C of E bishop formally rebuked for racial stereotyping

Former Bishop Mike Hill was the first bishop to admit racial stereotyping in the Church of England and to face a disciplinary measure by consent.

The Church’s investigation followed an exclusive article in the Guardian reporting that, Bishop Hill, who ran the diocese in Bristol wrote a letter to a fellow clergyman in July 2016 and said there were “cultural differences” with the way people like Reverend Alwyn Pereira from the Indian subcontinent handle issues of truth and clarity.

Right Reverend Mike Hill wrote to the Archbishop of York who was the investigating officer and said: “I am content to admit, on reflection, that my injudicious and foolish comment in my generally very supportive reference to Dan Tyndall dated 5th July 2016 is conduct that is unbecoming from someone in my position.

“It certainly was a clear and obvious error. I inadvertently, used a form of racial stereotyping which I understand to be unacceptable.”

Bishop Mike Hill resisted several appointments of Reverend Alwyn Pereira to parishes in the diocese of Bristol over a period of years when he was Bishop of Bristol. He was serving in his retirement as Honorary Bishop of Bath and Wells until the Guardian investigation last summer. In December, Reverend Pereira received a written apology from the former bishop.

Right Reverend Mike Hill stepped back from all public duties in June pending an investigation into racism. He was formally rebuked on Thursday 28 January 2021, and has been ordered to attend unconscious bias training before he will be granted permission to officiate in the Church of England again.

Ms Vivienne Faull who is currently the Bishop of Bristol said: “Racial stereotyping is serious, whether intentional or not. It causes upset, harm and undermines what we are trying to do as a Church.

“The Church of England is determined to address institutional racism and I have set out my commitments for the Diocese of Bristol. This instance underlines how important these commitments are. There is a lot of work to do, we have made a start, and I remain relentless in my dedication to bringing about change.”

Last October the Church of England announced a racial taskforce to prepare for a Racial Justice Commission. Bristol diocese has appointed a Bishop’s Racial Justice Advisor and a Minority Ethnic Vocations champion.

But the commission must have the ability to sanction racist clergy or refer them to the Clergy Discipline Commission and make reparation in order to stamp out racism effectively. Without the ability to impose sanctions or make reparations, Reverend Pereira says the commission will have no teeth.

bishop

Reverend Pereira said: “This is historic, a watershed, it’s the first time that a senior cleric in the Church of England has been rebuked for racism. Earlier in 2020, the Church acknowledged that, as an institution, it had a problem with racism.

“On the one hand I feel vindicated, having pursued this case at great cost to myself and my family but on the other hand I am concerned for my church that the level of systemic racism present in recruitment processes exposed in this case, remain unaddressed.

“My hope is that the Church will show leadership in the area of racial justice. This case has presented the church with an opportunity to learn and to lead, to be forthright and strident in setting an example to society in addressing racial injustice.

“It would be nice to move on in my life with a written apology and it’s reasonable to ask for some form of compensation.”

When asked about solutions, Reverend Pereira said: “We need a root and branch evaluation into the entire process of recruitment or selection of Anglican BAME candidates to find out why the discrimination happened in Bristol and to make sure it does not happen again.”

It is clear the Church needs to work hard to become more ethnically diverse, at every level and particularly among her senior clergy. She needs to create a space for BAME voices to be heard. She may be surprised by the richness they bring – diversity is not a threat, it is a strength to be celebrated.

Since the retirement of Right Reverend John Sentamu, all of the senior bishops in the Church of England are once again, white, as are most clergy, suggesting white supremacy remains pervasive. The church must take intentional collective action to demonstrate she is a more diverse, equitable organisation untarnished by privilege.

In the Employment Tribunal judgement, Judge Cadney made specific reference to emails written by the Right Reverend Mike Hill two years before the letter suggesting people from the Indian Subcontinent have issues with truth and clarity.

