Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

We are looking for an experienced practitioner to facilitate peer learning amongst churches in Greater Manchester.

The post is initially on a three-year basis, reviewed after 12 months.

7 hours per week, to be worked flexibly

£27,905 – £32,029 pro rata

25 days’ annual leave pro rata

Based at Church Action on Poverty office, Salford. Working across Greater Manchester and occasional travel nationally.

Subject to negotiation, the work could also be carried out on a freelance basis, paid on an appropriate daily rate, equivalent to the gross cost of a paid staff member.

Church Action on Poverty is committed to promoting a diverse and inclusive community – a place where we can all be ourselves and succeed on merit. We offer a range of family-friendly, inclusive employment policies, flexible working arrangements, and services to support staff from different backgrounds.

About the programme

Our Church on the Margins programme in Greater Manchester seeks to promote the idea of a ‘Church of the Poor/Church on the Margins’: a church of justice, inclusivity and welcome. The Church on the Margins programme will be delivered in conjunction with the Methodist Manchester and Stockport District, the Centre for Theology and Justice based at Luther King House and other ecumenical partners. It will develop a network for people who are involved in church activism, estate ministry, people from church congregations, inclusive church, alternative church and those who want to make church a more welcoming place for all.

Over the next three years we will establish and facilitate a series of peer learning sets, to bring together groups of churches and projects across Greater Manchester, to explore together what it means to be a ‘church of the poor’, how to respond lovingly to their local context, and how to fully engage in Christian within marginalised communities. They will share stories of how their faith informs their action, and their action deepens their faith.

By the end of the three years we will have developed a robust evidence base, illustrating what it means to be a ‘church of the poor/church on the margins’ and effective models of Christian discipleship in a range of contexts of poverty and marginalisation across Greater Manchester. That evidence will motivate other people and churches within the region to adopt similar models of mission and praxis in their own contexts.

  • Each year, we will recruit two cohorts of six to eight churches, groups and projects, including people with experience of poverty as full participants.
  • Each cohort will include groups drawn from local churches, projects and individuals engaged in social action, including a range of ecumenical partners.
  • Each cohort will participate in a day workshop, using the pastoral cycle to help them listen more deeply to marginalised people, understand the communities where they live and work, reflect theologically on their social action, and plan further action.
  • We will work with Luther King House and others training ministers and lay workers, to arrange placements in projects within the community of praxis.
  • We will organise an annual reflection day for 20-30 people with: stories from local churches and projects; theological reflection; and workshops to discern shared learning.
  • We will have shared these findings with the wider church across Greater Manchester and nationally: both with other practitioners, and with church leaders and those setting policy and making decisions in circuits, districts, and other church institutions. Church bodies of all denominations, in the region and at national level, will have a better understanding of what it means to be a ‘church of the poor’ in practice; and of the value and importance of investing resources such as finance, ministry and lay training to pursue this goal.
  • We will have established a model for building communities and engaging churches that can be replicated in other regions – by Methodist districts and circuits, and by equivalent bodies in other denominations.

Key role for the Facilitator

The key tasks of the facilitator within this process are:

  • Establish and facilitate two Church on the Margins peer learning sets per annum in Greater Manchester, each comprising 6-8 churches/groups.
  • Plan and facilitate a reflection workshop for each learning set, drawing on existing Church Action on Poverty resources/approaches and any other appropriate participatory learning methods.
  • Co-facilitate an annual reflection day for 20-30 people with: stories from local churches and projects; theological reflection; and workshops to discern shared learning.
  • Work with other members of the Church Action on Poverty staff team to gather stories and case studies from local churches/participants to contribute to wider learning as to what it means to be a Church on the Margins.
  • Contribute to wider learning as to what it means to be a Church on the Margins through writing, participating in workshops, giving talks etc, as time and opportunities permit.

The application deadline is 5pm on 23 January.

News release: Smethwick gets its first Your Local Pantry, to help tackle food poverty

SPARK newsletter winter 2020

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

Scripture from the Margins: Bible bookmark

Scripture from the Margins: Untold Stories

A decade of action on poverty

Reflecting on the first two years of Food Power

Annual review 2018-19

A Good Society? We failed

Speaking Truth to Power: reflections from our North East gathering

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

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

A decade of action on poverty

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

Our partners at the 'Life on the Breadline' project are looking for PhD candidates to take part in their research. Details below.

