Tearfund works tirelessly to help communities escape the very worst effects of poverty and disaster. They believe that the same people facing these troubles also have the best ideas about the ways they can overcome them. So Tearfund listens and then helps people to utilise their resourcefulness and determination to overcome their circumstances. When disaster strikes, Tearfund and its local partners are usually already present, hard at work in those very places. They have been responding to emergencies since 1968, working alongside local churches and Christian organisations wherever possible. They know the people, they know the problems and so often they can see simple, inexpensive solutions.
After a wild few months in the UK economy, the Government wants to raise more money to cover a big black hole in its accounts. Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, has said everyone must pay more tax. Meanwhile, a group of economists have questioned whether the ‘black hole’ in public finances must be filled with austerity and tax rises. They said that the £50bn hole entirely disappears if debts are calculated differently. When Rishi Sunak was chancellor two years ago, he used a different accountancy rule to arrive at a government debt figure. Changing it back to what it was before the 2021 Autumn Statement completely removes the black hole, according to the economists' analysis, and will put government debt back on a sustainable footing. Pray for Jeremy Hunt and all members of the treasury to be wise regardless of the accountancy rules they choose to follow.
The Chancellor announced targeted payments to help with the cost of living. The national wage will jump from £9.50 to £10.42 an hour from April; help for energy bills will be extended, but less generous. There will be cost of living support for pensioners, the disabled, and those on low incomes. Means-tested benefits, including Universal Credit, and pensions will rise in line with inflation. Social sector rent rises will be capped at 7% in the next financial year. However, the cap on social care costs due next October will be delayed by two years. A ‘temporary’ 45% tax on companies generating electricity will be applied from January, and windfall taxes on oil and gas company’s profits will increase from 25% to 35% and extend until 2028. The NHS budget will increase in each of the next two years by an extra £3.3bn, and schools will receive £2.3bn extra in 2023 and 2024.
Migrants at the Manston Airport detention centre are to be vaccinated against diphtheria after dozens of cases were confirmed. Diphtheria is contagious, infecting the nose, throat and sometimes the skin ,and can be fatal. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is working closely with the Home Office at the reception centre, where there are cases of diphtheria and other infections, including one unaccompanied child who had scabies. The UKHSA said accommodation settings should be considered ‘high-risk for infectious diseases with a high prevalence of toxigenic diphtheria infection’ and endorsed mass antibiotic prophylaxis and mass vaccination. Antibiotics and diphtheria vaccination are being offered to everyone at the centre and all who have moved on to hostels recently’. A national briefing was also sent to NHS staff to highlight ‘the importance of early diagnoses.
Birmingham City Council issued a Public Spaces Protection Order (PSPO) to deter people from gathering outside an abortion clinic with placards and pictures to protect patients from being harassed and intimidated when entering. 40 Days for Life Birmingham are concerned as the order makes it illegal to pray outside the clinic. They are taking the council to court, saying, ‘Through this action, we are not asking anyone to agree with what we believe; others have the right to disagree. We ask for justice, despite our different beliefs. It is disproportionate and unnecessary to ban prayer connected to abortion in an area near a Catholic church and to ban the words “baby” or “mum” in text or imagery.’ The PSPO comes after the Government voted for nationwide ‘buffer zones’ outside abortion clinics. Anyone breaching them faces up to six months in jail for a first offence and up to two years for several offences.
Avian flu has brought devastation to our wild and sea birds. From Cornwall to Scotland, gannets, terns, gulls and puffins have died in thousands as the deadly disease spread through breeding colonies. Cases in farmers' flocks, too, have risen exponentially. Last year's annual record was quickly exceeded as a new, more lethal strain emerged. Thousands of poultry birds, including many turkeys, have been culled. This disease, devastating for farmers, veterinary, other staff and businesses, adds pressure to public and private finances. As it becomes commonplace, like bovine TB in cattle and wildlife, it has the potential to harm people. Hosea warns, ‘Therefore the land mourns and all who live in it languish; together with the birds of the air, even the fish of the sea are perishing’. (Hosea 4:3). Pray for farmers and others on the frontline tackling it.
Asda is limiting customers to two boxes of eggs and Lidl is allowing three, due to rising costs and bird flu. Waitrose is monitoring customer demand. The UK is facing its largest-ever bout of this highly pathogenic disease. When there is a confirmed outbreak on a poultry or egg farm, all birds in the area are destroyed. The outbreak is compounding existing shortages as producers cut back on output or leave the industry due to increased costs. Russia's invasion of Ukraine raised farmers' energy bills and the costs of chicken feed, hens and packaging. There are 36.7 million egg-laying birds nationally, but there is capacity for over 44 million. Also, retailers are not paying farmers a fair price. The price of twelve supermarket eggs has risen by 50p, but farmers only saw a price rise of 5p to 10p.
Christian Aid says rich countries are not doing enough to fight the pandemic. They have ranked twenty rich countries' efforts to support rolling out Covid-19 vaccines globally. The worst nation is India; the UK is the second worst. Christian Aid said that the richest countries have a responsibility to improve global access to Covid vaccines, tests, and treatments, given their wealth and high vaccination rates. Governments financed research and development of these products and should not leave pharmaceutical companies to monopolise supply and price. But, amid a collision of international crises, the UK is turning its back on the world and undermining efforts to produce more vaccines, tests, and treatments in lower-income countries. By holding back the global pandemic response, the UK is haemorrhaging moral authority amongst international partners. Only one in three people in Africa - under one in four in low-income countries worldwide - have completed a course of vaccinations.