Cohesion and faith

Community cohesion action plan

In response to the 10-month review by the Commission on Integration and Cohesion, Communities Secretary Hazel Blears has announced a ten-point action which includes a £50 million investment over the next three years to promote community cohesion and support local authorities in preventing and managing community tensions (an increase of £2 million in 07/08). The funds are to be spent by local councils responding to local challenges in various ways including through community based projects, youth projects and volunteering. The action-plan also calls for a new inter-faith strategy.Lolita moviesThe Shaggy Dog trailer

More updates on Government changes

DEPARTMENT FOR CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES – Gordon Brown has given a clear signal that supporting young people is his top priority as Prime Minister and has said “Children and families are the bedrock of our society. The Government’s aim is to ensure that every child gets the best possible start in life, receiving the ongoing support and protection that they – and their families – need to allow them to fulfill their potential.â€?. The appointments are as follows: Ed Balls – secretary of state; Beverley Hughes – minister for children and youth justice (will also attend Cabinet); Kevin Brennan – parliamentary under secretary of state (youth minister); and Lord Adonis – parliamentary under secretary of state

DCSF will have the following responsibilities:
• To coordinate and lead work across government on youth and family policy.
• Pre-19 education policy responsibilities, from the DfES.
• To work with the new Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills to ensure delivery of the 14-19 reforms. Funding for 16-19 education will in future go to schools and colleges via the local authority education budget.
• To raise school standards.
• It will assume responsibility for promoting the well-being, safety, protection and care of all young people – including through policy responsibility for children’s social services.
• It will be responsible for leading the strategy on family policy – including parenting.
• To work with the Department for Work and Pensions and HM Treasury to take forward the government’s strategy for ending child poverty.
• It will be responsible, together with the Department of Health, for promoting the health of children and young people, including measures to tackle key health problems such as obesity, as well as the promotion of youth sport with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
• It will lead on youth issues. This will include working with the Home Office and the DH on tackling drug use and with the Department for Communities and Local Government on youth homelessness and supported housing.
• It will be responsible for promoting the wider contribution of young people to their communities.
• It will assume responsibility for the Respect agenda.
• It will lead a new emphasis on the prevention of youth offending, through joint responsibility with the Ministry of Justice for policy and funding of the Youth Justice Board.
Within the DCSF there is a new dedicated Directorate for Young People, to co-ordinate all youth policy across Whitehall. Under the old DfES, young people’s issues were clumped together with children and families in a single directorate. The three new Directorates are: Children and Families led by Tom Jeffery; Schools led by Ralph Tabberer; and Young People led by Lesley Longstone as Interim Director General.

The Young People’s Directorate will be responsible for:
• Policy and Strategy on the reforms of the 14-19 curriculum and provision
• Funding for all 16-19 provision through Further Education Colleges, Work-Based Learning routes, School Sixth Forms and Sixth Form Colleges
• Sponsorship of schools sixth forms and sixth form colleges
• Budgets and activities to support quality improvement, higher standards, capacity building and infrastructure development in the 14-19 sector
• 14-19 workforce development
• 16-19 joint capital fund
• Young people
• Children in care (Care Matters)

NEW POLICY INITIATIVES – The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls has unveiled his vision for his new Department. He plans to bring together all aspects of policy affecting children and young people, consulting experts, professionals and children and parents to draw up a new Children’s Plan to set the direction for the department for the next ten years to ensure that every child has the opportunities and support they need to be happy and successful. Three working groups will look at education and other services for children and young people – one for 0-7 year olds, one for 8-13 year olds and another for 14-19 year olds. The working groups will be chaired by members of the National Council for Educational Excellence (NCEE) to ensure a fully joined up approach. The consultation will report in October. Other key measures announced include a £265 million extended schools subsidy over the next three years to ensure that children from disadvantaged backgrounds benefit from extra out-of-hours tuition and after-school clubs in sport, music and drama. There are also plans for ‘a good youth centre in every neighbourhood, started up with £150m taken from defunct bank accounts.’ He has also said that there will be a £456 million investment over the next three years to continue the Children’s Fund and support schools in working with mental health experts. HERE

Wall Street divx Rascal divx

and HERE
Thanks to CVYS for this update

New departments

As a youth worker I feel I should cope with change better than this. But this the sort change that I hate as I have to relearn where everything fits

The Government has announced the restructuring of its departments including the formation of a new Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR). The Department for Education and Skills, the Department of Trade and Industry and the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office will be disbanded.

New Ministerial team at DCSF
The new Department for Children, Schools and Families will be headed up by Rt Hon Ed Balls MP, former Economic Secretary to the Treasury.
The full listing of DCSF ministers can be found Here

New Third Sector Minister

The new Minister for the Third Sector is Phil Hope MP, formerly the Minister for Skills at the former Department for Education and Skills. The minister has held previous positions in the National Youth Bureau and as a youth policy advisor to NCVO before entering Parliament. He has also previously chaired the all party parliamentary group for the voluntary sector.

