“What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder”

Yesterday, my wife, Marlene, and I went to a wedding. It was a very joyful occasion; love was most definitely in the air.

It has been many a long year since I was last invited to a wedding. But funerals? Now that is a different story. I guess that at my age – 67 – it is only to be expected that some of my friends have run out of steam here on earth.

During the wedding ceremony I was reminded about what Mark had written about marriage (Mark 10:9):-

“What therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder”

Here in the UK we are supposed to be a Christian country – even the Prime Minister professes to be a Christian. Yet a closer examination of some of the Government’s policies suggests that our country has moved a long way away from God’s laws!

There is a Facebook Group ‘I love My Foreign Spouse’ :-

https://www.facebook.com/groups/139807999382936/?fref=ts

Members of this FB Group are mostly wifes/husbands/partners who are separated and who have problems living together because the Government have decreed that if one lives outside Europe then it is necessary to have a minimum income of £18,600 per year to obtain a spousal visa.

Marriage, so it sadly appears, counts for absolutely nothing. Money rules, unfortunately.

I am sure that there is no reference in the Bible to having to have a minimum level of annual income to be able to live together once once falls in Love and becomes married.

We can only pray that the Government see the error of their ways and will repeal their draconian immigration laws, which are most certainly not God’s laws!!

With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

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Mental Health, Sanctions and the Department of Works and Pensions

New data released today has revealed that benefits claimants judged as unfit to work due to mental health problems are more likely to have their benefits stopped by sanctions than those suffering from other conditions.

Policy advisers for the Methodist Church obtained the data using Freedom of Information Requests to the Department of Work and Pensions. It shows that people who receive the sickness and disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) because of a long-term mental health problem are being sanctioned at a rate of more than 100 per day. In March 2014 – the last month for which data is available – approximately 4,500 people with mental health problems who receive ESA because of mental health problems were sanctioned.

Paul Morrison, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church, said: “We believe that the number of people with mental health problems who have their benefit stopped due to being sanctioned is in fact a great deal higher than 100 a day. Not included in these figures are people who receive ESA due to a physical illness, but who have a higher risk of mental health difficulties.”

According to the DWP data, the most common reason for being sanctioned is that a person has been late or not turned up for a Work Programme appointment.

“Sanctioning someone with a mental health problem for being late for a meeting is like sanctioning someone with a broken leg for limping. The fact that this system punishes people for the symptoms of their illness is a clear and worrying sign that it is fundamentally flawed,” said Mr Morrison, who is also the author of an upcoming report on the sanctions regime. “Churches have increasingly seen people in desperate need because they have been sanctioned. The suffering and injustice we have seen caused by the sanctions system deserves serious scrutiny.”

Paul Farmer, CEO of mental health charity Mind, said: “We’re very concerned about the number of people having their benefits stopped. This causes not just financial problems but added emotional distress. It’s unjustifiable that people with mental health problems are being sanctioned disproportionately compared to those who have another health problem.

“Stopping benefits does not help people with mental health problems back into work. In fact, it often results in people becoming more anxious and unwell and this makes a return to work less likely. Sanctions are based on a false assumption that individuals lack motivation and willingness to work, but it’s the impact of their illness and the environment in which they are expected to work which actually present the toughest challenges. That’s why they should only be used as a last resort, when someone simply refuses to engage.”

These figures – and other new data on the sanctions regime – will feature in a report that is due to be launched in the spring by a coalition of major Churches, including the Methodist Church, the Church of Scotland and the Church in Wales.

The Revd Sally Foster-Fulton, Convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, said: “With others in the Scottish Leaders’ Group on Welfare, we are, sadly, well aware of the negative impact of sanctions on vulnerable people, often left with no income and no security and no way out of the deeper hole they have fallen through. We welcome the publication of the upcoming report. It is important that we highlight these facts and begin to counter this troubling trend.  We will use the new data in our 28 February conference looking ‘Beyond Food Banks’, for which sanctions are a key trigger.”