Theology, poverty and the common good in ‘breadline Britain’: An analysis of Christian activism since the 2008 financial crash
Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Start date: September 2020

Wanted – exceptional doctoral candidates to undertake trailblazing, transformative research alongside outstanding early-career researchers.

Coventry University (CU) is inviting applications from suitably-qualified graduates for a fully-funded PhD studentship.

This doctoral (PhD) project has been devised and developed by a leading early-career researcher at Coventry University. The Trailblazer Scheme provides doctoral researchers with an innovative and dynamic intellectual space in which to undertake transformative research, whilst fully supported by a team of experienced supervisors.

Details of the PhD project

Following the 2008 financial crash inequality grew faster in the UK than in any other G7 nation. As the state has withdrawn during the ‘age of austerity’ Christian churches and NGOs have become key players in the struggle to defeat structural poverty. Whilst Christian engagement with food poverty, low pay, housing justice, child poverty and personal debt has been widely studied within the social sciences, there have been no empirically-based theological analyses of such anti-poverty activism until now. This Doctoral research project breaks new ground in political theology. Rooting theological analysis in detailed, multi-site primary research and benefiting from collaboration with experienced researchers from the ESRC-funded ‘Life on the Breadline’ project, the successful candidate will analyse the nature, scope and impact of Christian responses to UK poverty and the theological values that underpin such activism. This multidisciplinary Doctoral research will address issues that are of current academic and political importance. It will develop a theological analysis of faith-based activism that will generate impact within political theology and the social sciences and will generate new insights that will resource the practice of anti-poverty activists across the UK.

Benefits

The successful candidate will receive comprehensive research training including technical, personal and professional skills.

All researchers at Coventry University (from PhD to Professor) are part of the Doctoral College and Centre for Research Capability and Development, which provides support with high-quality training and career development activities.

The successful candidate will also benefit from participation in the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations’ Doctoral Training Course, involvement in the Centre’s Faith and Peaceful Relations research group and involvement in Centre research seminars. The successful candidate will benefit from mentoring by and collaboration alongside experienced ‘Life on the Breadline’ social researchers and political theologians, including Dr Chris Shannahan, Professor Paul Weller and Dr Stephanie Denning.

Candidate specification

  • A minimum of a 2:1 first degree in a relevant discipline/subject area with a minimum 60% mark in the project element or equivalent with a minimum 60% overall module average.
  • A Masters’ degree in a relevant subject, or equivalent professional experience would be desirable PLUS the potential to engage in innovative research and to complete the PhD within 3.5 years
  • a minimum of English language proficiency (IELTS overall minimum score of 7.0 with a minimum of 6.5 in each component)

Click here for further details

Additional items for candidate specification

  1. An understanding of key themes within political theology
  2. A familiarity with faith-based anti-poverty activism
  3. An interest in the use of qualitative social research methods
  4. A willingness to undertake fieldwork alongside faith-based organisations
  5. A commitment to collaborative study
  6. A commitment to applied research that impacts on grassroots practitioners

How to apply

To find out more about the project please contact Dr Chris Shannahan.

All applications require full supporting documentation, a covering letter, plus a 2000-word supporting statement showing how the applicant’s expertise and interests are relevant to the project.

Funding notes

English-resident UK and EU students, or EU students moving to England for a PhD, who are not in receipt of Research Council funding or other direct government funding can apply to borrow up to £25,000 to help cover the cost of their PhD tuition fees. 
Click here for more details.

  • Tax-free stipend per annum, paid at UKRI rates
  • Tuition fees (UK/EU/International)
  • CTPSR Research development allowance of £1,000 per annum

News release: Smethwick gets its first Your Local Pantry, to help tackle food poverty

SPARK newsletter winter 2020

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

Scripture from the Margins: Bible bookmark

Scripture from the Margins: Untold Stories

A decade of action on poverty

Reflecting on the first two years of Food Power

Annual review 2018-19

A Good Society? We failed

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?

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

A decade of action on poverty

Reflecting on the first two years of Food Power

Sustain, our partners in Food Power, share their learning from the year 2 independent evaluation of the programme.