The full list of new Cabinet appointments can be found hereThe Brothers Bloom


The Commission on the future of Volunteering is holding a range of events exploring volunteering and the future of volunteering in the UK. As the faith communities make up a large part of the volunteer workforce it ay be good to give some input. Check out the website for more info but some of the events planned are below

– There will be 18 regional events (two in each region)
– There will be an event on crime and criminal justice in Manchester on 14th May (PM session)
– There will be an event on volunteering and public service delivery in London on 27th April (AM session)
To register for any of the above, please visit Flyer attached to this email for more info.

The Commission would also like you to complete the evidence forms answering: What do you think is happening to volunteering now? What do you think should be happening to volunteering in ten years’ time? (Evidence forms are attached or can be completed online –

Physical Violence and Mental Coercion: What is Pacifism?

As someone with pacifist tendencies I’m asking myself “is physical violence different to other forms of coercion”?

Physical violence, or the threat of it (usually a combination of both), is often used as a way of control – getting someone to do what you want them to do. However, there are many other forms of coercive control, for example, withholding of privileges, refusal to trade, lending, mental torture, etc., etc.

In an escalation of attempts to control, physical violence is the ultimate weapon as it is physical violence which can control physical outcomes which are usually the purpose of coercion. Whilst the withholding of privileges may not force someone to do something, physical violence can. If we look at society and culture we see that physical violence is used when other forms of coercion are inadequate – hence the ultimate fallback of war.

Physical violence is often the last resort after other attempts at control have been tried. However, this isn’t always the case, sometimes physical force or violence is a first choice for some.

So are my pacifist tendencies to do with exercising non-violence or are they to do with choosing not to control?

Well, personally speaking, I’m not sure that there is much to separate violent from non violent coercion. The physical pain of violence isn’t necessarily much different to the mental factors we apply during other forms of coercion. In fact, as a child I often preferred physical punishment (bear in mind that this is within limits, within a loving relationship and with many other positive factors) to other forms of punishment – particularly ones that were more drawn out. Really my preference of punishment was simply a cost benefit analysis of what was available, with physical punishment, where pain was experienced, being a valid alternative to other punishments.

If we look at punishments of different societies, or through history, we see a correlation between increased civilisation (as we define it) and reduced physically violent punishments. Many societies still practice physical punishments, whilst we have moved on to detention and removal of rights and privileges (admittedly backed by the force of violence – one cannot simply walk out of prison after all!).

Why is it that physical violence is seen as being worse than other forms of punishment and coercion?

I imagine that part of the reason is that the ultimate physical violence is killing, which is a rather permanent state of affairs for the recipient. Also, many other forms of physical violence are permanent and might be regretted after the fact, whereas there is always the idea that non-physical punishment is temporary and can be put behind one. However, many forms of physical violence are more temporary than many forms of non-physical coercion – what implications does that have?

Here we can read an argument about ‘what is coercion’, where Hayek believes it is wider than simply physical violence, but Rothbard saying that coercion is limited to violence.

After having had a look at this I tend to side more with Hayek, but I would go on to say that whether something is coercion or not must depend on the intent of the person who may be exercising control. I come to this conclusion by looking at trade: If I choose not to trade with someone (this refusal could be construed as coercion if you take the broad definition), I would say it is only coercion if I am doing it in an attempt to control the behaviour of that person. There may be other reasons for refusal to trade, for example I might consider the other person in the trade to have immorally acquired the thing that he wishes to trade – so I refuse to trade, not to try and get him to change his behaviour, but because I don’t want to get caught up in the problem. Hayek pointed out that, should a great artist refuse to paint a portrait of Hayek for Hayek then this is not coercion – I would have to conclude that it is the perceived motive that makes this act, by the artist, something that is not coercion.

So, my conclusion is that the pacifism I tend towards is not so much violence versus non-violence, but is rather a choice to avoid controlling others. My pacifism is actually, when I peel back the layers, a choice towards non-coercive behaviour on my part.

Personally I see little merit in drawing a line between violence and non-violence, but rather I see great merit in making a distinction between a motive to control and a choice to not control.

USA: The Religious Right and the Liberal Christian Left

I really don’t get it!

This week, Jim Wallis of Sojourners, is discussing politics with an ex-leader of the ‘Religious Right’ Ralph Reed. Jim seems disappointed that Ralph seems to prioritise working against legal abortion and homosexual marriage. Ralph claims that the ‘Conservative Coalition’ et al don’t just focus on those two issues but work on many (which is the ground that Jim wants to claim).

What I don’t get is why they both want to impose their moral views on the USA. They both think that the US needs moral guidance from the top and that it needs to be legislated for. It’s as if they want to usher in a Holy Kingdom of America.

Whilst a great set of laws does seem to create a lovely society to live in, I can’t get my head round the idea that we, as Christians want to impose our morality on people who don’t want it. I mean, it’s not like it makes people better at the level of their relationship with God. It might seem, from a human point of view, that it is a good thing, but the only good thing is to have a relationship with God and to do his will – that is the only good in our world, everything else is a cheap imitation that doesn’t really bring life at all.

