Sunday, 16 December 2018

Churches together in Henley

THE latest meeting of our forum was held at the d:two centre on January 24 and was well attended.

The main item was a talk by visiting speaker Jane Penson, of the Children’s Society.

Jane is a volunteer ambassador for the society and spoke about its work with 10- to 18-year-olds. The charity’s vision is to have a country where children are free from disadvantage.

It has a strong foundation in the Church of England but helps all, regardless of faith.

It is estimated that there are 3.9 million children in poverty in England and that 100,000 teenagers run away from home every year.

Many of them return but they are very vulnerable to exploitation.

Other groups helped by the society are unaccompanied child refugees, of which there are an unknown number, and young carers, 166,000 of whom are registered but it is thought there are many more.

In terms of resources, the society has an annual income of £43million, of which £23million comes in the form of donations and legacies. Eighty per cent of the income is spent directly on project work.

The society is also involved in research, e.g. into the effects of debt on mental health in teenagers and in lobbying for change. As well as employed staff, it has 9,500 volunteers.

Jane then described how the charity had helped a young carer and showed a short film about the effects of debt on families.

She also mentioned some of the society’s publications, Hidden From View (an example of its lobbying work), Breathing Space Campaign to freeze debts and Seriously Awkward, lobbying to change the law for 16- and 17-year-olds who can be victims of exploitation in that they are not yet adults and yet are legally allowed to consent to sex.

Jane asked for the support of the churches to:

l Provide more support for the Regatta Café, which runs each year in the Chantry House during the Regatta, raising thousands of pounds.

lSupport the society through the collection box scheme.

l Identify more contacts in this area.

Jill Edwards reiterated the appeal for more help in the café on behalf of Brian and Liz Brent.

After questions, Jane was warmly thanked for her talk. As always, more information can be obtained online.

The next meeting of the Churches Together in Henley forum will be held at Holy Trinity Church on Tuesday, May 9 and will include the annual meeting.

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