It’s not often that I get excited by what is in essence an annual report, but Cyrenians 2014/15 Impact Report – the story of our year published this week – is a wonderful exception to that particular rule. Its full of numbers; we’ve grown in many ways and the numbers look good, but crucially, it is also full of stories, stories of real people’s journeys of struggle and change, challenge and transformation that Cyrenians have been privileged to share for a while. The numbers are important but the stories are the real test of positive impact.
We’ve heard lots of numbers from the Chancellor of the Exchequer this week. Statistics to back up his claims of growth and opportunity, increased wealth and prosperity. New numbers tell of tax cuts and welfare reductions, smaller state and greater individual autonomy. Yet behind those numbers there are stories of real people whose lives are impacted negatively.
I am not talking about whether they are better off or worse off financially, though my initial thoughts are that low paid families dependent on tax credits with more than two children in a privately rented home are just one group who may struggle with this budget.
There is something deeper going on here though. The Chancellor told a story all the way through his budget speech. His constant reference to “working families” is a divisive one. It’s the language of those who are allowed to see themselves as worthwhile and those who are not. His definition of fairness being framed by those who pay tax as somehow “losing out” when those who need help commoditises sharing. His focus on home ownership as being the only way people can have security of a home, whilst at the same time undermining those who seek the security of a home through renting, is a narrowing of access to feeling we have a place in society.
It was a story laden with attacks on those who face deep struggle, such as those we journey with here at Cyrenians. It was a story of a society where helping our neighbour is a seen as a burden rather than a human instinct to share, where who we are is defined by what we own rather than our values or our integrity.
Whatever the numbers might say, the story is a destructive one that will hit many people in their souls even if in some cases their pockets are a little fuller. For what the Chancellor does not understand is that what really matters in life is who you can count on, not what you can count.