Our response to pandemic can help to heal Brexit wounds – Archbishop of York

THE outgoing Archbishop of York today uses his farewell interview to demand salary ‘justice’ for all social care workers.

Dr John Sentamu, who retires tomorrow, also hopes the nation’s new-found compassion over the Covid-19 pandemic will help to heal deep divisions caused by Brexit and the 2016 vote to leave the European Union.

The 70-year-old has spent the past 10 weeks in “total lockdown” at Bishopthorpe Palace as a precaution against longstanding health issues.

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He, and his family, will lead the Church’s national online service tomorrow before undertaking a private journey to York Minster to lay his crozier – the symbol of his office – against the high altar.

The outgoing Archbishop of York has used his final interview to issue a rallying cry for social care. Photo: Simon Hulme.

He believes historic low wages – and financial pressures on families to make ends meet – increased the possibility of some carers inadvertently becoming carriers of coronavirus.

“It is high time all frontline workers need to be paid the proper National Living Wage which is £10 per hour. That has got to be sorted out,” he told The Yorkshire Post in an exclusive interview.

“It is now evidenced, quite obvious, some of the great infection in the care homes was because some people were doing two to three jobs not knowing they were carrying it.

“At the moment, the worst paid people, believe it or not, are those who work in care homes.”

The Archbishop of York in the grounds of Bishopthorpe Palace. Photo: Simon Hulme.

The Archbishop said that “the whole question of social care should go out of the vocabulary”. “It should be the National Health Service because it cares for you from birth to death,” he stressed.

Clicking his fingers, he then challenged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to follow the example of Clement Attlee’s post-war government which borrowed money to create the NHS and welfare state.

“I think it will have the backing of the nation. People are willing to pay more taxes for health and education,” said the lifelong social justice advocate.

“It is incredible to get Captain Tom (Moore), now Sir Tom, raising £33m in such a short time. It actually tells me people aren’t short of a bob or two. And it doesn’t need much to sort out our health, education and people in our care homes.”

Dr John Sentamu, the outgoing Archbishop of York, during his interview with Tom Richmond of The Yorkshire Post. Photo: Simon Hulme.

Dr Sentamu drew heart from the rekindling of neighbourliness. “I just hope that that sort of appreciation of the care and compassion of the other will be written deep down in our soul,” he counselled.

Fully supportive of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s furlough scheme, and financial help for businesses, he is, nevertheless, concerned by a breakdown of trust following the controversial trip that the PM’s senior aide Dominic Cummings made to Durham during the lockdown.

“What Yorkshire has taught me is people are generally on your side. But if you’re in leadership, respect always has to be earned. You can’t demand it of anybody,” he said. “If I was him (Cummings), I would have said sorry. And no regrets? That’s arrogance.”

The Archbishop believes growing unease is also a legacy of deep divisions caused by Brexit. “That healing process has got to happen,” he added. “What does it mean to be British? What does it mean to be English?

“I want to suggest it is to be compassionate, to be caring, to be more loving, and don’t look to your own interests.”

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