We spoke to David Bishop about his new role, the challenges that children face, and what we can do to help.
You were commissioned as Diocesan President of the Children’s Society for Liverpool in the Cathedral recently – how did that feel?
The Commissioning service was one of those special moments when everything seemed just right. Sometimes these occasions are not ones you can enjoy but this felt really special and a ‘God moment’ . It was great to feel the support of family, friends and other supporters.
What is your role?
I have been a speaker for The Children’s Society which involves giving talks at Churches or any other organisations that invite me - raising the profile of The Society and encouraging fund raising. As President I will be taking more responsibility, networking with organisations and other agencies, including Councils, to get their support.
Why do you feel God is calling you to this role? How do you feel to be taking this on?
I am convinced God has been calling me to lots of roles not only in my local church, but as Lay Chair of Liverpool South Deanery. I had always been a supporter of The Children’s Society and I was listening to a talk about The Society which asked for volunteer speakers. I felt this nudge and I found myself saying ‘I can do that’. I find it easy to talk about their work as I have become more passionate about it as I get more involved.
What challenges do you face, what are your priorities?
Much of the Society’s campaign work challenges the injustices for children across the country. My main focus at the moment is with the ‘Make Runaways Safe’ campaign. There are over 100,000 runaways each year in England. That’s 1 every 5 minutes! Usually these are teenagers, but we are seeing younger and younger children now wanting to get away from often abusive situations. Some as young as 8. I often ask people to imagine if they had runaway at age eight. What would you do to survive? Where would you go? These children are in very dangerous situations open to exploitation.
We hear stories in the media of what’s happened in areas such as Oxford and Blackburn etc but these are only the tip of the iceberg. The Children’s Society provides specialists who work with the children and where possible, trying to resolve the problems with their families. We are trying to get all local authorities to provide a ‘safe haven’ for when they are ‘picked up’ on the streets by the Police and work with Social Services.
Is the society still relevant today?
Our strapline is ‘A better childhood for every child’. Over the years the work of The Children's Society has changed as society itself has changed. For instance we no longer provide Children’s Homes as in the past. What has stayed constant are the founder's Christian and child-centred values and intentions, which still inform our work today.
We run projects supporting children and parents in ‘difficult’ situations.The nearest one is in Warrington, where a huge amount of work goes on with young children and parents, often teaching basic parenting skills, and supporting them in what can be abusive relationships.
Our campaign work has had some success recently with our Fair and Square Campaign about providing free school meals for children of families living below the Poverty line. The Government recently announced that it would be providing this for all children in the first 3 years of Primary school. This is a great start but we are still campaigning to provide this for the half a million children in poverty not getting free meals.
We are also launching a new Commission in Childhood Poverty at the House of Commons at the end of October. This will involve young people themselves, chosen by our project workers, to find out at first hand the effects of living in poverty.
What should individuals and churches be doing?
‘We want to comfort the challenged and challenge the comfortable’ is a quote from our Chief Executive Matthew Reed.
Prayer is the first priority but spreading the word and fund raising are vital. We rely on voluntary donations and the support from parishes and Christingle services are tremendous. There is a whole list of fund raising activities which I am happy to share with anyone. I am also very happy to respond to requests for a talk.
You’re organising a Christingle service in the Cathedral – tell us about it?
The Cathedral hasn’t had a Christingle for many years and so I thought it would be a good idea to do it again. Dean Pete has been very supportive and encouraged us to try something different. We don’t want to conflict with any Christingle services in schools or parishes, so we are having a Workshop day on Thursday 30 January, to which we have invited children from church primary schools. This will culminate in a Christingle service in the early afternoon at which everyone is welcome.
We want the workshops to be a time of fun activities which will also promote the work of The Children’s Society.
If anyone would like to attend our Christingle service on the afternoon of Thursday 30th January then please do get in touch for more information as we would be delighted to see you there.
Thursday 30th January 2014
More details to follow