In these emails, Right Reverend Mike Hill blames other senior clergy including the Training Bishop Right Reverend Lee Rayfield who is still the Bishop of Swindon. These emails were ruled out of time by the Employment Tribunal and have now been destroyed. Reverend Pereira has copies of them.

The court heard that emails dating back to May 2014 showed that several Bishops had blocked Rev Pereira’s applications due to “cultural eccentricities.”

For example, on 25 May 2014 Rev Hill wrote to colleagues: “I took some serious flack for not shortlisting him to Stoke Bishop. Lee [Rayfield, Bishop of Swindon, Training Bishop] mentioned to me that his application was culturally eccentric but this is slightly dangerous as of course Alwyn is a minority ethnic Anglican (whose cause according to the National Church, we should be promoting.)

“…There was strong support for shortlisting him at Hotwells and St.Stephens which Lee resisted… he (Rev Pereira) has much if not more experience than some getting shortlisted.”

They are important because the Employment Tribunal mentioned the emails written two years earlier from 2014, not the letter written in 2016. Judge Cadney said in court: “In my judgement there is some merit in the contention that on the face of it the emails relied on could without explanation from the respondent be sufficient for the tribunal to draw an inference of discrimination.”

In an article published about safeguarding in the Times on 15 August last year, Andrew Carey, son of former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, criticised the church for protecting senior clergy. He said: “The Church of England is in a mess of its own making. To atone for past failures, it has thrown junior and retired clergy under the bus in a system which lacks justice.”

Reverend Pereira, who had to move to serve a parish in Aldershot, Hampshire when he could not get a job in Bristol, is not alone in facing racial discrimination. Augustine Tanner-Ihm, a trainee vicar, contacted the Guardian about a similar problem he faced getting a curacy at the end of his training at Cranmer Hall in Durham.  He was rejected by eight metropolitan dioceses.

Mr Tanner-Ihm received one rejection email stating: “The demographic of the parish is monochrome, white working-class, where you might feel uncomfortable.” Mr Tanner-Ihm felt Cranmer Hall was trying to make him into a white, middle-class priest. Issues of ethnic identity are at the heart of his concerns.

He wrote in his penultimate report: “I refuse to be colonialised by Cranmer Hall. The Church of England will never take my blackness away from me.”

After George Floyd was killed by Police in America, there was a global outcry for racial justice. The challenge is to create a positive environment where BAME people can express themselves in culturally authentic ways and flourish.

Reverend Pereira said: “Sadly, racism is embedded in the structures of the Church. During my ordination selection interview I was advised to adapt and become more ‘English.’ Like many of my BAME colleagues, I just wanted to feel I belonged to God’s Church.

The Church must ensure that, if BAME clergy are invited to train for the ministry, they are then supported to serve in parishes throughout England alongside their Caucasian colleagues without facing barriers because of their race.

While the Church of England is right to rebuke Right Reverend Hill and this is a very important first step, it must seriously investigate all accusations of racism against serving bishops and other clergy as a matter of course.

If it does not, there is a risk that the church is scapegoating a retired bishop rather than addressing a wider culture of racism in the South West, Durham and potentially even in metropolitan boroughs across England.

Future of two hospital trusts to be decided tomorrow at NHS board meeting

Two hospital trusts – Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH) and Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation trust are due to merge in two weeks’ time on 01 April.

Chief executive Dame Marianne Griffiths DBE said: “The biggest global health crisis in a century has taught us many lessons this year but for health services none has been more important than the value of working together to keep patients safe and achieve the very best outcomes we possibly can.

“In Sussex, our collaborative approach had already delivered many benefits by the time Covid-19 engulfed us all, but it was the onset of the pandemic that strengthened our resolve to explore a merger. Our joint-response to the first wave demonstrated the improved benefits and resilience of acting as one, as well as the limitations of maintaining separation.

“In July 2020, when we formally took the decision to explore a merger, we opened the door to a future in which we can continue to deliver consistently excellent care for patients as well as provide fulfilling careers for our staff in a new organisation that would truly be better for everyone.”

