Norfolk is known for being an idyllic county full of inspiring countryside and beautiful beaches, but behind the scenes there is a darker side. The Bishop of Norwich - The Rt Rev Graham Usher - looks at how we can help our young people amid the deprivation.

We live in wonderful part of the country – a beautiful place in which to grow-up with the amazing surroundings of countryside and coast. That’s why people flock to Norfolk for their holidays year after year and create fond memories to cherish.

Yet, behind this image of glorious countryside, lovely market and coastal towns, and a vibrant city, there is an often hidden level of poverty and deprivation endured by children, young people, and their families across Norfolk and Waveney.

One of Norfolk County Council's strategic aims is to enable better opportunities for our children and young people.

Eastern Daily Press: Bishop Graham joining a family eco trail at St Andrew's, EatonBishop Graham joining a family eco trail at St Andrew's, Eaton (Image: Diocese of Norwich)

Those living in economic deprivation statistically have lower educational attainment, suffer more from physical and mental health issues, and have lower aspirations and life expectancy. In fact, young people’s mental health was taking a battering even before the Covid pandemic but statistics are showing a sharp increase in mental health referrals in the last three years.

Of course, behind each of the numbers in the rather sobering statistics is an individual. Children and young people can be vulnerable and this means that society at large has the responsibility to look after, genuinely care for, and provide for their needs.

As a Christian, I believe God wants everyone to find life in all its fullness. No one is beyond God’s care, and God yearns for every child and young person to know love, joy, and hope. This means we should respect them, rejoice with them, and celebrate their intrinsic value as human beings made in the image of God.

So, how can we bear that in mind when looking across a county when there is much need but seemingly ever-dwindling resources?

Eastern Daily Press: Bishop Graham tree planting at St Michael's VA Junior SchoolBishop Graham tree planting at St Michael's VA Junior School (Image: Bishop Graham)

Our parishes and schools across the Diocese of Norwich are engaging with these issues. Recently, I gathered people from a variety of public, private, and charitable organisations to share with them about our work within local communities. It was also good to have young people adding their voices to the table conversations as it is vital that we listen to them and learn from them.

At the gathering, I offered a shared space for discovery and dialogue, to enable all to consider what contributes to providing better opportunities for children and young people across Norfolk and Waveney.

READ MORE: Concern at lack of sport opportunities for disabled children

I invited three speakers who spoke about projects in the Diocese of Norwich; The sports ministry outreach in Brundall and other areas that build strong relationships with young people "where they are"; Baby Basics in West Norfolk, which meets a very real need for vulnerable mothers and their new-born babies, and has seen a sharp increase in referrals; And our church schools, which aim to enable children and their families to flourish - evidenced so well by the amazing work at Kessingland Primary Academy, which is championing their young carers.

I have shared their stories here.

For me, the rich conversation enabled the following five themes to come through loud and clear:

  • The importance of building relationships of trust between young people and adults, and with families in need of assistance.
  • Meeting young people and families where they are, rather than expecting them to always seek help (when they quite often don’t know where to turn).
  • Collaboration between support agencies, including charities, rather than competing and/or duplicating, and building stronger local links.
  • Calling for more resources to support our families and young people, and perhaps making our collective voice heard to those in positions of power to enact positive change.
  • Persevering rather than giving up.

It was heartening to hear shared ideas, responses, and commitments, and it gives me hope as we look forward to working together to give our children and young people in Norfolk and Waveney the best opportunities to flourish.


The speakers' stories


Building relationship through sport

Tom Woods, Sports Minister, Yare Valley Churches

Eastern Daily Press: Sports Ministry in the gymSports Ministry in the gym (Image: DIOCESE OF NORWICH)

Based in Brundall, I’m one of a small network of Sports Ministers across the Diocese of Norwich.

Through our sports youth outreach we’ve seen really strong opportunities created on lots of different levels for children and young people. Through regular detached youth work, running sports and youth clubs, and young leader training we’ve been able to develop key relationships.

Even in non-sporting situations, like holiday clubs or youth clubs, sport has provided similar opportunities. For example in our church youth club talking about sport has been a great way to immediately find common ground with so many of the kids, so as to build trusting, loving, safe relationships.

"What’s your favourite football team or player?" - or joking that their team got beat at the weekend - soon turns into them wanting to talk about famous footballers in court over rape accusations, and quite serious conversations where they open-up about quite vulnerable feelings and thoughts they have. It’s meeting with them where they’re at."

  • You can find out more at

Providing basics for newborns

Maggie Anderson, Co-ordinator of Baby Basics, West Norfolk

Eastern Daily Press: Baby Basics where hundreds of families are being helpedBaby Basics where hundreds of families are being helped (Image: DIOCESE OF NORWICH)

We are a volunteer-led project supporting vulnerable mums and families who are struggling to meet the financial and practical burden of looking after a new baby.

A team of six, we meet weekly in St Nicholas Church, Dersingham, preparing new Moses’ baskets which provide a safe bed for the babies to sleep in. We pack the baskets full of essentials such as nappies, wipes, toiletries, blankets, baby towels and clothes from new-born to three months. For some mothers, these are the only items they may have for their baby.

Baby Basics works with midwives, health visitors, social workers, local organisations, and other professionals to help vulnerable mums facing poverty or homelessness, or who are in crisis such as fleeing domestic violence.

There is a growing demand for our service. Since 2019 there has been an increase from 57 referrals received, to 300 in 2022, and we think this is only likely to increase.

  • You can find out more at 

Caring at Kessingland

Oliver Burwood, CEO of Diocese of Norwich Muti-Academy Trust

Eastern Daily Press: Kessingland Forest School hosted an event for Young CarersKessingland Forest School hosted an event for Young Carers (Image: DNEAT)

A key aim of our church schools is to enable children – and their families – to flourish. That means equipping children with the emotional and academic skills and resources to help form their aspirations and providing the support and nurture to set them on their way to achieving them.

Kessingland Primary Academy does this in spades in its support to their young carers.

They proactively identified those either registered as Young Carers or those acting as carers in some way within their families, and put in a support plan for each child both in and outside of school.

A variety of events and activities focusing on the challenges of being a young carer has created greater understanding by all at the school. This leads to greater engagement as families spread the word about what is available.

The school has recently been successful in achieving the silver Young Carers in School award, issued jointly by The Children’s Society and The Carer’s Trust. 

  • You can find out more at