By John Carey SWEEPING changes are to be made in the way the Westminster archdiocese tackles social problems like race, homelessness and the care of the handicapped.
The social and pastoral services of the archdiocese are to be decentralised and the main emphasis placed on the communities best placed to judge local needs — the parishes and deaneries,
The new programme is the outcome of two years' research and development, including discus sions with a cross section of parishes and more than 100 Church based, statutory and voluntary groups and agencies. It has the full backing of Cardinal Hume, the Westminster bishops and the diocesan senate of priests.
Seven full-time workers will be appointed: one will co-ordinate the whole programme and he or she will have a full-time secretarial assistant.
The other five will operate in parishes, helping existing groups and other interested people to evaluate and expand their existing work, set up new projects and develop links with other churches _ and with statutory and voluntary services in their areas.
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There is also a possibility of an assistant co-ordinator being appointed as well as two other specialist workers to deal speeifically with homelessness and race relations. The bishops have deferred decisions on these until September.
The cost of the programme is estimated at £100,000 a year. For the first three years it will be financed from trust funds and thereafter from diocesan
The proposed changes were put forward in a report by Mrs Alex Cosgrate, the Westminster development officer. The report pointed to serious deficiencies in the present system of social welfare provided by the archdiocese.
It suggested that most of the shortcomings arose from the lack of a clear set of priorities and from the ambiguous position occupied by many of the existing agencies operating in the area.
The report drew up a list of nine priorities which it said should act as the basis for future planning and action.
These stipulated that priority should be given to the poor, that attention should be given to the causes of problems as well as their effects, that Catholics should co-operate with all people of goodwill, and that care should be taken to avoid any duplication of services.