The visit this weekend of the leader of the Church of England to Gloucestershire seems to us to be an appropriate time to sound something of a wake-up call to our county about the inclusiveness of our communities, writes Ian Mean, editor of Gloucester's daily newspaper The Citizen.
Are we actually doing enough for those people on the margins of our society here?
This is a challenge thrown down by our Lord Lieutenant, Dame Janet Trotter, since she came to office and seemed to be very much picked by by Dr Rowan Williams during his visit.
During the lovely service on Friday evening to honour St Alphege of Deerhurst at the Priory Church of St Mary there, Dr Williams put emphasis on how communities need to support each other.
Five years to the day when we experienced the devastating floods, those words were pertinent and timely.
And on Saturday when he addressed the Bishop’s Breakfast group at the new All Saints’ Academy in Cheltenham, he asked a leading question : “Who have we forgotten?
And he added: “Whose priorities are not on the list?”
The Archbishop asked how we can build really constructive relationships between education and business.
In The Citizen’s view, and indeed the view of all the businesses we talk to in the county, this is a key challenge. One that needs urgent action.
To add weight to the Archbishop’s point, one of the county’s senior businessmen, John Thurston, chairman of the Watts Group, told the Bishop’s Breakfast meeting that the number of 18-24 year olds unemployed in the county had now reached 1090.
Cleverly, he made the comparison of that figure of unemployed with the date that Bishop Serlo started the building of our magnificent Gloucester Cathedral—1090.
And John Thurston worryingly gave us the number of NEETS in the county(young people Not in Education, Employment or Training).There are now 635 16-18 year olds in this category, which he said will undoubtedly increase in the autumn.
A major challenge we must meet—not pussyfoot around with a whole plethora of groups supposedly helping our young people into employment.
The Archbishop , who talks regularly to business in the City, said: ”We have lost the sense of business as a public service”.
He is right .Far too many businesses pay too little attention to the communities from which they derive their business or employ their staff.
Increasingly, we believe—as in the case of the All Saints Academy—there is the opportunity for the Church of England—indeed all churches—to become involved in their communities as what Dr Williams called “trusted brokers”.
We believe the church has a real role as brokers to get people in our communities round the table to prioritise together.
One of those key priorities is the health and wellbeing of some 44 000 people living in neighbourhoods in this affluent county of ours which would actually rank in the worst 20% nationally.
Shocking, isn’t it? That’s about 7% of the county’s population in these areas.
Shameful and shocking. Perhaps it takes the visit of the leader of the Church of England to make us think that enough is enough and actually do something about it in this Olympic year?
PUBLICATION: South West Business - 23 July 2012