Food Power supports food poverty alliances around the country to develop a sustainable response to food poverty and its root causes. Our independent evaluators from Cardiff University have now conducted their second annual evaluation of the programme. We are grateful to the team and all the alliances and individuals who fed into the evaluation.

We’re pleased that the year 2 evaluation continues to identify many positive findings, as well as some helpful reflections for us. The evaluation team presented us with four key questions to consider as we deliver the programme and we provide our responses below.

  • What do alliances aim to achieve by involving experts by experience?
  • What should reasonably be expected of them? 
  • What can they expect in return? 
  • How can Food Power showcase to other programmes and initiatives on how to empower experts by experience?
Food Power conference 2019

We will publish guidance for alliances and others working with experts by experience in the New Year. This will cover a wide range of aspects of involving people with lived experience of food poverty. We will work with Barbora Alderova who has just begun a PhD at Cardiff University. Her research will be on Food Power and the role of people with lived experience of food insecurity, specifically who gets involved, how and what happens (or not) next.

 

How can Food Power best support alliances working with particular but overlapping challenges?

We have published our briefing on challenges faced by rural areas and the response in different rural areas. We will continue to work with alliances based in rural areas and gather learning from our shared experiences. We continue to be mindful of the interactions between food insecurity and characteristics such as disability, gender, ethnicity and age and will continue to encourage alliances to consider how they can respond to the needs of particular groups.

What are alliances achieving and delivering that would not otherwise be happening? Are alliances able to articulate the difference they have made on the ground? How does this come together to make a difference nationally?

We continue to support eight alliances to develop tools for assessing their impact. The eight alliances will come together in early 2020 to assess progress and help us finalise what we can share more widely with the network and beyond. We aim to publish materials in the first half of 2020 and will actively promote these resources. As we deliver the second half of the programme we will continue to share learning from the network and feed this into national policy discussions.

 

What role can/should Food Power play in supporting alliances to work in an ever-more challenging contexts, in which demand for local services continues to outstrip capacity and resources? If there is no prospect of this easing this, what type of national programme will be most valuable in future?

Our local evaluation tools mentioned above should help alliances to identify progress, even where the best case is ‘standing still’ given the ongoing pressures on household and public sector budgets. In terms of future activities beyond the lifetime of the current programme, we are currently thinking through the questions we need to bring to the network in order to think through future plans. We are committed to involving the network as we think through any future plans.    


Sharing learning and experiences is a fundamental part of Food Power and evaluation and reflection is a core part of this. Please do contact Simon Shaw at Sustain if you have any thoughts on the programme to date and/or our future activities.

News release: Smethwick gets its first Your Local Pantry, to help tackle food poverty

SPARK newsletter winter 2020

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

Scripture from the Margins: Bible bookmark

Scripture from the Margins: Untold Stories

A decade of action on poverty

Reflecting on the first two years of Food Power

Annual review 2018-19

A Good Society? We failed

Speaking Truth to Power: reflections from our North East gathering

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

Edgelands

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

A decade of action on poverty

Speaking Truth to Power: reflections from our North East gathering

Father Chris Hughes shares some thoughts from our gathering in Newcastle on 9 November 2019.

Church Action on Poverty is nationally facilitating a number of regional gatherings engaging with local groups to explore issues related to poverty with a particular focus on ‘Speaking Truth to Power’.

On 9 November, St Nicholas’s Anglican Cathedral was the venue for the regional gathering for the North East of England, hosted by Church Action on Poverty North East.

Niall Cooper, the Director of Church Action on Poverty nationally, introduced the theme of the day ‘Speaking Truth to Power’. He noted that ‘truth’ does not seem to be held in much esteem at the moment. Niall then facilitated a ‘fireside chat’ with three women living and working in disadvantaged communities in Tyneside [including Heather and Cath], who in different ways have attempted to speak truth to power. It was evident that one reason truth needs to speak to power is that many of our law-makers have no idea what it could be like to be living on zero-hours contracts or welfare payments. The word ‘ignorance’ came up a great deal in the discussion.

 

Three workshops then followed. Niall Cooper showed (but with little sound) a short film made with support from Church Action on Poverty called Edgelands. It portrays the life of young people in Lancashire, where there is little adult support as they seek to deal with caring for sick parents, little money, homelessness and drug culture. The film was very much in the style of Ken Loach, revealing the stark reality of so many young people on these ‘edgelands’.