 

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Please pray that the UK Government realise the great harm that they are doing to people suffering from Mental Health problems by sanctioning them unnecessarily.

By sanctioning people suffering from Mental Health problems they are causing these people tremendous additional stress and anxieties as, in my many cases, sanctioning their benefits leave them without monies for food, heating, rent etc.

Let us pray that David Cameron, and his Government, become more caring and understanding to people who have mental health issues.

Amen

With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

What Is Marriage?

For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

Ephesians 5: 31

Married life is a merger of two minds into a single mind and into one flesh. It is our Father God who founded the Institution of marriage!

And He proclaimed:-

It is not good that a man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him

Genesis 2: 18

Thus God created Eve, the first woman, as a companion, helper and wife, to the first man, Adam.

The wife to the husband, or the husband to the wife, is a gift of God!

That is why, when the two partners in a marriage invited the Lord willingly, He also joins in and the marriage becomes a ‘three fold cord’ uniting into one body, which is not easily broken’ (Ecclesiastes 4:12)

Holy matrimony is not the transient experience of a short period of time. It is a glorious experience of a whole lifetime. It is a joy of the union of two minds and bodies.

When you become married you need to surrender yourselves completely into the hands of our Living God. You must rest the burden of your marriage on Him as the Bible guides you (Psalm 55: 22).

Yet, sadly, although the UK is supposedly a ‘Christian Country’ (according to David Cameron, anyway) marriage is often treated as ‘valueless’ when either the husband or wife is born in a country outwith Europe.

In July 2012 changes to the immigration laws  were made which precluded a large number of British Citizens from obtaining spousal visas for their non-European partners because they did not have a minimum income of £18,600 per year!

True love should never be about money. Yet the UK Government are trying to make us believe that true love IS about money, money and nothing but money.

The impression given – rightly or wrongly – is that the new immigration legislation rates the marriages of wealthier people higher than those of the less well-off, thus creating a two-tier system in which one must be rich enough to live with whom they choose in their country.

Although I have written about this issue– on more than one occasion – to David Cameron he has not yet had the courage to reply to me personally!

Yet in March 2014 David Cameron was writing in the Pink News:-

‘We are a nation that is growing stronger economically because of our long term economic plan. But I hope we can also be a country that is growing stronger socially because we value love and commitment equally.’

David Cameron also wrote in the same article:-

‘When people’s love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change.’

Taking these two comments at face value, we may, perhaps, be forgiven, for finding them somewhat contradictory to his seemingly implacable position of trying to keep as many married couples as possible from obtaining spousal visas.

And, of course, we all will be interested to discover how Mr Cameron equates his draconian immigration policy with that of his statement that we live in a Christian country.

So, as a Christian country, perhaps we need to remind ourselves what Jesus said on the Cross:-

‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing’.

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With many peaceful blessings

Geoffrey

A Message to David Cameron

I don’t usually use my blog for political messages but I feel very empathic with the words of one of my Facebook friends, Rick Ormrod, because David Cameron and the UK Government are disadvantaging many people who are less fortunate than themselves.

Rick writes:-

As commentators are now pointing out, David Cameron said yesterday that we are a wealthy nation and can afford to help those affected by flooding with no limit put on the spending.

Yet when it comes to the disabled, the unemployed and those who cannot even afford to feed themselves and must go to Foodbanks for handouts there must be severe cuts because of the government’s austerity programme.

Whilst I feel desperately sorry for all those whose lives are adversely affected by flooding I can’t help but think that there is a double standard operating here.

If we are a wealthy nation then we can afford to increase benefits to humane levels to give people a chance. If we truly need austerity, then we can’t have a bottomless purse to sort out the flooding problems!

(Is it just my perception that David Cameron is more interested in money than the people he is supposed to represent?)

How our ‘pro marriage’ government splits families – by the RC Archbishop of Westminster

Recently I met a group of people who were so traumatised that at times they found it difficult to speak. It was a harrowing meeting, although a necessary one. Those who are so distressed find great help in being listened to. But I was left feeling helpless, such is their plight.