Jesus lived in a country that was occupied by foreign forces. Did he bother himself with that? No, he knew that freedom wasn’t in the laws of the land, but could only be found in a relationship with God. Did he try to control people by imposing laws? No, he came to make the law (and indeed laws) obsolete – to bring God into our hearts. He worked from the bottom up, not the top down. He aligned himself with the downtrodden. Even when he did get to talk to the most powerful men in Israel, he didn’t try to get them to alter their laws, he stood quietly, a testimony to the new Kingdom that he was ushering in, a Kingdom that stood in contrast to their kingdom.

Have a look in the ‘Government’ category of this blog for more on this topic.

Reasons for Political Radicalisation of Christians

Reading “Faith and Politics After Christendom” by Jonathan Bartley I’m fascinated by the section where he gives different examples of the action of politically radicalised Christians. It seems common that, as our society ‘descends’ (?) into Post-Christendom and loses many of the laws and cultural norms brought about by Christianity’s involvement in government, Christians decide to take action and do something about it in the political sphere.

Bartley broadly categorises this into positive and negative responses:

  • Where Christians are shocked at moral loosening and wish to reintroduce stricter morals by regulation.
  • Where Christians see injustice and wish to encourage government to ‘do something about it’.

Now, I can see that these two categories do exist (and bear in mind that Barley points out that many people involved in these things will have a broad mix of motive that may include both categories), but I’m not sure that they are as different as they first appear.

Surely they both break down into these aspects:
People are being wronged (maybe they know they are [obvious injustice] or maybe they don’t know that they are [moral damage]) and some Christians, who are politically motivated, want to impose a solution on society (whether it is prohibitive law or ‘positive’ action by the state).

We must surely note that even the more ‘positive’ of these two categories does include the taking or diminishing of resources from some people (perhaps taxation) and applying those resources to people as the radicalised group sees fit. A bit of spin and the opportunity to tell people how wonderful this piece of justice is (justice that we as Christians are called to practice in our lives) can promote the action in a positive light, but we also must remember that it is reliant on the backbone of the law, reliant on the ability to control people with the ultimate resort to violence.

Now, if you don’t believe my last point then note this example: A man chooses not to pay his taxes. By law the people (the state) dictate that people pay their taxes. Does this man get to keep his freedom? No, he is put in prison. What stops him continuing to exercise his freedom? The fact that if he were to try to do so people would stop him. Ultimately society is able to restrain, and if necessary be violent against that person in order to force that person to either cooperate or to accept punishment.

So, in my mind, both these categories of radicalised action fall into the trap of trying to control others, rather than trying to be an example to others and trying to love others (without at the same time trying to control others). I don’t yet know what Bartley’s tack on this is, but I look forward to reading on!!!

Are Non-Christians Better at Government

I’ve just started reading the third book in the “Church after Christendom” series:
Faith and Politics After Christendom – The Church as a Movement for Anarchy
by Jonathan Bartley
Without doubt it will inspire me to a few posts over the next week or so, as I read it.

Anyway, to kick off, how about the suggestion that Christians don’t make good governors in this world…

We read in the Bible that God appoints all governments (Rom 13:1). Now to my mind there isn’t a government that doesn’t indulge in a little violence and control (after all, a govt that didn’t wouldn’t be a govt for long!). Bear in mind, this is at the request of the people – after all, if ‘we’ pay taxes, then we’re sure going to make sure that everyone else does too!

At this stage in my reading of the book we see the view (common in the early church) that we are not here to exercise control over people and see to it that criminals are punished.

I tend to agree with that broad perspective – which implies that non-Christians, with less concerns in this area, are very likely to make better governments in secular society.

You may have noticed this tendency in my thinking before

Extended Schools

There has been a lot of questions around extended schools, and the opportunities for the volunatry sector. It is one of those discussions that will have whole lot of issues either way. Mark sent me the following quote which raises some of the questions well.

“Not all of this is bad, it says, but the underlying ‘deal’ is
unhealthy. It solves the churches’ loss of identity and role by making
them surrogates for the government (with resulting clashes over human
rights and fairness) and it allows the government to ‘contract out’
welfare provision without addressing underlying questions of injustice
and the rich-poor divide.”

However my general feeling is that extended schools is the first part of a shifting culture towards more voluntary involvement and ownership. The pro’s and con’s of this are debatable but in all probabilty the shift will continue and extended schools is happening already. Therefore we need to consider the challange and recognise the responsibility. If the voluntary sector does not engage I could easily see private enterprise moving in. In the past the christian voluntary sector has been slow to respond and missed opportunities. There is a question about how we engage and promoting good youth work and christian values as part of engagement?

If you want more information on extended schools try a couple of these links:
Schools Training and Development website A good outline that takes you through all the key areas.
NYA Briefing Part of their series looking at various policies with helpful guidance for youth work organisations that what to position themselves for extended provision
Third Sector is short hand for a lot of the direction the government are heading, and their desire to see the voluntarty sector get on board. Check out here for a Speech by Phil Woolas MP to the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) on 22 June 2006 titled FRAMEWORK FOR STRENGTHENING THE THIRD SECTOR’S ROLE IN LOCAL PUBLIC SERVICE DELIVERY.

One response is here for a critque from the guardian