Revd Tracey Hume, a Methodist Deacon from Blaydon, Gateshead, talked about the Gateshead Poverty Truth Commission, which is bringing together those in authority and power with those experiencing poverty, so that it is the experiences and reality of those in poverty which will inform policy.

Rev Chris Howson, the Anglican Chaplain at Sunderland University, led a reflection on Matthew’s Gospel parable of the talents. He gave an ‘alternative reading’ of the parable arguing that the hero of the parable is the man who buries his talent since he is the one speaking truth to power.

The final input of the event was led by Debbie Honeywood, who plays Abbie in the new Ken Loach film Sorry We Missed You. After showing the trailer, Debbie talked about the issues in the film and how she prepared for the role. She worked in a care home for four weeks and discovered what life was like for carers as they sought to balance their holding up of a creaking social care system while still seeking to be mothers to their own children even if it is on a phone. Debbie spoke very powerfully on how people portrayed in the film are in isolated vulnerable situations. Communities of support have disappeared.

 

In the ensuing discussion, Debbie responded to a criticism of many of Loach’s films and especially in I, Daniel Blake, that one is left with no sense of hope. Debbie’s response was to say that it was the family, the one place where people are not isolated, that was the source of hope. This point is made very clear in the film when policeman makes it clear to the son that in having a family that cares he has an advantage that sadly many do not have.

As I left the event, I reflected on the ‘them’ that have power. It is ‘big business’ and ‘big government’. I wondered on how we can build relationship with those in power so that people in run-down communities in Tyneside can speak truth to power. It also struck me that although ‘big business’  is not democratically accountable, ‘big government’ is supposed to be. We are at the start of an election campaign, so I do wonder if in a very limited extent, those who have power is not simply ‘them’ but in a restricted way it is ‘us’. When politicians want our vote, we have more power over them than once they are elected for up to five years. So perhaps at this stage of an election where the next one may not be till autumn 2024, speaking truth to power, could also involve the opportunity, or perhaps an obligation, we have to ask our politicians to make commitments on the issues that matter to us. I appreciate that people may be sceptical on promises made, but at least with promises on particular issues politicians will be accountable to the electorate for the commitments made. It would be regrettable if this opportunity to speak truth to power while those who seek power need our vote is wasted. So I am left wondering what commitments do I want those who want my vote to make. I sense the possibility of speaking truth to power will only increase if we all ask that question.


This article first appeared on the Independent Catholic News website.

There are more gatherings coming up, in Bristol, London and Birmingham – then in Glasgow and Cardiff in the new year. Click here to find out more and book a place!

News release: Smethwick gets its first Your Local Pantry, to help tackle food poverty

SPARK newsletter winter 2020

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

Scripture from the Margins: Bible bookmark

Scripture from the Margins: Untold Stories

A decade of action on poverty

Reflecting on the first two years of Food Power

Annual review 2018-19

A Good Society? We failed

Speaking Truth to Power: reflections from our North East gathering

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

Edgelands

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

A decade of action on poverty

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

We came up with a number of different answers to this question when a group of us gathered together in Sheffield on a sunny and rainy day in May, in a church that’s on a bit of a border itself: it’s on a boundary between two parts of the city that are subtly yet significantly different in terms of the life chances of those who live there.

We were meeting as part of a reflection day for a new ecumenical network of people who are working in churches ‘on the margins’ in South Yorkshire, set up by Church Action on Poverty. We are people who want to challenge injustice, build solidarity between the church and people marginalised by society, and recognise the spirit at work all over our community!

 

So what does it mean to be a church on the margins? Maybe it means pushing back against institutional pressure to shut down buildings that have dwindling populations in poorer areas. Maybe it’s the thin places. Maybe church on the margins is just, well, church? My favourite suggestion was that we stop thinking about the margins and start talking about church on the fringe. Fringe festivals are exciting, edgy; experiments happens, and we take risks on people we don’t know anything about. Shouldn’t church be a bit like that?

Reflecting together

Our day together was a chance to reflect on our own discipleship and explore our vision for our own churches and communities. I’ll tell you what we got up to, in case it’s helpful for your church.

After introducing ourselves – sharing our name and our pronoun and a little about our communities – we kicked off by looking at different images of Jesus, and picking out one that spoke to us. We had loads of them; here are three. What reaction do you have to them?

