Dear Members,
Catholic Union Head of Public Affairs James Somerville-Meikle writes: This week’s row over exam grades has once again questioned the role of computers and algorithms in our lives. What’s interesting is the extent to which Ministers continued to defend the algorithm developed by Ofqual, long after it was dropped as a way of calculating grades for this year’s school leavers. Ministers stressed the algorithm was rigorously tested and was designed to take account of as many variables and factors as possible. And yet it clearly didn’t work. Even if a pupil from a struggling school had managed to get top marks in all previous assessments, they had little hope of getting top grades under the algorithm, on account of the weighting given to the school’s previous performance. An automated system of awarding grades was simply not up to the job, not matter how well it had been designed and tested. It has been a painful lesson in the limits of what robots and computers can do – something which was touched on in a recent Catholic Union webinar.
Choirs resume in England. The Government has published new guidance for worshippers singing and playing music inside church buildings. The new guidance states: “Small groups of professional or non-professional singers will be able to sing in front of worshippers both outdoors and indoors from 15 August. Singing in groups should be limited to a small set group of people and should not include audience participation.” Catholic Union President, Sir Edward Leigh MP, and others had called for choirs to be allowed to resume.
Sharp increase in cases of homelessness reported during lockdown. Charity Streetlink has found that the public have reported 36% more cases of homelessness year on year between April and June 2020, reaching 16,976. There was a 76% increase in London.
Sharp rise in domestic abuse. Panorama and Women’s Aid have investigated the impact the lockdown has had on victims of domestic abuse. They found that there was a call on domestic abuse every 30 seconds in the first seven weeks of lockdown.
Marriage still matters. The Centre for Social Justice has published a new report on how family structure remains “an important determinant of children’s and parent’s outcomes.” The CSJ calls on the Government “to stop blurring the distinction between cohabiting and married couples when they deliver dramatically different outcomes for children as well as parents.” See the summary published by Sophia Worringer, former researcher at the Centre for Social Justice.
Rough Sleeping Taskforce chief “steps back” from role. Dame Louise Casey has "stepped back" from her role as the Government's chief adviser on homelessness. She was appointed in February to carry out a review, but the coronavirus outbreak saw her redirected to lead the government's homelessness task force. According to the BBC “It is understood Dame Louise would consider returning to lead the rough sleeping review later in the year, but only if there was a broad remit to consider all aspects of homelessness.”
Warnings of large-scale homelessness crisis in England. Charity Shelter has reported that 227,000 private renters have fallen into arrears since the lockdown, and could lose their homes when the ban on evictions comes to an end. The Government made a last minute change to extend the ban on landlords evicting tenants in England and Wales from 23 August to 20 September, following fears thousands could lose their homes. Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick MP, said the Government was determined to "support renters over winter". Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer MP, said the announcement gave renters "a few more weeks to pack their bags".
Measures to avoid homelessness in Scotland and Wales. The Welsh Government has doubled the notice period required for evictions issued on or after 24 July to six months. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has proposed extending the eviction ban from September 2020 to March 2021. Commenting, charity Shelter said the decisive will help thousands of renters.
Call for nationwide scheme for asylum-seeking children. Kent County Council has warned it has reached the maximum capacity to care for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. The Council is calling on the Government to introduce a nation-wide scheme to support these children, rather than leaving it to local councils, as some of them are financially struggling.
Don’t forget to care for migrants. Cardinal Michael Czerny, the Vatican’s Undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, has stressed that we should not use the housing crisis as an excuse not to care for migrants.
Feelings or action? Former Theos’ Head of Research Ben Ryan has analysed what YouGov’s recent polling on sympathy for migrants means for the UK’s migration policies. He said: “The great commandment is not to sympathise with your neighbour but to love them. Love is active, a doing of something, that recognises the dignity of the other person… In the final reckoning, the question Jesus tells us he will ask is what have we done for the least of his brothers and sisters.”
Give former prisoners ‘clean slate’. Shadow Justice Minister, David Lammy MP, is proposing that “the former offenders should have their case heard by either a Judge or a body like the Parole Board, which can decide whether to seal their record from employers.” He argues that this reform would help the rehabilitation of former convicts.
The Catholic Medical Association has launched their new website.
The Catholic Union News is compiled by Lisa Fraser with additional contributions from James Somerville-Meikle and Nigel Parker.

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