*Article first published in NetworkNorwich.co.uk (11/11/2020)
As we go through a second lockdown, Marie Reavey, National Chair of the Christian Police Association, calls on churches to focus their efforts on the most disadvantaged young people.
It is clear that the needs within our communities are going to significantly increase over the coming months. Covid-19 has undoubtedly widened the inequalities in our society.
The Church, along with many charitable organisations, has stepped up across our county to meet some of the needs that have been obvious during the pandemic. For example, it has delivered food and prescriptions to those in need and provided telephone support services.
We have, however, experienced only part of the impact which Covid-19 is going to have. There is much more to come. Recession is going to hit, the furlough scheme will come to an end, and more will people will lose their jobs as the country goes through lockdown again.
Many who have been battling addictions have relapsed, and sadly many have committed suicide or overdosed. I personally know of at least three people who have died in this way as a result of lockdown and I have friends who know many more. The impact of Covid-19 is going to increase and we are likely to see a continued rise in the needs within our communities.
I have been studying data produced by Kooth. This is an online counselling service which the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust recently commissioned to produce a report on 11 to 25-year-olds. It shows that in the East of England there has been a marked rise in concerns about domestic abuse, child abuse, eating disorders and struggles with body image. Nationally we have seen the greatest increase in those reporting feelings of sadness and anxiety about returning to school or college and young people with autism or Asperger’s syndrome seeking support.
Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is the term used to describe traumatic experiences before the ages of 18 years that can lead to negative, lifelong emotional and physical impact. These include: physical, emotional and sexual abuse, physical and emotional neglect, household dysfunction such as mental illness, having an incarcerated relative, domestic and substance abuse and divorce.
There is a significant amount or research and evidence now which shows the importance of preventative work and early intervention. It can help to stop the damage caused by ACEs and break the cycle of deprivation and disadvantage.
Research shows that compared with people with no ACE’s those who experiences four or more ACEs are:
6 times more likely to smoke e-cigarettes or tobaccos
6 times more likely to have sex under the age of 16 years
11 times more likely to have smoked cannabis
14 times more likely to have been a victim of violence in the last 12 months
15 times more likely to have committed violence against another in the last 12 months
16 times more likely to have used crack cocaine or heroin
20 times more likely to have been incarcerated at some point in their lifetime
I could go on. Here is a link to a useful YouTube video about ACEs youtu.be/XHgLYI9KZ-A and there is much more information available via an internet search.
Throughout scripture we see that God loves justice. He hates oppression and inequality. The Church is in a fantastic position to support families and help to prevent ACE’s, thereby reducing the impact they will have on future generations.
Families do not only need food. There is a great need for long term support and guidance. Churches can provide this through parenting courses, marriage courses, mentoring, being trauma aware, and offering counselling and other services that enable young people to flourish.
There are many organisations out there that support and assist churches in these kinds of initiatives, and they have some fantastic webinars and training. Transforming Lives for Good www.tlg.org.uk, Care for the Family www.careforthefamily.org.uk, and Kids Matter www.kidsmatter.org.uk are just three of them.
The multiple deprivation which exists in some areas impacts generation upon generation. It makes the most vulnerable and disadvantaged even more vulnerable and disadvantaged.
As churches are restarting or reconsidering what social action to be involved in, I want to encourage them to connect with local Early Help Hubs. These can help to find out what the needs are, where the most disadvantaged people are, and how to concentrate efforts in those areas.
Our time and efforts need to be focussed on the areas with the greatest vulnerabilities and risks. We need to develop interventions to mitigate harm, damage and exposure to ACE’s. Working in partnership, strategically with other organisations, we can help to change the future of many who would likely end up incarcerated and or addicted to drugs.
Let’s together “learn to do good, to seek justice and correct oppression.” (Isaiah1:17)
Other useful resources available in the Faith Communities Guide to Engaging with Police which can be downloaded at www.faithandpolicetogether.org.uk
Pictured above is Marie Reavey