 

We then did what’s known as a ‘living’ Bible study, looking at the story of Jesus healing a man with leprosy, written about in the Gospel of Mark. We read the story a few times out loud, and then everyone was given a role and had to imagine they were Jesus, the person with leprosy, one of the onlookers, one of Jesus’ disciples, or one of the religious leaders.

In the story, the crowd drew back when they heard the leper’s bell ringing in case they were defiled by coming into contact with him, but Jesus had been sent by God to proclaim good news to the poor and destitute. The disciples and everyone else witness something outrageous, when Jesus transforms both the man’s disease, and his banishment from society. Before that, he’d been seen as unclean physically and religiously, because he is excluded from the worshipping community. 

We started to ask who we exclude from our worshipping communities. Who do we not want to touch? 

Next we shared stories we’d thought about in advance, of where we’ve seen the Spirit at work in what might be called the ‘margins’ of our society. Geoff talked about the man who comes to a group he’s part of and how he says it’s the only place he’s not viewed only as an addict, but something more than that. Alex talked about how they got drawn back to church when they came across one that was campaigning on behalf of a gay person seeking sanctuary. We heard lots of exciting things.
(We are not using people’s real names.)

Over a hearty lunch, Lisa showed us the art project she’d run with a local church, and the beautiful drawings she’d co-created with people in the community that got them interested in church, and coming to the coffee mornings.

In the afternoon, we shared some quiet time. Some people sat and drew, or wrote. Some people went for a walk in the rain. We were thinking about various questions, like:

  • Who likes going to your church? Why do they like it?
  • Who don’t you see in your church usually? How well does your church community reflect the geographical community it’s in?
  • What do you think it would be like if you were to visit your church for the first time: if you were Deaf; if you were a newly-arrived person seeking sanctuary, with English as an additional language; if you used a wheelchair; if you were a trans woman; if you used a food bank run from that church (choosing one that didn’t apply to us).

After sharing our responses, we closed a day of meeting old and new friends with a blessing (thanks to jesuitresource.org):

May the God who created a world of diversity and vibrancy 
Go with us as we embrace life in all its fullness 

May the Son who teaches us to care for strangers and foreigners 
Go with us as we try to be good neighbours in our communities 

May the Spirit who breaks down our barriers and celebrates community 
Go with us as we find the courage to create a place of welcome for all

Resources

We gave people some useful resources to take away and mull over, like…

I hope they’ll be useful to you, too.

I hope we can work together as a group in the future. I think we need time together to fuel up for our work living church in this way. Watch this space.


​Hannah Brock Womack is working to support our ‘community of praxis’ in Sheffield.

Photos: Sarah Purcell

News release: Smethwick gets its first Your Local Pantry, to help tackle food poverty

SPARK newsletter winter 2020

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

Scripture from the Margins: Bible bookmark

Scripture from the Margins: Untold Stories

A decade of action on poverty

Reflecting on the first two years of Food Power

Annual review 2018-19

A Good Society? We failed

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?

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

SPARK newsletter autumn 2019

Forgotten People, Forgotten Places

Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield 11th annual Pilgrimage, 12 October 2019

Strengthening the local safety net

Transforming structural injustice

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

A decade of action on poverty

Edgelands

Watch this powerful short film online.

Creatively amplifying the voices of our young people, telling their truth and stories in their language…

In the Edgelands, a land of forgotten estates, the film demonstrates the grim reality of issues surrounding food poverty, homelessness, and welfare. Edgelands contextualises these topics and uses them as a backdrop to put forward a message of resilience as one of the many creative ways the #DarwengetsHangry campaign is working to loosen the grip of poverty. 

It was made by the young people involved in the ‘Darwen Gets Hangry’ campaign, who have had Church Action on Poverty’s support for a couple of years now.  We were pleased to be able to provide a small grant through our ‘Speaking Truth to Power’ programme, which helped them to work with a young local film-maker and produce this powerful piece.

Please note that the film includes strong language from the start, and addresses issues including drug use and sexual exploitation.

Please share the film online, and help us make sure many people see it.

We are working on supporting materials that will help you use Edgelands to spark debate in schools and churches – sign up for our email updates if you would like to be notified when they are ready.