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSEI) describe the strategic reasons for the merger of the two hospital trusts as ‘clear’ and ‘strongly supported.’ This is ahead of a key meeting of both boards to decide whether a formal application of the two trusts should proceed to merger.

The two hospital trusts have been working together for four years under a joint management contract that expires on 31 March 2021. During this time, BSUH has become the fastest improving acute hospital trust in England. BSUH came out of special measures and earned a Care Quality Commission rating of ‘good’ overall and ‘outstanding’ for caring although the trust’s responsiveness still ‘requires improvement.’

Western Hospitals maintained its own outstanding status and also became the first non-specialist acute trust to achieve outstanding ratings in all key inspection areas. The boards propose to build upon these achievements and further improve hospital services for patients in Sussex by bringing the best of both trusts together to create a new, larger organisation called University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust (UHSussex).

Two hospital trusts

 

A public board meeting that will finalise the merger of the two hospital trusts will be held virtually in public at 2pm tomorrow, Thursday 18 March. You can watch it live using this link.

It has taken the trusts and joint executive board six months to plan the merger and they have followed a rigorous process to assess the case for change. This process was organised by NHS England that oversees the creation of all foundation trusts and NHS Improvement (NHSEI.)

A strategic outline case was approved in September 2020 and it was in response to the submission of a full business case (FBC) that NHSEI wrote to the trusts on 9 March 2021 to provide a formal merger risk rating.

In each of the key areas NHSEI assesses, such as strategy, quality and finance, the proposed merger has received a rating of Green (strategy) and Amber/Green (quality, finance and transaction execution). These risk ratings provide the boards with further assurance that the merger plans are well thought through, safe and effective.

On Thursday the full business case (FBC) will be published that sets out a compelling case for change as well as a broad range of benefits that would advantage patients, staff and communities across Sussex.

For patients, these include greater continuity of care and better access to services, as well as increased support for services under pressure due to national challenges, such as increasing demand, workforce availability and financial pressures.

University Hospitals Sussex would employ nearly 20,000 people across five main hospital sites in Sussex, with an operating budget of more than £1 billion. The FBC cites the proposed new hospital trust’s size and breadth as a key factor that would help address challenges that both BSUH and WSHT have in common with the rest of the NHS following the pandemic.

Royal Sussex Outpatients

 

Chief medical officer, Dr George Findlay, said: “We have made many improvements in recent years but it is getting harder to continue to improve our services in isolation. By working together, we can benefit from both greater scale and more opportunities to learn from each other and to do things differently.

“For example, we are developing an exciting five year clinical strategy to explore where we can make the best improvements for our patients and develop new services that ensure fewer people in Sussex have to travel elsewhere for high quality hospital care.

“It is important to recognise that our clinical strategy work also cements our commitment to continuing to invest in all the services we currently provide, including emergency, specialist, tertiary and trauma care.

“We are committed to developing our vibrant local hospitals and maintaining the services we know local people treasure, such as A&E and maternity care. By coming together as one trust, we will have the experience, expertise, funds and influence to safeguard and improve hospitals services in Sussex.

“We wish to reassure our patients that we are taking a careful and considered approach and there will be no immediate changes to any of our clinical services as a result of the merger. The driving force behind our plans is our ambition to continually improve the care we provide and we look forward to involving our patients and the communities we serve in future developments.”

University Hospitals Sussex would run seven hospitals in Chichester, Worthing, Shoreham, Haywards Health and Brighton and Hove, as well as numerous community and satellite services. The two hospital trusts would be responsible for all district general acute services for Brighton and Hove, West and Mid Sussex and parts of East Sussex.

It would also provide specialised and tertiary services across Sussex and parts of the South East, including neuroscience, arterial vascular surgery, neonatology, specialised paediatric, cardiac, cancer, renal, infectious diseases and HIV medicine services.

