Diocese of

Hexham and Newcastle

Bishop Robert Byrne CO

Justice and PeaceDepartment for Justice and Peace

Tyne and Wear Citizens:

Diocese has become a Strategic Partner of Tyne and Wear Citizens.

At a recent meeting of the Diocesan Directors, it was agreed that the Diocese would become a Stategic Partner to Tyne and Wear Citizens for the next three years, giving £10k a year to contribute to the costs of employing a community organiser. Tyne and Wear Citizens is a broad based community organising organisation, which seeks to develop civic society and bring about social change.

At the moment there are three campaigns:

  • Improving provision for Mental Health Services.

  • Addressing poverty with a particular focus of promoting the Living Wage and reforming the Free School Meal system.

  • Making communities safer and combating hate-crime.

Members of catholic parishes and schools are involved in all three campaigns.

Bishop Séamus is very supportive of Diocesan involvement in Tyne and Wear Citizens and of the aims of all three campaigns.

If you would like more information about the work of Tyne and Wear Citizens please contact the Head of the Department for Justice and Peace, Fr. Chris Hughes at: or Tyne and Wear Citizen's Community Organiser, Sara Bryson at


Just Change Campaign

Wednesday 7 May saw the launch of the ‘Just Change Campaign’, led by Tyne and Wear Citizens and Citizens UK to tackle school hunger and inequality. The launch sees the publication of a report, a pupil-led investigation into the £65 million missing from the pockets of children on Free School Meals, followed by a national campaign to raise awareness of this issue and includes a special report by BBC News. The Diocese is supporting this campaign fully and in fact, three of our Catholic Secondary Schools, all part of the Carmel Academy Trust, are among the first schools in the country to adopt the policy being advocated.

Listen to a podcast by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation with Maura Regan, CEO at Carmel Education Trust talking about the campaign.


Tyne and Wear Citizens established the Just Change campaign following our listening campaign in 2017, which saw us speak to thousands of people in Newcastle, Sunderland and Durham.

It didn’t come as a surprise that poverty – driven by low wages, insecure work and cutbacks to public services – was one of the main issues putting pressure on members of our community and their families. The North East has the most frequently used food bank, the highest number of zero hours contracts in the whole country and has some of the worst levels of child poverty in the UK.

Listening campaigns, however, can unveil hidden injustices. By speaking to local people about what concerned them, Tyne & Wear Citizens uncovered the stigma felt by children who are short-changed by the Free School Meals system. The inability to access their unused school dinner change left them feeling stigmatised, disadvantaged and - most worryingly - hungry.

Bishop Robert Byrne CO says,

"The Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle is delighted that some of its schools are taking such a significant lead on the Just Change campaign. This campaign is simply asking that all funds for Free School Meals; money designated to combat child hunger, be used for that sole purpose.

The Diocese encourages others to give their backing to this one step in the battle to fight against the scandal and injustice of child hunger in our country. The promotion of the Common Good is at the heart of Catholic Social Teaching and this campaign is seeking just that."

The full report is now available to download or read.

If you wish to support or keep in touch with the campaign, register your interest here.


BBC New Report:

Kenton School, Newcastle - Park Vew School, Chester-le-Street and Venerable Bede Academy, Sunderland.

Future Events:

Events will feature here when announced.


Tyne and Wear Citizens Assembly - Tuesday 30 April 2019

On Tuesday 30 April over 700 hundred people assembled at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House to hear members from the various institutions of Tyne and Wear Citizens place the following 'asks' to the three candidates who came to the assembly. The candidates present were John Appleby, Liberal Democrat, Jamie Driscoll, Labour and John McCabe, Independant. The Conservative candidate, Charlie Hoult, who had committed to attend pulled out of the assembly on the 28th April.

These asks were:

  • That by the end of their five year term all schools under the Combined Authority have sufficient access to counselling provision.

  • As Mayor they would to commit to work with Tyne and Wear Citizens to develop a hate crime accreditation scheme for businesses and seek to ensure that the Muslim Feast of Eid being entered into council calendars as a recognised holiday.

  • As Mayor they would commit to accredit the Office of North of Tyne Combined Authority as a real Living Wage employer and encourage public bodies under the Combined Authority control to do the same.

All candidates present agreed to the asks and signed pledges to do so.


There were over 40 from the Diocese with Bishop Robert being represented by Fr. Simon Lerche, Episcopal Vicar of Newcastle and North Tyneside.

Since the Diocese is a Strategic Partner anyone in the Diocese can partcipate in their campaign. For more information regarding the campaigns the following can be contacted:

Living Wage Action Team:
Gayle Purves -

Mental Health:
Helena Medley -

Safer Cities:
Richard Young -

Just Change (ensuring all funds for free school meals is given to children entitled to them)
Steve Forster -


At the reception of the VIPs before the assembly Fr. Chris Hughes gave this reflection:

Why are we here?

We are here because of the inherent dignity, value and worth of every human being. No one has the right to take that dignity away, everyone has the duty to recognise it in each other.

In seeking that every young person in the region gets the adequate pastoral and medical care they need for any mental health issues, in asking that everyone can share public space without the fear of being a victim of violence or insult, in wanting everyone to have the genuine freedom to express their religious practice, in ensuring that all who do a week’s work can pay all their bills and have quality time with those they love, in all these ‘asks’ we are simply seeking to uphold their dignity, value and worth.

We are here to promote the common Good. We have rights and responsibilities to each other. Whether we like it or not we are all in this together. Many people when it comes to our shared humanity wants to talk about us and them. No, tonight it is all about all of us. There is no ‘them’. That is the common good, that is why we are here tonight.


Download the September newsletter from Tyne & Wear Citizens.

Welcome Sunderland Organiser – Claire Rodgerson

We are delighted that Claire Rodgerson has started with us this week as Associate Community Organiser in Sunderland. Claire brings with her a wealth of experience having previously worked with women affected by sexual violence and joins us from Show Racism the Red Card. Her knowledge, experience and contacts will support enormously the changes we are seeking in the region. Please give Claire a warm Tyne & Wear Citizens welcome and get booking in a 121 with her as soon as you can! You can reach Claire at


Learning the craft of organising is essential if we are to win. It equips us with strategies needed to think through how we will achieve the changes we seek.

All members are entitled to send as many people as they like onto our 2 day training. Ideally each organisation should have a small team who are trained and understand the craft.

6 Day Training

Membership of the alliance also enables you to take up a place on our accredited six day residential training programme. This is amazing training and is accredited as a postgraduate certificate in Community Leadership. Future dates will be announced here when known. Let Sara know if you are interested on booking on a future course.


Living Wage

The Living Wage Action Team have had several negotiating meetings with local authorities and universities, with real progress being made. Watch this space!

They are also targeting St. James’ Park, calling on them to follow the example of other Premier League Clubs such as West Ham, Chelsea and Everton and pay a Real Living Wage.

If you needed any evidence about how important the Living Wage action is, then see this report in the Chronicle. Smith Institute research shows that a Living Wage in the North East could boost the local economy by £29 million.

Misogyny as a hate crime

The action team continues to push to have misogyny recognised as a hate crime. You may have seen in the press that Citizens Action across the UK took us a step closer to this.

Tyne & Wear Citizens action team will continue to work with colleagues in Nottingham and Manchester to make this a reality!

You can keep up to date on all the latest news from Tyne and Wear Citizens by following us on Twitter or Facebook.