News release: Smethwick gets its first Your Local Pantry, to help tackle food poverty

SPARK newsletter winter 2020

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

Scripture from the Margins: Bible bookmark

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

A decade of action on poverty

Communities unite to say: Act now to end UK hunger

People around the country came together in support of the End Hunger UK campaign, calling for immediate action from the country’s leaders.

In dozens of towns and cities, groups of supporters and campaigners unveiled signs reading ‘Act Now To End UK Hunger’ as part of a national week of action, and we held a fantastic event in Sheffield Cathedral.

Photographs were shared from landmarks including The Angel of the North, Caerphilly Castle, Everton Park in Liverpool and King’s Cross station, as well as at schools, colleges, market squares and offices.

The End Hunger UK campaign is a growing movement of people and organisations, including Church Action on Poverty, that have come together to challenge the underlying causes of food poverty and hunger in the UK.

We know countless compassionate community groups all over the UK are doing amazing work to relieve hunger day to day, but it is vital that we protect people from being swept into crisis in the first place, so that one day we no longer need food banks and other such projects. Nobody should have to go to bed hungry. Everyone should have access to good food.

The week of action was an intensification of our shared efforts.

At local level, hundreds of people took part, displaying the signs, raising the issue with their local media, or holding special events such as an invisible banquet in Oxford.
At the national level, we and other members of the campaign wrote to all party leaders in the House of Commons, asking them to set out their plans for ending food insecurity by 2030, and asking them to meet with us to identify solutions

The focal point of the week came on World Food Day, October 16, when the Food Glorious Food choir performed at Sheffield Cathedral.

The choir is made up of members and volunteers from the Gleadless Valley Food Bank in Sheffield, who had been brought together by local choir leader Yo Tozer-Loft.

Their repertoire included Something Inside So Strong, A Million Dreams, their own song based on Yorkshire foods, and a rewrite of A Little Help From My Friends with lyrics based on the singers’ own stories of using the food bank.

Choir members also spoke to The Daily Mirror and BBC Sheffield, leading to powerful coverage. Jamie, one of the choir members, spoke to both media outlets and took part in a panel discussion in the Cathedral. “Although the food bank helps with the immediate problem, it’s not a long term solution.”

The event also include poetry readings by Matt Sowerby live, and via video by Aaron R from the United States.

Speaking before the event, Niall Cooper, chair of End Hunger UK, said:

“We all want to live in a country where everyone has access to good food and no one needs to go to bed hungry, but we need action to make that a reality. The UK Government and all parties need to commit to drawing up a clear roadmap to end food poverty, and must act now to end hunger.

“The UK has no shortage of food. The problem is one of incomes – too many working and non-working households are being hamstrung by insufficient wages and a benefits system that does not cover people’s essential costs.

“Charitable emergency food provision has proliferated in the UK in the past decade and large numbers of people have been forced to turn to food aid providers. In the sixth wealthiest nation on the planet, this is simply not right.

“Politicians must listen to the experiences and insights of people who have been caught in a rising tide of poverty and debt, and the national target must be to halve household food insecurity by 2025, as a step to ending it by 2030.”

Why not read more from the choir members and watch their performance in the cathedral? You can find links to the videos at the End Hunger UK website or on the Church Action on Poverty YouTube channel.

News release: Smethwick gets its first Your Local Pantry, to help tackle food poverty

SPARK newsletter winter 2020

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

Scripture from the Margins: Bible bookmark

Scripture from the Margins: Untold Stories

A decade of action on poverty

Reflecting on the first two years of Food Power

Annual review 2018-19

A Good Society? We failed

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

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

Life on the Breadline: PhD opportunity

A decade of action on poverty

Second Class Citizens – powerful new book about disability and austerity

Stef Benstead, a trustee of Church Action on Poverty, has written a book which has been described as a "definitive account of the austerity decade".

This review of Stef’s book first appeared on the Disability News Service website:

The government is continuing to breach disabled people’s rights despite repeated exposure by the United Nations, according to a new book that provides a “definitive” account of the harm caused by a decade of cuts and reforms.

In Second Class Citizens, disabled researcher Stef Benstead looks at the conclusions of various UN investigations that have examined the UK’s provision for disabled people and how it has changed and have concluded that the government has been “gravely breaching disabled people’s rights”.