On Thursday (18 March) the board of directors meeting is followed by a meeting of the WSHT Council of Governors who must also give their support, along with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, before a statutory application to merge the two trusts can be made to NHSEI.

Vicar takes on the Anglican Church over racial discrimination

When Reverend Alwyn Pereira was not shortlisted for parishes for several years after completing his curacy, he became concerned. His investigations uncovered covert racism at the heart of the Diocese in the Anglican Church in Bristol that no one had challenged.

Reverend Pereira has now taken a discrimination case to Employment Tribunal and the Clergy Discipline Commission Tribunal against senior members of Bristol’s Anglican clergy.

Rev Pereira is an ordained Anglican priest who works as Vicar of St Michael’s and the Church of the Ascension in Aldershot.

Right Reverend Mike Hill, retired Bishop of Bristol wrote in a letter to an Anglican colleague 05 July 2016: “I think the other thing I need to say, having worked closely with people from the Indian Subcontinent in my past, is that I think there are cultural differences in the way people like Alwyn (Rev Pereira) communicate, and actually handle issues of truth and clarity.

Reverend Pereira is not from the Sub-continent. His heritage is Indo-Portuguese, he was born in Kenya, and educated almost entirely in England.

Judge Cadney’s judgement from a preliminary hearing of the Employment Tribunal was published on 01 May. It said: “In my judgement there is some merit in the contention that on the face of it the emails relied on could without explanation from the respondent be sufficient for the tribunal to draw an inference of discrimination.”

The court heard that emails dating back to May 2014 showed that several Bishops had blocked Rev Pereira’s applications due to “cultural eccentricities.”

For example, on 25 May 2014 Rev Hill wrote to colleagues: “I took some serious flack for not shortlisting him to Stoke Bishop. Lee [Rayfield, Bishop of Swindon, Training Bishop] mentioned to me that his application was culturally eccentric but this is slightly dangerous as of course Alwyn is a minority ethnic Anglican (whose cause according to the National Church, we should be promoting.)

“…There was strong support for shortlisting him at Hotwells and St.Stephens which Lee resisted… he (Rev Pereira) has much if not more experience than some getting shortlisted.”

 

Anglican Church
Reverend Alwyn Pereira preaching in his church in Aldershot

In spite of the evidence, the Employment Tribunal dismissed the claim because it was out of time. It was also dismissed by the Clergy Discipline Commission Tribunal (CDC) for the same reason. However, Rev Pereira is currently seeking permission to extend the time at the CDC so the claim can be heard upon appeal.

Rev Pereira first pursued his complaint directly with the Anglican Church, a process he describes as “attrition” – it was kicked into the long grass with constant delays, presumably in the hope that Rev Pereira would drop the claim.

He explained how the discrimination felt: “The Bishop’s letter brought up a sense of real betrayal. It’s not just me who has been let down and offended but my children and every BAME person too. I trusted and respected Rev Mike Hill who was telling me one thing up front, held these views and perceptions and felt emboldened to write this to another clergyman and no-one challenged him. I’m horrified.

“We, the Church, uphold it as the place of hope and reconciliation for all ethnicities, where everyone finds their identity.” He has taken legal action because he believes there is a systemic problem with covert racism in the Anglican Church in Bristol.

Rev Pereira describes Bishop Hill’s actions as a “misuse of power… he withheld jobs from me on the basis of a racial stereotype. No one challenged him. His letter quoted above was in my personal file that everyone sees.”

He said: “I don’t feel hate towards these guys. I offered and exhausted various routes for reconciliation including mediation and these were declined.

“The Anglican Church has to be the bastion of good practice, it’s the established church. There needs to be reconciliation and recompense, there’s a culture that needs correction. The Church has paid barristers but they won’t reimburse me for loss of stipend and the reputational damage done.

“Instead they defend their immorality, they don’t think they’ve done wrong. They’ve not apologised. They genuinely think that letter is acceptable.”

