. But we are a small congregation in a deprived area. So we can’t afford to let people use our rooms for free. And you all know that the Vicarage already has plenty of people in need passing through its doors. And, when we consider what we’re really about, our mission is not social service, to keep families together (for example), just because that is a good thing. Our mission is to help bring people out of the dominion of darkness and into the kingdom of the Son. And stronger families are a result of that, not an end in itself. We need to keep the main thing the main thing, otherwise we could spend all our time in worthy, but ultimately fruitless, activities.

I was interested that they thought the church would help (which we might have been able to do I guess, if we were a wealthier church with a church hall that was open anyway). There is still a perception that churches care about people and their troubles. I can’t imagine Richard Dawkins gets many calls asking him to make his living room available for use by families in crisis.

Incidentally, I wonder if this is part of a new plan for councils to reduce their spending? Perhaps they are looking to the church to provide free facilities for all their other activities as well. Will we be getting a call from their finance department asking if we’ve got space for a few of their accountants? Is this an initiative that Grant Shapps has launched?

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ISA logo

More bureaucracy to hamper volunteering?

You might remember that a couple of weeks ago I had a little rant about CRB forms. A local journalist picked it up and made a bit of a news item of it. Comments were made on the Express and Star article and on the blog – it seems to be an issue that affects many people.

Since my rant I’ve been off to Sandwell Council to fill in my form and have a mini interview where they viewed all my documents. It’s a good thing I took my marriage certificate, cos since I’d retained my maiden name as a middle name they wanted a copy of that too. I’m still waiting for the disclosure to come through. According to the lady at the council, neither the school nor the council pays for my form since I’m a volunteer. I’d like to know how the agency is funded then – it has to be the taxpayer in the end.

From that interview, and from blog comments, I understand that the really important part of a CRB form is not the disclosure you get given yourself, but the ‘soft information’ sent to the applying organisation. But I can’t see why the applying organisation couldn’t see a previous disclosure and then have a system where the CRB takes the number of that form and gives the soft information to the new organisation.

And it seems that the new Independent Safeguarding Authority‘s Vetting and Barring scheme will merely add an additional layer of bureaucracy, not simplify the system. The CRB’s website makes it clear that

…the ISA will prevent unsuitable people from working with children and vulnerable adults The CRB will continue to support employers, through CRB checks by providing them with access to an individual’s full criminal record and other information so that they can asses that individual’s suitability for a particular post or position

So now people who volunteer or work in different organisations will have to have both a fistful of CRB disclosures and an ISA clearance. Joy. At least the ISA are able to make their check transferable. Why not the CRB? This seems to be a case of a total lack of joined up government or maybe it’s just a job creation scheme.

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Happy is our new lodger. He’s also the Vicar’s new apprentice (aka the ministry trainee). Yesterday he went to a training event about our area. It was laid on by diocesan missioners with input from speakers from the local council and other taxpayer funded bodies.

We live in Sandwell, one of the most deprived boroughs in the country. Happy came back with lots of bumf and today I thought I’d just share a few choice statistics on our area:

  • 8% of people in our borough are on Jobseekers Allowance – twice the national average.
  • House prices round here are below the national average by 35%.
  • There is not a single bookshop in the borough (though this does not include the W H Smith in our high street – I guess they mean independent booksellers or Waterstones and the like).
  • There is no cinema in the borough.
  • Most of the famous people from the area appear to be comedians (although the folk at the session kept on talking about Bishop Asbury, who neither Happy nor we had heard of before, but Wikipedia has enlightened me).
This place needs Jesus

Where we are

Happy came back with a lovely poster with photos of all the local councillors, including the three who represent the ward we live in. Sadly, when I contacted them by email more than a fortnight ago to ask about an issue that has been bugging me for a while, I received no acknowledgement and no reply. And not a single councillor showed up to a controversial meeting about a new local housing development last night. So I don’t think I’ll be putting the poster up any time soon.

But if you would like to start a business with an eager workforce, or commute to Birmingham City Centre in 15 minutes, you like to laugh a lot, you’re happy to use a library or The Book Depository for reading matter, you don’t mind watching your films on dvd a little after release, you want to buy a cheap house and get involved a local church which wants to make a difference, this is the place to be.

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