In contrast, says Benstead, the UK government “remains confident that it is a world leader in disability rights, and that in recent years it has improved its provision through better targeting of resources and more support to help disabled people get and stay in work”.

Her book, published by the Centre for Welfare Reform, includes a series of examples describing how government cuts and reforms have impacted on individual disabled people.

It has been described as “essential reading” by the disabled crossbench peer Baroness [Jane] Campbell.

Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of Shaping Our Lives, said it provided “the definitive verdict on government welfare reform, the UK’s shame”. He said: 

“It’s a policy against the evidence, against human rights and most of all against disabled people. Here the truth gap is filled with the real voices of disabled people.”

Niall Cooper, director of Church Action on Poverty, described the book as “a benchmark study of the treatment of disabled people under austerity”. He said:

“It is illuminated by numerous powerful personal stories illustrating the human impact of austerity, and a devastating critique of the shift from a positive vision of social security to today’s welfare system based on a culture of blame and the myth of dependency.”

Benstead has previously worked with the Spartacus online network, which produced a string of influential research reports on cuts to disabled people’s support between 2012 and 2017, and the thinktank Ekklesia.

She is currently working with the user-led Chronic Illness Inclusion Project and Church Action on Poverty.

Her book presents evidence on the impact of policy changes that have affected disabled people since 2010.

But she also looks at the history of how disabled people have been treated by society and the state, and examines the development of the welfare state and post-war campaigns for a more inclusive society, and the Thatcherite policies of the 1980s and the “gradual erosion of the welfare state”.

Benstead describes how politicians began to frame benefit recipients as “scroungers and frauds and the benefit system as a costly mistake”, before extending this argument to recipients of out-of-work sickness and disability benefits.

She then begins to examine the impact of the austerity policies introduced by successive Tory-led governments from 2010, including cuts to social care and employment and support allowance, growing claims by ministers that work should be seen as a health outcome, and substantial increases in the use of conditionality and benefit sanctions imposed on sick and disabled people.

Benstead also examines the introduction of Universal Credit, which she says is “a mess, deliberately designed to fail to cope with reality” and has left people “trapped in unsuitable homes without enough money to cover their rent, the support they need or their food and bills”.

Her book – which includes many personal stories that illustrate the dehumanising impact of austerity – concludes that sick and disabled people are being failed by the government, which is “failing both to provide the opportunity to work for those who can, and an adequate alternative income for those who can’t work”.

Since 2010, says Benstead, governments have “caused substantial harm to sick and disabled people’s health, living standards and social inclusion”.

She says they have done so “without any moral or economic justification”, failing to uphold one of governments’ “most fundamental reasons to exist: to ensure and improve the access to basic rights of its most vulnerable citizens”.

She adds: “Sick and disabled people in the UK today are treated as second-class citizens, and until this situation is rectified the UK Government will continue to be violating international law by its ongoing breach of disabled people’s rights.”

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

At the event, a Sheffield MP urged faith communities to help society set new caring priorities. Here's a report from our local group who organised the Pilgrimage.

Sheffield Central Labour MP Paul Blomfield has urged faith communities to play a major part in setting new priorities for society that would make Britain a more caring and inclusive country.

Mr Blomfield was speaking at the end of the annual Sheffield Church Action on Poverty Pilgrimage, which saw a record number of 40 people from different faith communities visit initiatives aimed at reducing poverty in the city.

This year’s pilgrimage focused on initiatives, mostly located within his constituency, based at Anglican and Methodist Churches, the Madina Mosque and Heeley City Farm as well as St Vincent’s Furniture Store and St Wilfrid’s Centre, established by Sheffield’s Roman Catholic community.

Participants in the 2019 Sheffield Church Action on Poverty Annual Pilgrimage show their support for the End Hunger UK campaign by 40 national charities, frontline organisations, faith groups, academics and individuals working to end hunger and poverty in the UK before setting off to visit initiatives aimed at reducing poverty in the city.

Mr Blomfield told those taking part in the Pilgrimage that there was a need to re-establish the post-war cross-party consensus on the need for taxation to provide services for all and tackle inequality:

“When I was a child, Budgets were about putting 1p on this and 1p on that to maintain public resources and create the kind of society we wanted to live in.

More recently, politicians have been measured by how effective they are in cutting taxation, but that has a consequence.”