Rev Hill was asked what evidence he had to substantiate his statement in the letter about cultural differences with the way people like Rev Pereira from the Indian Subcontinent handle issues of truth and clarity.

Bristol’s retired Bishop said: “l’m not saying this is a situation where there is nothing to be learnt. The Tribunal is over. The complainant I regarded and regard as a friend. I had no idea he was feeling this way and I’m surprised by it.

“We all need to be a little more honest about what we’re thinking when we’re thinking it.

“There are lessons to be learned about how we express ourselves. When I reread the letter I don’t feel good about it and it’s inappropriate to explain why.

“Out of context, the statement in the letter does not look great…

“I don’t think there’s a problem, with racism in the diocese of Bristol. At some level in all of us, prejudice does occur.

“We looked at hidden biases including gender and race in the diocese all the time. I don’t even know if some of my colleagues who were involved in the selection procedure were aware of Alwyn’s ethnic minority background.

Seven hospitals across Sussex to merge without public consultation or publication of the business case

Western Sussex Hospital’s trust (WSHNFT) is proposing a merger with Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH) Trust to go ahead next month on 01 April, less than three weeks away. It will take place without public consultation and the trusts have still not released the business case, post transaction implementation plan and impact assessments explaining exactly what the merger will entail.

Sussex Defend the NHS are very concerned that there has been no formal, public consultation with any of the many communities seriously impacted by this reorganisation which will see BSUH, currently a place-based NHS trust aligned with unitary authority boundaries, become part of a larger foundation trust.

Campaigners expected all relevant bodies to be consulted i.e. the local authority health overview and scrutiny committee (HOSC), local Health watch organisations, NHS trade unions and the public who are the patients of both trusts. HOSC was given an outline presentation last December, focusing mainly on a staff survey, not the detailed proposals.

Concerns are mounting that patients will have to travel further to access hospital services and that NHS contracts will continue to be outsourced to the private sector. Campaigners are also concerned that hospital land will be sold to private developers.

Steve Guy from Sussex Defend the NHS said: “Even local authority leaders have been unable to ascertain what the changes are going to mean for their constituents. The only authority that is aware of the trust’s plans is NHS England, as WSHNFT has had to submit a full business case to national health bosses in London before the merger was given the go-ahead.”

public consultation

 

Unparalleled pressures on the NHS caused by the pandemic have understandably diverted all attention and resources to the frontline. However, this may have resulted in a refusal to engage in public consultation and a lack of transparency about the detailed plans arising from the merger which is now only weeks away.

To date only the shared executive team of Western hospitals and Brighton and Sussex hopsitals, their boards including governors of both trusts and a small number of unnamed ‘partners’ are the only people who have been fully briefed on the merger. No-one else has seen the business case, impact assessments or the post-transaction implementation plan for the first eighteen months.

Joint CEO of both NHS Trusts Dame Marianne Griffiths has done a lot of excellent work in turning around BSUH which was a trust in special measures and is now rated good overall by the CQC. However, several key players in the city including the unions and Sussex Defend the NHS feel they need to see the merger delayed while public consultation is undertaken. They would like to see more democratic accountability from the CEO.

Dame Marianne (Griffiths) who runs both trusts said to the Worthing Herald last July when the merger was announced: “We want everyone in our communities to play a part in shaping the future of health care in Sussex and their views will play a valuable role in building a new trust.”

She said to Brighton and Hove news: “I will update you on progress but please be assured there will be opportunities for you to ask any questions you have and feed into the future plans.”

A full business case was sent to NHS England and NHS Improvement last December but will only be shared with staff ‘in due course’ due to operational reasons.

A Brighton and Hove News reporter asked NHS England for a copy of the business case on Thursday 10 December six days after they got if from the two Sussex hospital trusts. On 07 January, he was advised to approach NHS Improvement by NHS England and he did this on the same day. On 28 January the request was refused on the ground of ‘imminent publication.’

