The Coalition Government has failed to deliver policies that tackle the problems faced by British citizens today, the Most Rev, Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, said in a keynote speech at a summit on civic society held in Tower Hamlets this week.
He said: “[It’s] the delivery of government policies, and not the structures of society, which is the weakest single point in what is happening around us”.
“Something has broken down,” he told the summit on Wednesday held at Queen Mary, University of London.
Organised by community alliance group, Citizens UK, the summit entitled ‘Planning Ahead For A Generation’, brought together national leaders from faith, education and civic institutions including The Most Rev Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols and Frances O’Grady, Trade Union Congress General Secretary.
With the aim of highlighting ways to strengthen civil society and democracy in the lead up to the 2015 general election, leaders focused on key community concerns such as housing, care of the elderly, isolation of communities and the breakdown of the family unit.
As well as stressing the importance of service delivery, Welby shined a spotlight on the difficulties faced by today’s youth. He said: “[Young people] are coming into a completely new [and] different understanding of the responsibilities of society, and they’re going to have to work out how to make it work. They’ve got a huge challenge in front of them”.
He also highlighted the lack of support for those in debt who are vulnerable to lenders. He said: “They [have] no access to either advice or means of getting out of very high levels of interest rates.”
Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, stressed the need for community engagement. In reference to the elections, he said that citizens had become “statistics every five years.” Active engagement between people and communities is necessary, he said.
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, of the Movement for Reform Judaism, said: “If we want our communities, families and friends to thrive for the next decade, we have to talk and listen carefully”.
Nichols elaborated on the importance of good relationships within the family unit, especially the role of the father. “The powerful and positive influence fathers can have on the formation of tomorrow’s good citizens is a precious gift which we must take every opportunity to support,” he said.
Plans for a similar version of the summit to be held in June next year were outlined by young members of Citizens UK. Prime Minister David Cameron has agreed to attend.