The Government’s austerity programme had shifted responsibility for cuts from Westminster to local councils and had led to the most disadvantaged areas facing the deepest cuts.

“We need to reverse the narrative about austerity. We need to challenge the consensus around taxation and spending. We need to recognise that we can’t have Swedish style public services on American style taxes.

We need a cross-party, societal agreement. Faith communities have a hugely important role in taking that debate forward and helping to shift that debate.

This year’s Pilgrimage began at Highfield Methodist Church, which is currently undergoing a major refurbishment to enhance its place as a community asset and is also a base for worship for the local Liberian community who came to Sheffield as refugees in 2004.

Pilgrims went on to visit:

  • Madina Mosque, which annually feeds around 5,000 people of different faiths during Ramadan in addition to making major contributions to city food banks and other charities.
  • Heeley Parish Church, where £310,000 is being spent on creating flexible space for the community, in addition to its Cafe Care initiative, which provides food and assistance for disadvantaged people. The church also hosts services for worshipers from the local Ethiopian Orthodox and Nepalese refugee communities.
  • Heeley City Farm, which provides ‘Health Holiday’ breakfasts and activity sessions during school holidays for children who might otherwise go hungry, in addition to supplying more than 13 tonnes of fresh produce to food banks and other city initiatives and providing advice and support to help people with difficulty funding their energy bills. through its Energy Centre.
  • St Vincent’s Furniture Store, which prevents around 120 tonnes of good quality furniture and other household goods from going to landfill by recycling and distributing it free of charge to people in need, supplying special ‘starter packs’ for those moving into unfurnished homes.
  • St Wilfrid’s Centre, which provides a safe space, food, activities and personal development opportunities for people who include rough sleepers, sufferers of domestic violence and mental health problems, asylum seekers whose cases have been rejected and people who have been trafficked, many of them from other British towns and cities. Two years ago the Centre opened St Wilfrid’s Place, creating 20 self-contained apartments for adults with a history of homelessness.

Participants in the 2019 Sheffield Church Action on Poverty Annual Pilgrimage show their support for the End Hunger UK campaign by 40 national charities, frontline organisations, faith groups, academics and individuals working to end hunger and poverty in the UK before setting off to visit initiatives aimed at reducing poverty in the city.

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Father Bill Rooke RIP

It was with great sadness that members of Church Action on Poverty heard of the death of one our members, Father Bill Rooke. He died on 3 October, which happened to be on the 49th anniversary of his ordination to the Priesthood. He was 73 years old.

After his ordination, Bill stayed in Rome for further studies. From 1971 to 1983, Bill was a curate, in Newcastle and then in Hebburn in South Tyneside. It was during this time that Bill was involved with the Charismatic Renewal Movement. Many people across the diocese and beyond got to know Bill through this movement. Bill then spent six years working in Kenya. On returning to the diocese Bill was parish priest in Stockton and then Gateshead. In 2002 Bill was appointed as Parish Priest to St Vincent’s and St Laurence’s in Byker, where he lived in part of the famous ‘Byker Wall’. This part of Newcastle has much deprivation and poverty. In 2005 Bill became involved with Church Action on Poverty North East, with Bill kindly hosting the monthly meetings at the church hall in Byker.

Alongside one of the local head teachers, St Josefa, Bill was a big influence on the ‘Images for Change’ campaign. Bill also  saw the important value of Credit Unions, working to promote Credit Unions across the North East. For many years he was Chair of  Gateshead Credit Union, going on  to become a board member of NEFirst Credit Union.

Bill was a clear, strong and independent thinker. He was never afraid to go against the majority view, always willing to challenge lazy thinking or common assumptions. His wisdom often brought fresh insight and he made you think more carefully about what was the right and just thing to do.

I will remember a man who was often making ‘roll up’ cigarettes, whose joy, faith, deep wisdom and care for others had a profound impact on those who encountered him. He will be greatly missed.

His body will be received into St Vincent’s Byker on 15 October with his Requiem Mass on 16 October at St Mary’s Cathedral at 12 noon. He will be interred at Heaton Cemetery.

Father Chris Hughes is a member of Church Action on Poverty North East

News release: Smethwick gets its first Your Local Pantry, to help tackle food poverty

SPARK newsletter winter 2020

Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

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Vacancy: Church on the Margins Manchester Facilitator

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A decade of action on poverty