The journalist asked for the decision to be reviewed on Tuesday 02 February and he has still not seen the business case, more than two months later. The business case, post-transaction implementation plan and impact assessments are still not in the public domain.

business case

Mr Guy said: “Since WSHNFT CEO Marianne Griffiths has formally notified the health trade unions at both trusts, inviting them to talks aimed at arranging for staff at the Brighton hospitals to transfer to her trust, (known as TUPE, Transfer of Undertakings, Protection of Employment), the health unions of both trusts have a right to demand that they are able to scrutinise the trust’s future plans as well.”

A spokesperson for Brighton and Sussex hospitals trust said: “The benefits of working together became even more apparent during the first wave of Coronavirus last year and, as the shared leadership arrangements were due for review, these benefits, and the potential gains from even greater integration, informed the boards’ decision, on 1 July 2020, to pursue a merger…

“A public consultation, however, is not required because we are not proposing a substantial change to services. In fact, we have committed to continuing to invest in the services delivered by WSHT and BSUH. The continuous improvement of all our patient services is the driving force behind our proposed merger and we are confident that by coming together we will continue to improve hospital care in Sussex.”

Brighton’s Green MP fights for businesses in response to the Budget

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his annual budget today, Wednesday 03 March. He has been in post for just over a year and has made fifteen statements in the House of Commons since the pandemic began. His budget sets out his forecasts for growth, including an extension of the furlough scheme until September and some help for businesses and limited aid for the self-employed.

No additional funding was announced for the NHS apart from for vaccination roll out and victims of domestic violence.

According to the OBR which is the Office of Budget Responsibility the economy shrank by 10% last year, the sharpest fall since 1709. OBR forecast growth of 7.3% next year. National debt which is the sum total of every budget deficit is high – 88.8% of GDP and is forecast to rise to 97% in 2023-24. It should then stabilise.

Brighton’s Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “After campaigning hard for business rates relief to be extended, I am glad the Chancellor listened and provided a partial lifeline for hundreds of businesses in Brighton and Hove who have held on during this pandemic, but faced a cliff-edge at the end of March.

“I welcome too, the VAT reduction which I have also called for, and the announcement of restart grants for businesses.  But we need to see the detail on this.  If they are restricted based on rateable value, important parts of our economy like business to business suppliers and the live events sector will continue to lose out.”

businesses
Caroline Lucas, Brighton’s Green MP

Talking about the self-employed she said: “The extension of support for the self-employed is critical to our local economy and it’s good to see some of those excluded from previous schemes are now able to access income support. But the continued exclusion of directors of limited companies, PAYE freelancers, those who combine self-employment with PAYE and others is unforgivable.

“And help for local businesses, and an extension to the furlough scheme, cannot compensate for the gaping hole at the heart of this budget – its failure to acknowledge, let alone address, the climate and ecological crises.”

The Chancellor has announced a new national infrastructure bank which will open in Leeds with £12 billion capital invested by the government. In addition, government will invest £15bn in green bonds, including for retail investors, to help finance the transition to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Net zero emissions will become the responsibility of the Bank of England. According to Peter Walker from the Guardian, these announcements are “obligatory now” due to Mrs Lucas’ Green New Deal and are “fairly modest.”

When speaking about climate change and ecological issues, Mrs Lucas said: “These two issues weren’t even mentioned – a massive oversight which makes me wonder what planet Rishi Sunak is living on.  We desperately needed an ambitious budget for a greener, fairer future that would create new local jobs.

“Instead we got a few announcements dressed up as “green growth” when, in reality, one of the few ‘green’ initiatives this Government has launched – the Green Homes Grants scheme – is being starved of funds leaving householders and businesses in the lurch.

“With nothing to replace it, there is now no substantial government-supported programme to cut emissions from buildings – which is essential if we are to meet climate targets.

“We need transformational change to address the climate and nature crises, and the deep inequalities in our society.  We need a redesigned economy that puts people and nature first, not one that is stuck in the past.

“A better, fairer, greener future is within our reach and I and many others will keep campaigning for it.”