The people I met are all victims of the new regulations regarding foreign spouses of British nationals coming to live in the United Kingdom. These new immigration rules were introduced in July 2012 and are ruthlessly applied against British citizens seeking to establish a marital home here.

The people I met were citizens of this country, holders of British passports. All of them, however, were broken-hearted because they were not permitted to bring their wives or husbands to live here. In each case there was going to be no call on the public purse – in fact each excluded spouse would be an earner and a taxpayer, not a benefits claimant. Yet protection of the public purse is the constant argument from our government on limiting immigration. From what I was being told, this argument is false and misleading.

Upset at these people’s stories, I wanted to find out more, and was amazed to discover that their cases were numerous. In fact, the government’s own estimate is that the new rules will break up as many as 17,800 families every year – yet the government that is operating this policy claims to be supportive of the family and in favour of the institution of marriage.

A hidden consequence of this anti-family policy is, of course, its impact on the children who are separated for an indefinite period from a parent unable to live in the United Kingdom. Hundreds of British children are growing up in this country with a parent unable to be with them. This damages their development and wellbeing.

The government’s intention with these new regulations is to cut the number of immigrants from outside the European Union. But in doing so, is it the government’s intention to penalise British citizens? To undermine marriages and to split up families? Other EU citizens are free to come and live in the UK with spouses from outside the EU. And yet British citizens do not enjoy the same rights. The feeling of being victimised by one’s own government is a bitter pill to swallow.

The new regulations make demands that are, in practice, very difficult to meet. One is that British spouses prove a disposable annual income of £18,600 if they want to sponsor a foreign spouse. This sum is well above the earnings of full-time workers receiving the national minimum wage, and research shows that it excludes up to 47% of Britain’s working population.

The administration of the new regulations is often arbitrary and subjective. One man, breaking down in tears, told me of how he filed more than 250 pages of application forms and information, and travelled halfway round the world for interview, only to be told that the official had concluded their marriage was one of convenience, and not of genuine love.

Another person told me that his Canadian wife had waited several months for the processing of their application, which included the surrender of her passport. She asked for her passport back in order to attend a family event outside Canada, only to be told, after the trip, that doing so had jeopardised her entire application.

I am not surprised that the expressions of public disquiet about this scandal are growing. In June a cross-party committee of MPs and peers reported on the anguish inflicted upon many working families by the new regulations. The four UK children’s commissioners recently called on the government to review the rules in favour of a more family-friendly approach. Anyone who is truly concerned for the family as the building block of society, and is realistic about the mobility of British people today, must see both the folly of this policy and how it is an affront to the status of British citizenship.

Concern about levels of immigration is high, and there are real social challenges to be faced. I do not pretend that this is an easy political issue. But there is a moral responsibility on all those in public life, including the media, to avoid stirring up irrational fears that feed prejudice. Demonising immigrants, who often contribute hugely to our society and wellbeing, is a dangerous path to follow. The fostering of mistrust and dislike of those who come to this country is the promotion of unjust discrimination, and unworthy of any true political leadership. It is a trend we must surely resist.

Equally, there is something deeply unsavoury about the inhumanity with which immigration targets are being pursued. The administrative processes, as I heard myself, strip applicants of their basic dignity and often presume, or even try to manufacture, corrupt motives and intent. Evidence that people have circumvented previous regulations and abused the status of marriage does not justify the inhuman treatment of every applicant today. Those who are determined to cheat should be stopped. Those who offer full co-operation with the system should not be presumed to be cheating.

Support for family life is a cornerstone of British society and, in fact, of the Catholic tradition. This victimisation of a group of British citizens is an indication of how far we have moved from these principles and values. In a healthy society rhetoric is one thing. Action requires well-fashioned policies, tested against their effect on fundamental values and applied with humanity and care. Policies in family migration leave a lot to be desired. I hope that parliament, in considering the current immigration bill, will take the opportunity to correct this clear injustice.

Vincent Nichols, RC Archbishop of Westtminster