‘Reimagining Care’

Author: Alex Drew

Following the publication of the Archbishops’ Commission on Reimagining Care, Faith in Later Life trustees respond:

Andrew Wileman, Deputy Director of the Salvation Army’s Older People’s Ministries and a trustee of Faith in Later Life released this statement:

“Having been part of the journey over the last 18 months, Faith in Later Life is delighted to welcome the findings and recommendations of the Reimagining Care Commission. I am  grateful to both Archbishops for calling for this work to be done. Archbishop Stephen spoke about how this commission needed a prophetic edge and we believe this report speaks to why a broken social care system needs fixing and reimagining.

I particularly welcome the call for a rethinking of attitudes and systems relating to social care, and for churches and faith communities to be resourced at a local level as community hubs to provide appropriate care and signposting. Throughout the UK, Faith in Later Life has a network of Church Champions who support and champion the work of older people. We acknowledge there is work to be done to break down barriers in how older and disabled people are viewed in both the church and wider society. Nonetheless, we are committed to playing our part in seeing social care reimagined so that all in society are welcomed and affirmed.”

Stephen Hammersley, Chair of Trustees, writes:

“We welcome this report. Our experience shows that reimagining care from a Biblical perspective is prophetic, practical and could be powerfully transformative.

It is prophetic as it takes as a start point the value of each person made in the image of God, precious whatever their frailty and with things to offer often because of their frailty.   And it sees the responsibility for valuing frail older people as a whole community responsibility that the church can lead on as we love our (older) neighbours as ourselves in response to God’s love for us.

Wider society acknowledges this moral start point but often sets it aside as other priorities crowd in when policies are framed and crises are addressed often with perverse consequence.  But perhaps the key question that follows is whether or not the church taking a moral lead matters practically?  The experience of our charity is that it could make a profound and powerfully transformational difference.

To illustrate, just over 50 years ago a group of Christians from churches in Chippenham were inspired to think along the lines of the Reimagining Care Commission and fired by biblical conviction; prayer; and enthusiasm they banded together to create a home and housing scheme for elderly Christians.  Building on this work, today the people of Chippenham are served by a brand new care home built around the principles espoused by the Commission.  Older people whatever their frailty live together with their carers as family contributing meaningfully to their life together.   Community facilities and resources encourage and support churches caring in the community.  Its not impossible to see this being transformational for Chippenham, with no older person left alone at home without the opportunity of making friends through a church or charity based initiative and no-one dying alone without having heard the good news of the gospel.  And all of this has come from Christian people inspired by the Holy Spirit reimagining care for their town and mobilising resources that the state could never unlock.

And the same is true to a greater or lesser extent for at least a hundred towns across the country where we know of Christian people who have acted similarly.

But most care for older adults doesn’t touch care homes, and as a result the organisation I lead, Pilgrim Friend’s Society, co-founded Faith in Later Life alongside fellow Christian charities KeyChange; The Salvation Amy and London City Mission.

And we are not alone: Linking Lives; Anna Chaplaincies; Parish Nursing; the hospice movement; and many others demonstrate the potential power of people persuaded to act by the kind of thinking the Archbishop’s Commission is sharing.

And the reality of their experience and ours is that when churches value people and their carers as described by the Commission and when they step out in faith they end up unlocking emotional; spiritual and material resources that were latent or underutilised and that can be transformational as people are touched one by one.

And this is what the country needs: national policies shaped by Biblical values augmented by community led action inspired by churches reaching in out in love to their neighbours.”