Chaplaincy at the Civil Justice Centre is a brand new venture. It has come about because one of the Judges saw the need for ‘pastoral care’ for the people who find themselves in court, facing some of the most difficult issues of life, such as family breakdown; debt; eviction; bankruptcy etc.
The Chaplaincy is multi-faith and here is a recent information leaflet:
Multi Faith Support in
Bristol’s Civil Justice Centre
The multi faith community has been asked by a Judge and Bristol’s Civil Justice Centre to set up and provide multi faith support to all who pass through its doors week by week. This means support to people who are having problems with debt, housing, eviction, family matters, divorce, care of children, employment or any other civil matter. This initiative has the full backing of the judges at the court and the court staff.
Appearing in court is a highly stressful experience. People in court may be in the most desperate of situations. In addition to this stress a proportion of people going through the courts are vulnerable or have special needs. Some are litigants in person, have serious health and mental problems and may be from an ethnic minority not having English as their first language. Some people may need quiet and space, some will need to unburden themselves, while others will request faith and emotional support and possibly to be accompanied in court.
The multi faith communities are looking to provide Support, Space and Sign Posting:
- Support: offering hope and encouragement, compassion, non-judgemental acceptance, respect/human dignity, spiritual and emotional well-being and prayer through listening, words of comfort, presence and by accompanying people;
- Space: within the court building a room offering peace, quiet, calm and comfort, being set aside/’sanctuary’, for all faiths and none, for prayer, washing and other faith requirements;
- Sign Posting: to offer on going support after leaving the Civil Justice Centre by making connection with faith communities and other support agencies and to offer to make that connection by telephone whist still in the Civil Justice Centre.
Multi Faith Support will be free, independent and confidential and will be offered equally to anyone who asks. ’Support’ will not include counselling or any form of advice, nor require follow up contact by a Multi Faith Support volunteer outside of the Civil Justice Centre. An important part of Multi Faith Support is to be able to link people to the faith communities and other support agencies for further support outside of the court. Multi Faith Support is a way of enabling faith communities to care for those within their communities or on the peripheries.
Multi Faith Support in the courts in Bristol is a new initiative. As a pioneer situation it will run as a pilot for 12 months and will be reviewed throughout this period. Following a successful pilot, the aim will be to make Multi Faith Support at the Civil Justice Centre permanent, with a view to considering extending Multi Faith Support to the criminal courts in Bristol.
To start providing Multi Faith Support volunteers are needed. People choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons. It will in part be living out and putting faith into practice, drawing on faith experiences and being a representative for a faith community. It also offers the chance to give something back to a community or make a difference to the people around and their lives. It is not only what you can do for others, volunteering transforms you – as you give so you also receive – it’s an opportunity for personal growth.
Multi Faith Support is committed to its volunteers through its selection process, induction, training and on going support. We provide the opportunity for you to develop your CV and build your confidence. You will also meet new people and develop your social and relationship skills. Volunteers gain experience of working as part of a team and build self esteem. For others it provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge; it is both challenging and rewarding.
We are looking for a number of core support workers dedicating at least a total of 1 day per week as well as numerous volunteer workers dedicating at least half a day per month. You do not need to have a legal or counseling background. The core workers will be voluntary workers during the pilot with the view to seeking multi faith and secular funding for a couple of these roles on completion of a successful pilot.
Volunteers need to be able to deal with people on all levels, have lots of initiative and the ability to empathise with people going through a stressful and difficult time. In particular you will need:
– Excellent communication, listening and pastoral skills;
– Self confidence;
– An appreciation of this being a pioneer situation and therefore the willingness to work to build the awareness and use of Multi Faith Support;
– Commitment to helping people regardless of their background, circumstances and faith, and the ability to be neutral about the person’s case and still be supportive;
– Ability to work as part of a managed team as well as on your own and to be reliable;
– Willingness to help and support other team members;
– Willingness to adhere to policies and confidentiality and to be able to know when to ask for help;
– a DBS check, references and an interview following completing an application form.
Here are some words from His Honour Judge Stephen Wildblood about Multi Faith Support at the Civil Justice Centre –
Bristol Civil Justice Centre is one of the larger civil courts in the country. It deals only with family and civil cases. Family cases frequently raise issues that are deeply painful for the children and adults involved. Civil cases may raise issues such as housing which can create great difficulties for participants. When the proceedings end people then have to live with the consequences; where those consequences involve loss (be it, by way of examples, the loss of a relationship with another adult or child or the loss of a home) the need for support can continue for a long time.
We are therefore anxious to ensure that people should have as much support as possible when exposed to these difficult times. It is during those difficult times that people may need support from the faith that they follow and the culture to which they belong. The idea of the multi faith support group is to ensure that those who seek that support are able to find it. I would wish to stress that it is ‘multi faith’; thus it caters for all people, all faiths and all cultures.
As the Designated Family Judge, I have overall responsibility for the judicial side of the family justice system in this area, subject to the direction of more senior judges. In that role I consider that it is my duty to ensure that facilities exist for that necessary support to be provided. I offer my full encouragement to the multi faith support group.
For an example of multi faith support in the courts see Bradford’s Court Chaplaincy (although this is for criminal cases – the pilot in Bristol is currently only for civil cases):http://www.bradfordcourtchaplaincy.org.uk/