In this guest blog, Naomi Maynard shares some reflections on a workshop organised by our partners at the 'Live on the Breadline' project.

Last month ITV ran a story about Dominic, a father of four from Everton who can be left with £60 a month to feed and clothe his family, living in fear that one day his children will be taken away. This story was picked up by the Liverpool Echo, concerned how Brexit will hit some of our country’s poorest families.

Knowing Dominic personally, I know the ITV feature only told a small segment of his story, and that of his family – but the overall message remains the same: here is a family living on the breadline, riding the roller-coaster of our fluctuating political environment set amongst the backdrop of an evolving welfare landscape. 

Stories such as Dominic’s provoke an emotional reaction – perhaps shock, frustration, anger, sorrow, embarrassment, grief, guilt. We may also feel overwhelmed, unsure how to react: how can we change the structures and systems that seem to have dug their roots wide and deep into our society, trapping many of those we know and care about in poverty?

Our feet get stuck in the mud – overwhelmed to the point of inaction.

Last week, at a workshop hosted by academic project Life on the Breadline, I met Stef Benstead  – a trustee of Church Action on Poverty. In 2012, having just started postdoctoral studies, Stef was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Type 3, Postural Tachycardia Syndrome and fibromyalgia – meaning she is often exhausted and in pain. No longer able to carry on her studies, Stef was left in a precarious position – navigating our complex and, as she was to discover, our deeply flawed, welfare landscape.

But Stef did not let her feet get stuck in the mud.

She collaborated, campaigned, wrote and researched. She identified, lobbied, listened and argued. Stef – who tells the story of how austerity has impacted disabled people in her soon-to-be-published book Second Class Citizens – turned her emotions and experiences into actions to transform unjust structures and systems.

Speaking to a collective of academics and practitioners, Stef, alongside Church Action on Poverty’s Director Niall Cooper, encouraged us all to do the same – offering us this advice on where to start:

  1. Identify – do not try and change the whole system at once. As we heard earlier in the workshop, poverty is like an octopus (slippery and difficult to tackle all at once). Start by identifying one change that needs to be made.
  2. Gather – Bring together others who can also see a need for this change. Do more than identify problems, suggest solutions. Whilst none of your group may come with a fully formed solution – as you listen and reflect together, there may be many partially formed solutions in the room, which can be joined together.
  3. Frame – Think about who needs to hear what you want to say – how can you frame your arguments in ways that they will hear? Use language they will be able to engage with. For Stef this meant framing her arguments in ways her friends with a different political outlook could connect with.  
  4. Be brave – make your case both far and wide, and near and targeted. Invite local and national politicians to your meetings – they may be able to open doors for you beyond what you may foresee.

We can do more than wallow in our shock, frustration, anger, sorrow, embarrassment, grief, guilt… we do not have to be stuck in the mud.

Click here to listen to all the talks from the Transforming Structural Injustice workshop.

Dr Naomi Maynard is the Lead Project Development Worker at Together Liverpool  – as part of this role she is the network coordinator of Feeding Liverpool. This post first appeared on the Feeding Liverpool blog.

Church Action on Poverty is a partner in ‘Life on the Breadline’, a research project exploring Christian responses to austerity.

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Father Bill Rooke RIP

Learn how you can use our resources to put faith into action

Transforming unjust structures: how not to become stuck in the mud

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Click to download the latest issue of SPARK,our newsletter for supporters of Church Action on Poverty.

Speaking Truth to Power: reflections from our North East gathering

What does it mean to be a church on the margins?

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Why End UK Hunger?

Communities unite to say: Act now to end UK hunger

Speaking Truth to Power: reflections from our North East gathering

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See videos of some powerful talks about being church on the margins.

In summer 2019, Church Action on Poverty was a partner in the National Justice and Peace Network’s annual conference, on the theme ‘Forgotten People, Forgotten Places’. We shared stories and explored ideas from our own ‘Church on the Margins’ programme.

NJPN have now shared videos of two of the talks at the event – watch them here:

Professor Anthony Reddie talked about ‘Theologising Brexit: Deconstructing the Myths of Racial Purity. White Marginalisation and Urban Poverty in Britain’.

Deirdre Brower Latz talked about ‘Re-membered People, Re-imagined Places: Being Church on the Margins’.

Speaking Truth to Power: reflections from our North East gathering

What does it mean to be a church on the margins?

Edgelands

Why End UK Hunger?

Communities unite to say: Act now to end UK hunger

Second Class Citizens – powerful new book about disability and austerity

Speaking Truth to Power: reflections from our North East gathering

What does it mean to be a church on the margins?

Edgelands

Hear about local issues and responses to them

Work and pray together

Start

9:30am
Highfield Methodist Church, Holland Place, S4 4US

Visit

  • Madina Mosque
  • Heeley Christ Church
  • Heeley City Farm
  • St Vincent’s Furniture Store
  • St Wilfrid’s Centre, where we will meet with Paul Blomfield MP

End

Approx 2:00pm

Join us and learn about:

  • The community work of the Mosque and Heeley Christ Church
  • Heeley City Farm’s support for children who might otherwise go hungry during school holidays
  • St Vincent de Paul Society initiatives, including the furniture store, which supports vulnerable and disadvantaged people
  • St Wilfrid’s work with homeless, vulnerable and
    socially excluded adults

Practicalities

  • The closest bus stops to Highfield Methodist  Church are Highfield Place, on London Road and Batt Street, on Abbeydale Road.
  • There is no parking at the church, but free on-street parking is available in the surrounding area.
  • Please wear suitable shoes and bring a waterproof, drinking water and a packed lunch.
  • If you plan to leave before the Pilgrimage ends please see a steward.
  • Please follow stewards’ advice, particularly at road crossings.
  • Walkers take part at their own risk and anyone under 18 must walk with a responsible adult.
  • The event is not suitable for dogs as we enter premises.

Speaking Truth to Power: reflections from our North East gathering

What does it mean to be a church on the margins?

Edgelands

Why End UK Hunger?

Communities unite to say: Act now to end UK hunger

Second Class Citizens – powerful new book about disability and austerity

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield’s 11th annual Pilgrimage

What will it take to end hunger in the UK?

Speaking Truth to Power: reflections from our North East gathering

What does it mean to be a church on the margins?

Edgelands

Church Action on Poverty is looking to recruit a Programme Manager to manage the delivery of programme activities and core organisational functions.

The role will include:

  • Line manage the organisation’s staff team.
  • Work with staff to promote high programme quality in line with our strategic vision and aims.
  • Support the Director with setting organisational strategy and reporting to trustees.
  • Ensure the efficient use of organisational and programme-related funding and resources.

Closing date: Monday 7 October 2019

Interviews:     Monday 14 October 2019 in Salford

For further information and a job pack, click below or call 0161 872 9294. 

Speaking Truth to Power: reflections from our North East gathering

What does it mean to be a church on the margins?

Edgelands

Why End UK Hunger?

Speaking Truth to Power: reflections from our North East gathering

What does it mean to be a church on the margins?

Edgelands